Skylights might flood a room with light, but they also make it hot, creating a mini-greenhouse effect that pushes up air conditioning bills. So a group of Dutch designers came up with new way to keep sunny rooms cool: When the sun comes out, it triggers solar panels to inflate fake clouds for shade.
The designers installed a version of the fake clouds in a glass-roofed pavilion inside the MUDAM Museum in Luxembourg. “When the sun comes out, the balloons slowly inflate,” says Wouter Widdershoven, one of the designers from Studio Toer. “You don’t hear anything. It happens above you, in your far peripheral view. … Then when you look closely, you see the the balloons grow and cover the sunlight.”
In a previous version, the designers rigged up a solar-powered, cloud-like umbrella that inflates outside to shade people sitting under a table. But the new indoor clouds also help save energy.
“Intelligent, autonomous interiors or surfaces could indeed contribute to a comfortable living space with less need of air conditioning systems,” says Widdershoven. “Especially if they, like this one, work off the grid, with their own locally collected energy source.”
They plan to keep developing the concept for other settings. “We think there could be other places for these autonomously acting, self-energy-sourcing ‘cloud skies’ in other settings, forms, and places too,” he says.