It's called double and/or tipple pane glass. It has been used for decades in windows to help insulate homes. If you go to the grocery store and walk down the freezer isle you will see a great example of how well it works to insulate.
Again I read what you write and it just proves how little you know about actually growing anything hydroponically. I see people time and time again waste lots of time and money trying to solve problems that either don't exist or are easily solved. They try and make things complicated, hard, and expensive because they just don't know any better. I hate to see people waste all their time and energy like that. If they only built some hydroponic systems and actually spent some time growing some actual plants first, they would see how simple and easy it is to do successfully without wasting a fortune.
I say it again the "food Computer" idea will never be cost effective enough to be worth it to anyone who is interested in growing their plants to eat or sell. It's nice to have a dream, but nobody cares about spending tons of money to grow very little food. That's simply a show piece/novelty and waste of money.
Building an insulated box is cheap and easy to do, people do it all the time when they build their grow rooms. What isn't always cheap is like I already outlined, heating and cooling them, as well as running artificial lighting. So it's nice to hear at least you have some focus in that direction. However I don't think you will ever be able to out compete the HVAC industry, as well as the appliance industry's. Any new technology or ways to save energy costs will either be in those industries first first, or quickly incorporated into them ASAP.
The fact is most people who grow inside their homes/apartments don't really need to worry about controlling the air and water temperatures much. Most plants grow very well at room temperatures (74-78 F) and even a little higher. If anything they usually just need to ventilate the room to get fresh air. But their are people who grow in basements, garages, and attics that don't get HVAC air or just don't want to heat/cool the entire room to grow a few plants. That's when they build a insulated grow room and cool it with ventilation and/or a small window AC unit or swamp cooler. If they need to heat it they just use a small portable heater. The best way to heat and cool it all depends on their actual specific location (temps, humidity, etc. etc.)
Absolutely. I don't know about recycling yards, I have never been to any looking around, though it sounds like a good idea. But I get some of the best items to make hydro systems out of the day before trash day that people are throwing out. I have even talked to the managers of restaurants and had them save me all their plastic 2-3-4-5 gallon buckets. You can build a hydroponic system out of just about anything as long as it's not metal, though you can use metal as part of a support structure. Even wood can be water proofed to use in a hydroponic system. If you know what makes them work, what makes the six different types different, and just look around a bit you can build a hydroponic system practically for free.
The only items you really need to buy is the air and/or water pump, and vinyl or poly tubing. But those are all cheap and easy to find all over. Even the nutrients are cheap if you know where to look. Same with the growing media. Building hydroponic system is really easy and cheap to do. Even if you want to buy new parts to build the hydro system out of, it;s still quite cheap to do.
Hydroponic shops always try and get you to buy electronic pH and EC/TDS/PPM meters and make it sound like you will never be able to grow successfully without them. Not true, their simply not necessary in the slightest. You do need to check pH, but pH drops are under $10 and far better than the electronic meters. You don't need the EC/TDS/PPM meters at all. I have been growing hydroponically since 2008 and have never even used one. Growing plants hydroponically and successfully doesn't have to be expensive at all. If you know how hydroponic systems work and how to be cost effective, it's down right cheap. It can even be cheaper than growing the plants in soil like it is for me.
I have known a lot of people that not only have grown more than they spent on their hydro systems, but also grow more than they can eat from them the first place and give it away. It's a misconception that the only things you can grow hydroponically are pot and/or lettuce. I do like lettuce, but I have also hydroponically grown strawberries, tomatoes, tomitillos (Mexican green tomatoes), melons, snow peas, green beans, broccoli, peppers, chilies, radishes, green onions, and herbs (basil, sage, and mint). I grow everything cost effectively or I don't grow it. I even have plans to grow corn and be able to harvest weekly. I also have plans to grow raspberries and blackberries. I even have designed a system to grow root crops like potato's in a aeroponic system. That not only allows you to insulate the root system, but also provides easy and quick access to harvest the potatoes without disturbing the plant while it's still growing.
Granted I grow everything outside in natural sunlight. I live in Arizona and we get tons of free sunlight. I also have a small house and don't really have any room to grow inside. Even If I wanted to grow in the living room, nobody wants to look at the lights being on 18 hours a day. I can probably grow in the garage, but it gets hotter in there than outside most of the year (spring and summer months). My biggest problem is keeping the nutrient solution cool during the hot months, however I have worked out ways to do that cost effectively.
But even if I were to grow inside, I have figured out a way to use free sunlight to grow plants indoors as well using natural sunlight with solar tubes. Essentially it's a skylight designed to collect sunlight and bring it to any room in the home through mirrored ducting. I could turn a walk in closet into a grow room using natural sunlight instead of artificial lighting. I could even build a insulated grow room outside or in the garage and use solar tubes to light it.
Growing plant and providing the right growing environment is simple and easy to do. Any child can do it.