ORNL and FEMP Build Smart Walls

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November 1, 2020
The EMPOWER “smart” wall has internal tubes for storing cool water.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Department of Energy’s Federal Emergency Management Program (FEMP) have partnered to create a prototype wall named “EMPOWER.” This “smart” wall is 3-D printed using a manufacturing system called SkyBAAM, which prints concrete. SkyBAAM constructs walls without the use of a gantry system, and it reportedly can be set up within hours with minimal preparation.

The wall is embedded with tubes which are pumped full of water from a chiller, lowering the wall’s interior temperature. Dynamic insulation uses the coolness stored inside to control the temperature on the outside of the wall. This allows the wall to assist in cooling the room, reducing the need for use of HVAC. The wall also has a dedicated battery to store energy during low-demand hours to be used during peak hours, reducing the load on the grid and decreasing the demand for electricity.

You can view a video about these walls below.