The idea of “evaporative cooling” goes back centuries. Now it’s seeing new life in the shape of a brick–the 3-D printed “Cool Brick.”
Developed by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, the Cool Brick is both masonry and an alternative to air conditioning. Containing thousands of holes, it’s porous enough to hold tiny droplets of water that evaporate in contact with warm air. The effect–multiplied over lots of water droplets–is a cooler room.
“In environments that don’t have a lot of energy, you can use a piece of [porous] ceramic pottery to cool buildings. One might fill up a giant jug of water and cool off a small space,” says Rael. “With the Cool Brick, you could imagine an entire wall being constructed this way with water that’s held in the micropores, so you can keep the temperature of the room down.”
The brick is printed from clay mixed with organic matter. When the material is fired, the organic matter burns off leaving the tiny micro-pores. As you pour or spray water onto the surface, these holes suck up and hold water through capillary action. It’s then ready to do its evaporative magic.
“We take man’s oldest methods of making in clay and we take the latest technology like 3-D printing and put those two things together,” Rael says.
Emerging Objects now hopes to build a full prototype building with Cool Bricks cemented into walls. The idea could be a better, aesthetically interesting solution for air-cooling.