The new era in energy-efficiency building is to integrate automatic occupancy detection with automated heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC), the largest source of building energy consumption. By closing off some air vents, during certain hours of the day, up to 7.5% building energy consumption could be saved.
In the past, smart vent has received increasing attention and several products have been developed and introduced to the market for building energy saving. For instance, Ecovent Systems Inc. and Keen Home Inc. have both developed smart vent registers capable of turning the vent on and off through smart phone apps. However, their products do not have on-board occupancy sensors and are therefore open-loop. Their vent control was achieved by simply positioning the vent blade through a motor and a controller without involving any smart actuation.
This paper presents an innovative approach for automated vent control and automatic occupancy (human subjects) detection. We devise this approach in a smart register that has polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) frame with embedded Shape memory alloy (SMA) actuators. SMAs belong to a class of shape memory materials (SMMs), which have the ability to ‘memorise’ or retain their previous form when subjected to certain stimulus such as thermomechanical or magnetic variations. And it can work as actuators and be applied to vent control. Specifically, a Ni-Ti SMA strip will be pre-trained to a circular shape, wrapped with a Ni-Cr resistive wire that is coated with thermally conductive and electrically isolating material. Then, the SMA strip along with an antagonistic SMA strip will be bonded with PZT sensor and thermal sensors, to be inserted into a 3D printed mould which will be filled with silicone rubber materials. In the end, a demoulding process yields a fully integrated blade of the smart register.
Several blades are installed together to form the smart register. The PZT sensors can feedback the shape of the actuator for precise shape and air flow control. The performance and the specification of the smart registers will be characterized experimentally. Its capacity of regulating airflow, forming air curtain will be demonstrated.