An artificial vasculature for adaptive thermal control of windows

Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, Volume 117,  2013, Pages 429-436.

Benjamin D. Hatton, Ian Wheeldon, Matthew J. Hancock, Mathias Kolle, Joanna Aizenberg, Donald E. Ingber.


Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Boston, MA 02115, USA and

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA and

Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, 02141, USA and

Vascular Biology Program, Departments of Pathology & Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Windows are a major source of energy inefficiency in buildings. In addition, heating by thermal radiation reduces the efficiency of photovoltaic panels. To help reduce heating by solar absorption in both of these cases, we developed a thin, transparent, bio-inspired, convective cooling layer for building windows and solar panels that contains microvasculature with millimeter-scale, fluid-filled channels. The thin cooling layer is composed of optically clear silicone rubber with microchannels fabricated using microfluidic engineering principles. Infrared imaging was used to measure cooling rates as a function of flow rate and water temperature. In these experiments, flowing room temperature water at 2 mL/min reduced the average temperature of a model 10×10 cm2 window by approximately 7–9 °C. An analytic steady-state heat transfer model was developed to augment the experiments and make more general estimates as functions of window size, channel geometry, flow rate, and water temperature. Thin cooling layers may be added to one or more panes in multi-pane windows or as thin film non-structural central layers. Lastly, the color, optical transparency and aesthetics of the windows could be modulated by flowing different fluids that differ in their scattering or absorption properties.


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