Pillow domes were invented by
the film "Ecological Design: Inventing the Future".
He took 2 layers
of DuPont's Tefzel film and heat sealed them together. He then took these
triangular shaped "air" pillows and attached them to the triangular
frame of a geodesic dome. Once these thin film layers were attached
to the dome's frame, he injected a gas into the pillows.
These Pillow Domes have a tremendous potential for providing
durable, transparent environmental enclosing structures while using
a minimum amount of material. They would be ideal for enclosing, for
example, water purification systems like those being developed
Dr. John Todd.
(See the material at
Living Technologies web pages.)
I am currently working with students at the State University of
New York (SUNY), Oswego campus to construct a 25 foot diameter
pillow dome. Together with Prof. John Belt, I hope to construct
this dome with the students early next year. Jay Baldwin will
be assisting us as our technical consultant.
Some of the advantages of a pillow dome over conventional
dome construction are
- Flexable covering. Uneven heating over the
outside surface of the dome will cause
uneven expansion and contraction. Because the thin films have
the ability to stretch this is not a problem for the
- Water tight. Jay's method for attaching the thin film insures that
the dome will not leak. Leakage has been a problem in the past for
convensional domes, mostly due to the joints becoming loose with the
uneven expansion and contraction mentioned above.
- Minimum shadow.
Biosphere 2 project had a problem because
there wasn't enough sunlight passing through the dome surface/frame
to grow the food they wanted to. With the pillow dome, we are approaching
the maximum amount of sun light passing through the dome to the
- Maintanance. Pillow domes require extreemely low maintenance.
- Better than single layer films. Domes (or other structures)
covered with a single layer of film tend to "flap in the wind". This
weakens the film which shortens its lifetime. There is no flap with
- Better sound quality. Because the interior surface of Pillow
domes are convex triangular bubbles, sounds inside the dome are
dispersed rather than focused as would be the case with a flat
or convex wall surface.
There are "problems" with pillow domes which need further
investigation. These include
- Repair. To repair a punctured pillow is not easy. Its not
complex, but its not easy.
- Its not a do-it-yourself type of project. The pillows are made
by heat sealing at least two layers of film together. The average
do-it-yourselfer doesn't have easy access to an impulse heat sealer.
But once you *have* the pillows heat sealed, the rest
is straight forward.
- The size of the triangular pillows are unique for each size and frequency
dome. It would be nice to be able to use "old" pillows in a new, different
sized dome, but the triangular framing of domes are different for
each change in radius and frequency. This might be overcome by some
ingenious re-designning of dome framing.
List of Project Components...
Here is a Table of Contents style list for the Pillow Dome Project
which I am exploring.
NOTE: Jay reminds us that a key element in any dome project is
the foundation upon which the dome will be attached. With
the air flow over the surface of the dome you can get a
large *lifting* force on the dome. If it is not
securely fastened to the ground it *will* blow away.
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