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Research project aims to control sunlight, extend growing season and conserve energy

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Cleveland Botanical Garden and Kent State Universitys Liquid Crystal Institute - recognized internationally as the pioneering scientific center for research in the field - today announced a partnership to design and construct unique research greenhouses on the Gardens campus.

By combining the expertise of the Garden and the University, the partnership could, in effect, control sunlight, extending the plant growing season and conserving energy.

The overarching goal of this research is to determine liquid crystals potential for creating more sustainable, energy-efficient greenhouses. Researchers at Kent have developed liquid crystal windows that switch to different shading. These windows cab be used to manipulate sunlight entering a greenhouse, thereby controlling the temperature and even light wavelengths entering the greenhouse to more efficiently grow commercial and food plants, extending the growing season.

Cleveland Botanical Garden and Kent State will launch a series of studies over the next two to three years that will focus on optimizing the system design that incorporates liquid crystal window technology in greenhouses. They will study and develop these windows for use on exterior surfaces with more extreme challenges of intense light and heat. While Kent research have previously investigated these windows for exterior applications they have only been used commercially for on interior spaces.

This initiative, says Natalie Ronayne, the Gardens executive director, speaks to our ongoing commitment to sustainability and conservation. The energy crisis and corresponding global climate change issues call for increasing partnerships to contemplate alternatives, educate the public, and push ourselves to maximize our energy conservation and minimize our footprint on the earth.

The Gardens leadership embarked upon this project as part of its long-range conservation plan and in response to the energy demands of The Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, an 18,000 square foot conservatory showcasing two endangered ecosystems, the spiny desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica. Outside the Garden, the development of sustainable greenhouses that are adaptable to different climates and regions could breathe new life into Ohios signature green industries - floriculture, nursery and landscape - while also contributing to a more environmentally sustainable world.

Kent States Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) was the natural partner. The LCI is the world leader in liquid crystal research and education. Its research has produced patents, commercial products and spin-off companies, including switchable glass panels.

This is a huge opportunity for Kent State and for the Cleveland Botanical Garden, said Dr. John L. West, vice president for Research and dean of Graduate Studies at Kent State. The project combines liquid crystal technology, horticulture and architecture to harness sunlight. There is great potential for spin-off industries and technology, grant funding for both energy efficiency and plant growth and wide benefits to the public.

In keeping with its core mission as an educational institution, the Garden will inform visitors and the public at-large about the project and its real-time progress, raising awareness, understanding, and acceptance of new, practical solutions for the worlds environmental issues. Results of this study may also have applications beyond the commercial greenhouse industry to residential greenhouses, conservatories, and major office and museum-like glass structures.


Contact: Scott Rainone
Kent State University

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