Air Conditioning in the Future
Air conditioning can account for as much as half of a household’s energy use. Especially in the sweltering San Antonio summer heat, A/C units work almost non-stop cooling air and pushing out heat. That’s a lot of energy consumption that strains our power grid.
Fortunately, there are some interesting developments on the rise in the world of air conditioning. Every year, new air conditioning systems are produced with tweaks and upgrades that are easier on the environment, on our power sources, and on our bank accounts.
The Price of Cooling
As it stands, Americans use large amounts of power to keep their televisions on, wash their clothes, charge their phones, and use their computers. Air conditioning is also an energy consumer. Although modern air conditioners are always improving parts and systems to make the most out of the energy they use, there is still more to be done.
Air conditioners also use refrigerants. These are liquids that promote cooling and allow the parts inside of your A/C to take the heat and moisture from the air. Refrigerants are turned into gases during the cooling process and are released into the air.
These gases promote warming, which in turn makes your air conditioner work harder. However, current researchers are battling hard to win the fight in the cooling world.
Where Will Air Conditioning Go From Here?
There are a few new and innovative systems in the works that use alternative methods of cooling. Some are more energy efficient, some eliminate refrigerants, and the most promising ones do both.
An alternative type of cooling system that uses evaporation to pull heat from a liquid source is effectively cooling air in moderate climates, but isn’t as effective for hot climates. It also makes the air in hot, humid climates more moist and, therefore, more sticky and miserable.
However, A/C research is looking at this system in a new light. By using quick-dry materials that make it easy for evaporators to pull heat out of the air in combination with a moisture absorbing device, most of the negative effects of this system are eliminated. The evaporator can push out cool, dry air that has little effect on the environment and uses only a small amount of energy to do its job.
Some metal alloys have a “shape memory” and can revert to their original shape after being deformed. To change the alloys back into their shapes, heat must be applied to the metal. Since the metals want to retain their original shape, they will absorb heat to keep from deforming.
It may be difficult to wrap your head around, but the basic concept is this: A device will deform the metal, and the metal will absorb the heat from its environment to turn back into its shape. It’s a constant heat removal system that can be controlled by controlling how hard the metal works to revert.
This technology is in the early stages of development but shows a lot of promise. It would require minimal power input and no dangerous gases.
Hot sounds for cool rooms
The waves produced by sounds are an often overlooked energy conductor that can be used to make things move – including heat. At Pennsylvania State University, a team has set up a loudspeaker that that takes electricity and makes sound waves. These sound waves bounce from one end to the other in an enclosed space called a resonator. The resonator is filled with a non-harmful gas like helium, compressing it on one side and expanding it on the other side.
Helium will absorb the heat inside the resonator when compressed and release it on the other side where it’s being expanded so it can escape. This process can cool large spaces and not just small resonators. Since it only uses electricity and eliminates the refrigerants, it’s easy on the environment.
But the team is still working out how to keep the sound wave creation efficient enough to be used in households and businesses nationwide. Though they have successfully created a freezer that can preserve ice cream, it seems it’s more difficult to create an air conditioning system that will keep people cool without bursting their eardrums.
By harnessing the power of nature and taking advantage of how the Earth heats and cools itself, modern research is on the brink of finding a solution to all of our cooling woes. It’s time to be excited about the future of cooling and stay informed – take a look at this comprehensive article at Popular Mechanics to learn more!