In a bid to develop sustainable energy systems for our rapidly growing cities, a new research team believes the answers can be found on the road. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project, a high-tech vehicle paired with a lightweight, 3D-printed mobile home, looks like an Airstream updated for the age of wireless technology. But the engineers and designers behind this new spin on streamlined, independent living hope that by refining energy systems and pushing the boundaries of high-performance architecture, they can create a model for improved construction and sustainability. Unveiled earlier this week at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the system aims to demonstrate how the additive manufacturing process can rewrite how vehicles and homes are manufactured.
Designed and constructed by a pubic-private consortium in less than a year, AMIE integrates a cocktail of cutting-edge tech such as large-scale 3D printing and photovoltaics. A team of government and industry collaborators working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee—the University of Tennessee (UT), Clayton Homes, General Electric, Alcoa, NanoPore and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—devised the lightweight, 38-foot-long structure and hybrid gas-electric car to be a model of off-the-grid living. One of the key insights on display is a holistic view of power; since the car and home work on a single energy grid, so to speak, the system has the ability to achieve exceptional efficiency.
This video by Oak Ridge National Laboratory explains the project design and related manufacturing process.
The blueprint of the plan started by reimagining how buildings can be constructed. The AMIE concept home utilizes an organic profile, LED lights and a thin, vacuum-sealed panel system made from carbon fiber-reinforced ABS plastic to maximize energy efficiency, reduce wind resistance when on the move, and make the most of the system's small footprint. Even more impressive, the cabin and car are connected via wireless technology that allows them to share energy; the car can power the home when solar energy isn't an option, and the solar panels can recharge the car's batteries.
The full-circle energy system offers a compelling look at how technology advances in home energy production and storage may reshape consumption and conservation. According to the project description:
The 3D-printed structure's high level of insulated solid surfaces (79%) to glazed areas (21%) results in an efficient, energy-conserving enclosure. The panels' interior ribs are designed to host atmospherically insulated panels (AIP), vacuum-wrapped panels for the greatest thermal barrier in the least amount of space. Flexible photovoltaic panels are integrated into the roof form and supplement the vehicle energy source.
Its photovoltaics (PV) will work in tandem with a natural gas powered generator located in the DOE-created vehicle, to supply energy for lighting and the GE-developed central microkitchen that incorporates advanced digital display screens, inductive cooking surfaces, waste-filtering faucet and sinks, and an under-counter refrigerator. The PV will charge the enclosure's battery when the fixtures are not in use. After a sprint to the finish this month, the project team may get additional opportunities to test the system in the field. Based on how well the system performs, it may be a relatively cheap road trip.
"The innovation consortium is an excellent example of design, government, science, the university and multiple industry partners working together to push the limits of building technology and high-performance design to solve some of the world's most urgent issues in energy and urbanism," said Philip Enquist, a SOM partner and firm-wide Urban Design and Planning lead who is working on the project.
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