I have written before about how industries like construction are almost unchanged by the waves of innovation in data and materials that have changed almost every other industry from pharmaceuticals to automobiles. I have also co founded a number of companies such as the Kirkstyles Innovation Group and G-Heat that use advanced materials such as graphene and other nanomaterials such as aerogels which I’m confident well help accelerate the shift away from energy hungry homes and offices to ones that are self sustaining in almost every way.
G-Heat announced today that it had received significant investment from Cientifica PLC to bring its graphene based heating to market, and the full press release is here. I was particularly taken by Martin Benson’s comment that “adding a smart thermostat [to traditional wet heating systems] is like putting a digital speedometer on a steam engine.” He is correct of course in that traditional heating systems basically take fossil fuel, burn it with varying degrees of efficiency (and this applies it both heating and hot water systems) too heat up water which then gets pumped around to heat up the space in a building. Perhaps the biggest advance over the last fifty years is that you don’t need to shovel coal into the boiler anymore, which doesn’t seem like a lot of progress to me.
The G-Heat technology works as comfort heating, which is a method that uses large areas of heating material at low temperatures to provide heat which avoids draughts, hot and cold spots. Even better, the graphene technology which G-Heat and their partners have developed means that the heating elements are thin and flexible which gives rise a wide range of design and architectural applications.
What excites me about G-Heat is the instant on and off capability which makes it an idea partner to smart thermostats from companies such as NEST, Hive etc. As the heater is effectively a thin film there is no huge thermal mass to warm up before the heating effect is apparent so if, as suggested by NEST your car or phone lets the smart thermostat know you are on your way home, you won’t need a long commute to ensure you return to a toasty and welcoming home. Of course the energy savings are attractive too, but full integration with the Internet of Things, now that’s exciting.
The instant off is more important in commercial buildings where cooling is much more of an issue. The first couple of hours of the day require heating, but as soon as the office fills up with people and computers are switched on, for a well insulated modern building cooling is much more of an issue. For this type of application Graphene Thin Film Comfort Heating makes a lot of sense as it is simple to install compared with traditional systems.
The investment is only a start, and the company boffins are fizzing with ideas for new applications, all of which could be game changers. This could be a hot area.