The Solarbubblebuild Project
SolarBubbleBuild filling with bubbles
Origins of Concept
The Solarbubblebuild uses key elements of ‘Solaroof’ technology invented, by Canadian Richard Nelson, but it does not utilise the full array of systems that can be built into the most evolved Solaroof system. My system configuration also carries with it inherent compromises in efficiency over what Richard has developed in systems using what he has described as the ‘best practices’ of operation and construction. However, Richard has shown great enthusiasm for this project and views it as a break through in the grassroots development he envisions for the future of this technology.
My design also owns credit to Canadian Ross Elliot who was the first individual to apply Solaroof technology to a tunnel structure. Ross has been successfully running his tunnel for a number of years in the unforgiving climate of Ontario, Canada.
Low Tech - Low Cost
This project essentially started out as a practical solution to providing a year round warm growing environment for my wife’s herb nursery. Now complete, it represents a demonstration of how low tech, low cost solutions can be found to produce a building that uses cutting-edge sustainable building technology. The whole project budget now stands at around £1000, which is little more than a conventional new single-skin polytunnel would cost this size. Keeping to this budget however, has meant being very resourceful and spending a lot of time preparing salvaged materials.
First of Many
Asides from providing an environmentally controlled growing space, this project now provides me with opportunity to collect data and gain experience running a live system. I’m hoping from what I can learn and publish through this site I can help promote the awareness of this technology and attract sponsors for future development. I have another, more ambitious build in the pipeline, but there is a limit to what even I can scrounge and improvise from Pound Land.
How it Works
Dynamic Working Liquid Processes
The Solarbubblebuild essentially comprises of a enveloping transparent cavity in which a single liquid component is employed in different ways to regulate the building interior temperature and humidity. The Liquid can be introduced into the cavity as bubbles producing insulation or shade as required. The same liquid can be carried in the cavities as a thin laminar film, where it acts to transport thermal energy from the building interior to where it can be stored in a ‘warm liquid thermal-mass’ or dissipated into a ‘cool liquid thermal-mass’.
Controlling the Temperature of the Actual Building Structure
Providing a cool surface within the building by using the a liquid film and heat-sink, humidity can be regulated and condensation collected as a supply of clean water. Generating bubble insulation from liquid warmed by the liquid thermal mass produces warm insulation which is the building mechanism for slowly releasing accumulated heat back into the interior environment when required.
Living plants are an integral part of the working Solaroof mechanism for cooling and solar energy collection. Some of the same processes that regulate the surface temperature of our planet are functioning within the Solarbubblebuild. The extremely polarised temperatures felt in the desert is due in part to the lack of vegetation. Plants over millions of years has evolved highly efficient ways of regulating their tissue temperature by harnessing the properties of its surrounding atmosphere. Nearly all plants maintain foliage temperature at around 22 – 24 degrees Celsius even in the hottest climates. It is harnessing these biomechanical processes which enables Solaroof systems to cool buildings at efficiency levels far greater than conventional air-conditioning methods.
In a fully realised Solaroof system there is another level of plant life that can be harvested to produce bio fuels. By enriching a cavity with CO2, liquid cooling films become a perfect medium in which to cultivate algae which can be harvested for its oil or as food. It looks gross, but its very good for you!
For a more detailed explanation of the processes described above please view the following chapters. For those seeking a complete introduction to Solaroof technology, it is recommended they start at the first chapter and follow the next arrows at the bottom of each page.
1. Solar Energy Collection
2. Bubble Insulation
3. Liquid Cooling
5. Bubble Insulation and Shading Properties
6. Bubble Regeneration and Flowpath
7. Bubble Generation