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Heat-Reactive Metal Opens Giant Flower in the Silver Lake Sun

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Images by Scott Mayoral via M&A

Doris Kim Sung, a faculty member at the USC School of Architecture, has been working on some sweet new building science. Sung's first experiment with a material called thermobimetal has probably caught your eye if you've had the occasion to stumble down Silver Lake Boulevard since October--her "Bloom" installation is showing off the powers of thermobimetal at Materials & Applications as we speak. A press release from USC explains the material: "Commonly used for the coil in a thermostat, 'thermobimetal' is made of two sheets of metal laminated together. Each metal expands at a different rate when heated, curling as the temperature rises and flattening when cooled." The way Sung sees it, as quoted from the video below, there are two primary benefits of the material: "One is to show how the surface could be a sun shading device, and the second was for a ventilating purpose, so that in the event that you want hot air to escape from below, the surface would open up, and the hot air would actually rise up and move through the surface itself."

That means automotatic shutters and automatic air circulation! Imagine the possibilities. No getting up off the couch to pull the shades! If a building automatically cools itself when it gets hot, that means there's less money spent and fewer resources used regulating the building's climate. Sung is working on such automatic shutters and "on bricks with tiny thermobimetal vents to let the breeze through, inspired by biological systems like insect spiracle and trachea system."

The "Bloom" installation at M&A is "A 20 foot tall shiny metal 'flower' who's skin will open and close with the heat of the sun." It required about 14,000 pieces of thermobimetal (since it's only made in small pieces) and will last through the spring.

· USC Architect First to Use Zero-Energy Building Material That Reacts Smartly to Sunlight [Archinect]
· Bloom [Materials & Applications]