I’m not very keen on “futurists,” but today I’m taking a break from my contempt for them to offer my own vision of the future: Smart walls. Future walls will be insulated, sturdy modular panels capable of controlling every phase and frequency of electromagnetic radiation. Plug them into a central control and they will:
- Pump heat from one side to another, providing optimal heating and cooling of rooms with no hotspots.
- Offer high-resolution emission of visible light, so that any spot on a wall can provide not only space or task lighting, but also can serve as a video display.
- Selectively transmit visible light, so that a window can be opened anywhere on any wall, and can be dimmed or shaded electronically.
- Transmit power wirelessly to other devices that can work off of resonant current.
I.e., walls will now be the feature of a living space, instead of dumb dividers pockmarked by power and data outlets, ducts, lights, and switches. And users will no longer be constrained by the static placement of receptacles and windows.
[23 July 2007 Update:] This may not be so far out there. I just came across the following technologies currently in early R&D:
- Thermotunnel cooling, which exploits quantum tunneling effects to turn heat into electricity with something like 70% efficiency in a thin surface with no moving parts. Apparently being commercialized by both Power Chips PLC and Tempronics; GE Global Research won a DOE contract to research the application of this technology to cooling buildings.
- The same DOE project awarded a contract to Universal Display Corporation to develop “high efficiency transparent phosphorescent OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) to make low cost ‘TOLED smart windows’, that switch rapidly (on the order of 1-10msec) from being a highly efficient solid-state light source to being a transparent window or skylight that controls the flow of heat and ultraviolet (UV) radiation into and out of buildings.”