Unique greenhouses built in Ohio

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Botanical Garden and Kent State University’s Liquid Crystal Institute have formed a partnership to design and construct unique research greenhouses on the garden’s 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 main goal of this research is to determine liquid crystal’s potential for creating more sustainable, energy-efficient greenhouses.

Windows

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.

Part of the plan

The garden’s 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 Ohio’s signature “green” industries — floriculture, nursery and landscape — while also contributing to a more environmentally sustainable world.

World leader

Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute was the natural partner. The institute 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.

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 world’s 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.

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