Thermoelectric Facades

Simulation of Heating and Cooling Potential for Novel Intelligent Facades



Photo of Ajla Aksamija, PhD, LEED AP BD+C, CDT

Ajla Aksamija, PhD, LEED AP BD+C, CDT

Associate Professor

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Photo of Zlatan Aksamija, PhD

Zlatan Aksamija, PhD

Associate Professor

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Photo of Mahsa Farid Mohajer

Mahsa Farid Mohajer

Ph.D. Candidate & Teaching Assistant

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Photo of Meenakshi Upadhyaya

Meenakshi Upadhyaya

PhD Student

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Photo of Guy Vigneau

Guy Vigneau

University of Massachusetts Amherst


This article discusses design, prototype development and a simulation study of novel types of facade systems, which integrate thermoelectric (TE) materials. TEs are smart materials that have the ability to produce a temperature gradient when electricity is applied, exploiting the Peltier effect, or to generate a voltage when exposed to a temperature gradient, utilizing the Seebeck effect. TEs can be used for heating, cooling, or power generation. In this research, heating and cooling potentials of these novel systems were explored for commercial office space. Initially, two low fidelity prototypes were designed, constructed and experimentally tested to investigate heating and cooling potentials. Results, which have been previously published, indicated that these novel facade systems would operate well in heating and cooling modes under varying exterior environmental conditions. In this study, the research was extended to include simulations and modeling. A typical commercial office space was used in the simulation study to investigate heating and cooling capabilities of thermoelectric facades. In the simulation model, a single office space was modeled with an exterior wall consisting of a thermoelectric facade, and interior walls as adiabatic partition walls. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations were conducted for different scenarios, using SOLIDWORKS software program, varying the exterior environmental conditions (0°F, 30°F, 60°F and 90°F) and percentage of wall coverage with thermoelectric components (5%, 10%, 15% and 20%). Simulations were conducted to calculate temperature distribution within the interior space for these different scenarios, and to determine heating and cooling outputs. This paper reviews the results in detail.


High demand for energy used for lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning leads to significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 15% of global

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Few applications of TEMs in facade assemblies have been researched, proposed, or constructed. This has created a significant gap in knowledge in the potential architectural applications of TEMs. Some researchers

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Research Methods

A series of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations were used to investigate the research questions, under varying exterior environmental conditions (0°, 30°, 60°, and 90°F), similar to the previous experimental

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Results for all simulated cases were collected, tabulated, and graphed for analysis. Temperatures were recorded for two different aspects: surface temperature of the interior heat sink and temperature distribution within

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Results of the 20 simulated scenarios indicated that 15% TE coverage was the optimum percentage where highest performance was reached. Other scenarios were not as effective since they generated less

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Conclusion and Future Work

Simulation results indicated that TE materials are promising intelligent components that can be used in facade assemblies for heating and cooling purposes, controlling buildings’ interior environment. This is an independent

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Rights and Permissions

Aksamija, A., Aksamija, Z., Counihan, C., Brown, D., and Upadhyaya, M. “Experimental study of operating conditions and integration of thermoelectric materials in facade systems.” Frontiers in Energy Research, Special Issue on New Materials and Design of the Building Enclosure 7 (2019), Article 6, DOI: 10.3389/fenrg.2019.00006.

Aksamija, A., Aksamija, Z., Counihan, C., Brown, D., and Upadhyaya, M. “Thermoelectric materials in exterior walls: experimental study on using smart facades for heating and cooling in high-performance buildings.” Proceedings of the Facade World Congress (2018): 171-180.

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