Grinham Research Group

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Origami Microfluidics

Radiant Cooling

Project Overview

Design and fabrication methods translated from microfluidics, microelectromechanical systems, origami, and biologically inspired engineering may offer efficiency improvements for water-based thermoregulation in buildings. This study introduces foldable radiant cooling devices that are fabricated by lamination with integrated microfluidic water-circuits.


At 75 W/m2, a higher surface temperature [2C˚] increases global average Natural Ventilation Hours by 24%

Detail shot of origami microfluidics prototype


Project Team

Jonathan Grinham
Salman Craig
Donald E. Ingber
Martin Bechthold

The origami microfluidic devices produce more surface convection because of their geometry and because they have more surface area than flat panels. As a result, lukewarm water instead of chilled water may be sufficient for cooling a room, leading to potential savings in primary energy use and lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. Analytical models and physical experiments show a 55–67% improvement in thermal performance when comparing these novel folded surfaces to flat surfaces, mainly due to the improved convection heat transfer.

Origami microfluidic prototype
Thermal images showing convective air flow with flat versus folded panel geometry