Sustainable inventions provide glimpse into a future where energy is less impactful

By David Pendered

A panel that reduces energy consumption in commercial buildings by behaving like fish gills was one of four inventions presented at the recent Energy Summit hosted by the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge.

Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge

An invention presented at the Energy Summit of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge uses a membrane to mimic the action of a fish gill, to reduce the energy required to handle air in commercial buildings. Credit: Architectural Applications

All four inventions are gee-whiz efforts to expand the frontier in the field of sustainability. As such, the descriptions of these products read like a story about space in Popular Mechanics.

And as such, they present a glimpse into a possible future – one where the heating and cooling of buildings doesn’t consume more than 40 percent of energy produced; where wind turbines don’t kill birds; and where solar and wind power can be stored in a safe and affordable battery.

The four inventions on display at the May 5 event were finalists in the 2015 Ocean Exchange contest. Ocean Exchange is a program based in Savannah that aims to promote the implementation of innovative ideas. This year’s contest offers two $100,000 grants to the top two innovations on the topic of, “Translating Sustainability into Value.”

Buildings into batteries

A cloud-based program would help turn building mass into a thermal energy storage medium. Credit: Coefficient

“These presentations are thrilling to watch, and the technology has potential to help the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge participants,” Millicent Pitts, Ocean Exchange’s executive director, said in a statement.

“The solutions revealed at the 2015 Ocean Exchange serve as great examples of how the market is continuing to offer new and innovative ideas that will save energy, water, and money,” Shelby Buśo, program manager of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, said in the statement. “We are excited to share these opportunities with our participants.”

The device that works like a fish gills is named Airflow Panel. According to its creator, the panels remove heat and humidity from incoming fresh air by passing it through a membrane before it is moved to an air handling unit.

Bladeless wind turbine

A bladeless wind turbine won’t endanger birds. Credit: Saphon Energy

The membrane performs the same function as a fish gill, which take in oxygen from water passing over the gill.

The panels offer something for landlords and tenants and environmentalists, according to pages on the website of inventor Architectural Applications:

  • “A polymer-based membrane permeates moisture and conducts heat between the incoming and outgoing ventilation airstreams.  Integrated within the wall panels, these membrane exchangers have a large surface area for ultra-high performance without taking valuable floor space.
  • “By removing the heat and humidity before it enters the HVAC system, the AirFlow Panel saves 25 to 50 percent on air conditioning energy.”
Low cost energy storage

A safe, low cost battery to store wind or solar energy uses non-toxic iron based electrolyte with a flow cell design. Credit: Energy Storage Systems

Here are snippets about each of the three other inventions. The number in front of each device refers to the product’s number on the summary of finalists for the 2015 Ocean Exchange contest:

  • 2) Zero blade wind energy converter – Saphon Energy has created a wind turbine that doesn’t rotate and has no blades.
  • 3) Low cost energy storage – Energy Storage Systems, Inc. has devised an “iron flow battery” that “combines a safe, abundant and non-toxic iron based electrolyte with our patent pending flow cell design.”
  • 8) Turning buildings into batteries – Coefficient has developed a cloud-based technology that uses drywall and concrete as a thermal energy storage medium.


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sixteen − one =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.