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October 02, 2008

The Next Generation of SmartWrap™

Fabricated in just-in-time sequences, each panel consists of two Bosch frames, with a combination of plain PET, PET with photovoltaics, and IR blocking material from 3M applied to both sides of the frame.

Can we create a material that combines the ideal functions of a building envelope into a single product? We began exploring this question with SmartWrap™, a building envelope that has the potential to generate energy, control climate, and provide lighting and information display on a single printed substrate.

To develop the material, we pursued emerging systems including organic LED displays, phase change materials, organic photovoltaics, heating elements, and a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate upon which the technology could be printed. We collaborated with DuPont and ILC Dover to engineer and fabricate a working prototype, which was displayed at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

When we designed Cellophane House™, we took the opportunity to refine and advance our original concept for SmartWrap™ and create a multi-layered wall that could generate energy while controlling the interior environment of a building.

This next generation of SmartWrap™ has an outer layer of transparent PET, with thin-film photovoltaic cells by PowerFilm adhered to harness solar energy. An inner layer of 3M solar heat and UV-blocking film lets daylight in while deflecting solar gain. A vented cavity between the two layers functions to trap heat in the winter and vent it in the summer, reducing the amount of energy required to heat and cool the house.

We worked with Universal Services Associates, Inc. in Philadelphia to fabricate 74 panels to enclose Cellophane House™. They provided these photos to demonstrate the fabrication process.

USA built a custom table to test and analyze methods of tensioning the PET plastic film, securing the PET to the Bosch aluminum frames, and laminating the PV cells.

The specially designed table included a generic PV layout template and individual “maps” to guide the customization of unique patterns on each panel.

A detail of thin-film PV cells adhered to the PET.

We are currently monitoring the building envelope to see if it performs as proposed, and will report our findings after the house has been disassembled.