Adaptive Solar Shade celebrated for energy savings potential

Thursday, Sep 19, 2019
by Victor Charpentier

In the context of a changing climate, the impact from human activities can be reduced by improving the quality of what we already have. Actions such as improving gas mileage for cars, reducing the waste of agricultural products or improving building energy efficiencies are actions that do not requirement leapfrog technological advances but a public desire to move things in the right direction. Sigrid Adriaenssens and Victor Charpentier decided early on that the contribution of this project to global efforts would go towards improving buildings and making them more efficient.

The system inspired by the biomechanics of insect-trapping plants aims to provide energy savings by altering building façades to adapt to changing sunlight throughout the day. With buildings accounting for nearly 40%  of U.S. energy consumption, new energy-efficient technologies are in high demand. The system in development by Adriaenssens and Charpentier would maximize occupant comfort and save operational building energy while maintaining a constant level of interior daylight.

The basis of the technology consists of flexible plastic sheets actuated by shape-memory alloy wires that contract in response to an electrical current. When current is applied, the wires deform the plastic sheet so that it lifts and rotates. On the outside of a glass building, these sheets would be oriented to follow the sun, providing optimal light and shade conditions inside. Additionally, the system is cost-effective compared to competing solutions, since it does not require expensive materials, mechanical hinges or motors.

Collaborators: Forrest Meggers, assistant professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Olivier Baverel, professor of architecture at École des Ponts ParisTech

Come talk to us on November 14, 2019 at the Celebrate Princeton Innovation event organized by the Princeton University Office of the Dean for Research. register at