Mind & Matter


Phase-Changing Wall System

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RavenSkin PCM-based wall system. Illustration by RavenBrick.


One of the most promising materials developed for thermal regulation is PCM, short for phase-changing material technology. PCMs change from a solid to a liquid and vice versa at a certain temperature, absorbing and releasing heat in the process. Manufacturers such as RavenBrick have recognized the potential thermal advantages of PCMs in building façades, noting their ability to reduce heating and cooling loads.

RavenSkin is the RavenBrick's latest development, a composite wall system designed to maximize the capacity of PCMs as a way to minimize building energy. The complete cavity-wall solution includes two layers of glass, a thermo-reflective filter, a down-converter, and a PCM layer. On a hot day, the wall system converts solar energy to infrared heat below a certain temperature, passing this heat to the PCM layer. Once the temperature drops, this stored heat is released into the building's interior. Although RavenSkin promises to be expensive—and details addressing water penetration are underdeveloped—the R-11 minimum system suggests promising developments for thermal control in architectural surfaces.




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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.