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Canadian researchers say water can help boost energy efficiency in buildings


Scientists are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to increase energy efficiency for buildings. Researchers at the University of Toronto announced they’ve found a way to do this by fitting window panes with tiny channels of water. Inspired by vascular systems in nature including the network of blood vessels in the human body, they say these channels will help cool a building 7º to 9º C in the summer and reduce heat loss during winter.

The thin cooling layer is composed of optically clear silicone rubber with microchannels. Room temperature water was circulated through these channels to and from an external source at a rate of 2 ml per minute. Researchers said the channels weren’t clearly visible in the model they used. They suggest that by utilizing different liquids different aesthetic effects such as altering color and transparency could be produced.

Windows account for a large portion of a building’s energy costs – around 40 percent. This new system could help reduce energy costs year round. But as an environmental journalist who’s aware of the falling water tables around the world and the growing shortage of clean water, I have to wonder if perhaps the scientists are barking up the wrong tree. The technology is appealing. But you can’t exponentially expand our use of water when the supply is shrinking. Researchers and scientists should look for new energy saving ideas in a different direction.

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