Mind & Matter


Remediating Hybrids

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Self-cleaning solar panel and window coating. Photo by Tel Aviv University.


“Remediating materials” is a title I have given to substances engineered to improve local environmental conditions. These range from pollution-reducing cements to self-cleaning paints, and their manufacturers recommend that we employ building facades and infrastructural surfaces in the service of a broad clean-up strategy.

A new breed of remediating materials has surfaced, addressing multiple functions with a singular coating. A recent example is self-cleaning solar panels and windows, developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University. Composed of hydrophobic amino acid chains, the nanoscale surface treatment used in these panels not only repels water and dust, but also enhances the efficiency of solar photovoltaics. Arranged in significant densities, the peptide nanotubes used in this treatment could even perform as a rechargeable battery.

Imagine if future cladding systems could harvest renewable energy, store the energy for future use, and keep facades clean at the same time? What functionality would you add to the mix?




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.