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Investigation of Thermal Semiconductors for Adaptive Heat Management in Buildings

Knotts, Wesley Andrew (2011) Investigation of Thermal Semiconductors for Adaptive Heat Management in Buildings. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Much focus has been recently placed on improving the energy efficiency of buildings through improved insulation in order to lower both energy consumption and carbon emissions worldwide. A new type of building insulation, smart insulation, shows great potential for lowering the heating and cooling energy usage of buildings by turning off the insulation whenever certain outside environmental conditions exist where it would be beneficial to remove the insulation. The specific type of smart insulation proposed is a thermal semiconductor that can be actuated to switch between a thermal conductor and a thermal insulator depending on the temperature gradient across the insulation. After careful examination of many different potential concepts thermal semiconductors, two main concepts involving contacting/non-contacting aluminum fins which allow or break a thermal conduction path and an inflatable honeycomb-like structure were chosen for fabrication and testing. Within these two main concepts, several different designs were developed and tested using an insulation test chamber constructed to reproduce the conditions the smart insulation prototypes would encounter in an real-world building setting. Once the experiment testing was completed, the different smart insulation devices were compared against each other and to a benchmark insulation test piece composed of conventional building insulation to evaluate their performance. Finally, a theoretical, finite element model was formulated for the testing of one of simplest smart insulation prototypes to better understand the results of the experimental testing and to examine other designs for smart insulation that were not experimentally tested.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Knotts, Wesley
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairClark, William W.wclark@pitt.eduWCLARK
Committee CoChairSchaefer, Laura A.las149@pitt.eduLAS149
Committee MemberLee, Bong J.bjl39@pitt.eduBJL39
Date: 30 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 26 April 2010
Approval Date: 30 June 2011
Submission Date: 24 May 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Mechanical Engineering
Degree: MSME - Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: building energy control; energy efficiency; thermal semiconductor; variable insulation; smart insulation; smart structures
Other ID:, etd-05242010-162854
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:45
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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