Surfaces Of The Future: Intelligent Tiles


Design students all around the world have come up with concepts for intelligent tiles, and by intelligence they don’t necessarily mean they will be putting tiny robots under your floors. What they mean by intelligence is that the tiles would be capable of responding to stimuli from the surrounding environment in a useful, reliable and reversible manner. Here are some conceptual examples by architecture and interior design students from the Cumulus Design Competition held in Italy last 2005:

The Climate Control Tile
This tile was designed to respond to the changing temperature of a climate. In the structure of the tile sits a micro-encapsulated phase change material that enables it to store a certain amount of heat, and also be able to expel heat if and when it is no longer needed. It is made from a ceramic material with a thermochromic ink on the outermost surface, and changes color in accordance to color frequency temperature. In cold climates, the cell prevents heat from being released, hence the name ‘heater tiles’.

Glow tiles
These tiles utilize an innovative take on energy: it uses photovoltaic cells (or solar cells, which are usually made from silicon alloys and are a stationary non-mechanical device) where sunlight is converted into electricity, thus creating a self-sufficient energy system. It is incredibly eco-friendly, with power being stored in the day and activated at night by a light sensory unit.

Thermo Tiles
The tile changes its appearance in accordance to fluctuations in surrounding temperatures and lighting. The first layer is constructed of a thermochromic pigment, and the next layer is a photographic emulsion, wherein a photograph is projected, and the last is a transparent varnish that protects the physical integrity of the tiles from wear and tear.

With these design advancements, imagine what kind of floor you will be stepping on in the near future. The possibilities are endless.

Color adaptive tiles: tiles that would change color whenever you decide to redecorate or change color palettes for your kitchen or bathroom. That would save on costs for redecoration, wouldn’t it?

Self-warming tiles: This will negate the utter discomfort of having to step onto freezing-cold tiles during the cold season.

Water-absorbent tiles: Self-drying tiles will very useful in preventing unfortunate accidents and slips, and will save unnecessary cleaning time.

With more upcoming technological advances in home design and power conservation techniques, designers and engineers are working on creating ways to use surfaces that come in contact with human bodies. Think of it as an interactive way of generating energy, creating something new every time humans come in contact with these overly-utilized but under-optimized surfaces, which in this case are tiles. Who knows, there may come a future when your home or office computer system would be embedded on tiles, and all you need to do to boot them up is to come in contact with them.

Jove Arthur is a home improvement expert who works at Door Emporium, a custom wood door company based in New Jersey. Get the lowdown on door shopping in his latest article – DIY Door Finishing VS Shopping for Pre-finished Doors on

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