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A desert tent coming from space

The Desert Seal tent has been developed by a Swiss and an Italian architects to improve the life of people living in very arid and hot deserts by applying the methodology and principles used in space design and development.

In fact, this innovative desert tent doesn't really come from space, but it has been designed by applying "the methodology and principles used in space design and development," according to a news release from the European Space Agency (ESA). The Desert Seal tent has been developed by a Swiss and an Italian architects to improve the life of people living in very arid and hot deserts. The top of the tent, which is more than two meters high, serves as a cool air intake during the warm days and blows warm air into the tent during the chilly desert nights.

Below is a picture of a prototype of the Desert Seal inflatable tent (Credit: Architecture and Vision). As you can see on the middle part of the image, "Desert Seal has a flexible solar cell panel to provide electricity for the ventilation fan and LED-light at night. A small battery is used to store the energy."

A prototype of Desert Seal

The two architects behind this project, Andreas Vogler and Arturo Vittori, who founded Architecture and Vision in 2003 both have already worked for other aerospace projects, for Airbus or the International Space Station. Here are how they designed Desert Seal.

They designed Desert Seal specifically for hot arid environments where the air becomes considerably cooler the more distant it is from the Earth’s surface. During the day, the temperature can easily reach 60°C and beyond at ground level, while just 3 metres above it could be 40°C lower. Vittori and Vogler decided to use this characteristic to their advantage.
During the day, an electric fan in the top of the tent, 2.26 m above the ground, constantly blows cooler air inside, thus reducing the temperature inside the tent. The fan is powered by batteries charged by a flexible solar panel mounted outside the tent.
During the night, the desert radiates heat off to space and quickly reaches temperature below zero degree Celsius. Since air acts as a good insulator, on higher levels it stays considerably warmer. The fan on top now runs on batteries and blows warmer air into the tent, protecting from the chilly desert nights.

You'll find more information about Desert Seal by reading this brochure (PDF format, 2 pages, 338 KB) or by visiting the project page at Architecture and Vision (Flash format).

Will this tent become available for retail anytime soon? Probably not. So far, this tent is a prototype, but you can watch it at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the 'SAFE: Design Takes On Risk' exhibition until January 2, 2006.

Sources: European Space Agency, October 20, 2005; and various web sites

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