Hear hear for cross-disciplinary education. Doris Kim Sung was a biology major who switched into architecture, and her combination of the two interests has now led her, as an assistant professor at USC, to experimenting with building systems inspired by everything from human skin to grasshoppers' breathing systems. "[Skin is] the first line of defense for the body," she says. "Our building skins should be more similar to human skin."
To that end Sung has been experimenting with thermo-bimetals, two thin layers of metal that expand and contract, in response to temperature, at different rates. Laminating two like-sized sheets of different material together and subjecting them to a temperature change causes the sheet to curl up—and this phenomenon can be exploited to create a building that ingeniously shades itself as needed, requiring no external power.
Check it out in Sung's "Metal That Breathes" TED Talk, released just yesterday: