Elephants, dragonflies and... heating

Posted 18/11/2019 by E.ON

How nature could help deliver the heating systems of the future

Biomimicry - the development of technologies that are inspired by nature – is starting to play a huge role in developing solutions that can help combat climate change and enable us to live more sustainably.

For example, 'BioThermosmart' is a green tech innovation developed by a team of Mexican and American scientists as part of the Biomimicry Launchpad. By copying how blood circulation works in animals, BioThermosmart has been created to make heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems work more efficiently. The system harvests waste heat and recycles it back into the system, so that it uses less energy from the grid, reduces waste, and cuts costs. 

Researchers on the project were inspired by how circulation works in animals that have powerful thermo-regulating systems. They realised that buildings could be thought of as large animals, with complex internal systems that need heating and cooling, sometimes simultaneously, and at other times independently.

With that in mind, the team came up with BioThermostat - a network of simple patches connected by insulated hoses, which mimics the way an elephant's vein system is structured. The patches are modelled on the wings of dragonflies, with a network of pathways that allow small quantities of fluids through rather than large amounts, which is a lot more efficient.

The patches can be placed on walls in buildings that typically get very hot, such as IT server rooms and factory floors where many machines are in operation at any one time. They cool surroundings by capturing heat and storing it for later use, passing it through the network to be used in other rooms that need heating.

Part of what's made this innovation more exciting than other developments in greener HVAC solutions is that it can also be retrofitted - to existing systems as well as installed in new-builds.

The team is now working on developing their idea for scale, up and down, so that it can be used in large industrial complexes, residential homes and maybe even personal computers.

To find out how E.ON is helping deliver innovative solutions for its customers, including heating technologies from the latest energy efficient boilers to smart thermostats, click here.

 

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