With rising temperatures as a result of climate change, the demand for air conditioners is expected to rise at unprecedented rates, which, in turn, will only further contribute to climate change due to the large amount of energy they require.
That, however, is not their only problem. In a time of the pandemic, air conditioning systems present new risks since they work by cooling the same air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
A new highly efficient system, developed by scientists at the University of British Columbia, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the Singapore-ETH Centre aims to tackle these challenges with an innovative cooling technology that doesn’t move air around.
As part of the study, scientists lined door-sized panels with tiny tubes that circulate cold water, offering a cooling experience to whoever stands next to them.
Unlike air conditioners, these panels can be used with the windows open, meaning that they can also be installed outdoors, allowing people to stay cool during a heatwave, while also getting some fresh air.
The unique feature and the key breakthrough behind the new cooling technology is a thin, transparent membrane that repels condensation — a hurdle that has so far prevented the wider use of similar cooling panels. And, because it stays dry, it can be used in humid conditions, without the use of a dehumidifier, which is responsible for around half of the total power consumed by typical air conditioners.
Researchers are now figuring out a way to make the currently thin version of the anti-condensation membrane strong enough to survive outdoors. Once that has been achieved, the aim is to make the technology available to consumers as quickly as possible, for use in homes and offices, or outdoors.