$1 Million Grant Awarded for Algae Biochromatic Windows

Biochromatic Windows

The “biochromic” windows have multiple environmental, economic and health benefits.

At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the next stage of Professor of Architecture Kyoung Hee Kim’s development of a high-performing window system that reduces building energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant is Dr. Kim’s third NSF grant in support of her decade-long research into incorporating screens of microalgae into biochromic windows.

The “biochromic” windows have multiple environmental, economic and health benefits, including increased energy efficiency, improved air quality, carbon capture and renewable energy production, since the algae can be collected and converted into products.

“Microalgae is truly a “green” building material,” says Dr. Kim. “The microalgae windows could have multiple environmental benefits, including solar shading and thermal insulation, in addition to carbon sequestration. Not only could that result in lower energy costs and cleaner indoor air, but the algae can also be collected and converted into a renewable energy source.”

Over the next two years, the SBIR Phase II grant of nearly $1 million will allow Dr. Kim to prototype the window, and integrate it with an intelligent control system to enable maximum performance. She will be able to conduct performance testing and obtain performance certificates, scale mass production manufacturing, and carry out field testing and performance evaluation at early adopter’s buildings.

Biochromatic Windows

Dr. Kyoung Hee Kim, professor of architecture and director of the Integrated Design Research Lab.

“I have been contacted for a few potential installation sites, including museums, residential buildings, commercial offices and industry spaces,” she said. “Real-world installation requires rigorous testing and vetting processes before actual operations, and this NSF grant allows us to continue that next round of R&D activities. Our end goal is to be able to mass produce the system with an attractive cost for a wide range of users and to obtain performance certificates from government authorized agencies.”

Earlier this year, Routledge published Dr. Kim’s book, “Microalgae Building Enclosures: Design and Engineering Principles.” Organized into four sections, the book begins with an introduction to the many attributes of microalgae and its potential uses in building systems and then examines case studies of uses in various settings in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and North America.

The third section of the book explains the design and engineering criteria, biotechnical design requirements and various performance metrics for microalgae architecture. The final section considers different applications, including new construction in low-rise and high-rise buildings and retrofitting for improved energy efficiency.

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