Using liquids to create responsive architectural systems

In a project by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), researchers studied whether it was possible to create a responsive skin that could be integrated into building design, based on the expansion properties of liquid.

Called Pneu.Flex, the project aimed to design a material system that could be deformed with specific parameters like heat, light, and ventilation along with a user interface to act like an adaptive skin in architectural systems. The skin acts like a shape memory polymer, coming back to its original shape when the energy is released.

The system works with two components: the sensors which are the input and the actuators that is the output. The sensors measure the real-time data such as light, temperature, humidity, movement, position or speed. This data, when fed to the system, triggers the actuator to perform in terms of change in its shape, colour, size, position or geometry.

The Pneu.Flex project is primarily based on the principle of vaporisation of liquids, using the vapour pressure of the liquids during its phase change to act like actuators. The relatively simple system has the potential to replace complicated eternal motors or pumps and create a lightweight distributed system of actuators embedded in the material itself.

While the project only explored the potential for this type of system, rather than developing a specific application, it shows that it is possible to design controllably programmed skin to move and deform at different rates.

This research is the result of the Digital Matter-Intelligent Constructions Studio of the Master in Advanced Architecture 2017/2018 at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. The team consists of students Kavya Jose, Nusrat Tabassum, and Yingxin Du, and supervisors Areti Markopoulou, Raimund Kremuller, David Andres Leon, and Anhelos Chronis.

Images: IAAC