Our air conditioners still draw on principles that are around 100-years-old, sucking up power in the process. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) are working on an alternative: water-based air conditioners. Their system doesn’t need energy-intensive compressors or harmful chemical refrigerants – and can cool air all the way down to 18 degrees Celsius, or 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Over 40 percent of the energy consumption of a building in the tropics goes to air conditioning, according to NUS associate professor Ernest Chua. He led a team to develop a new air conditioning system offering several advantages over conventional machines commonly found in buildings today.
Water serves as the coolant in their air conditioner, and an innovative membrane technology sucks moisture out of humid air. The system uses up around 40 percent less electricity than compressor-based air conditioners, which NUS said translates to an over 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions. And the system doesn’t release hot air, instead discharging a less-humid cold air stream. For every liter of water used, as much as 15 liters of drinking water can be harvested, according to NUS – and the water the system harvests from the air is five times purer than Singapore tap water.
Chua said in a statement, “Our cooling technology can be easily tailored for all types of weather conditions, from humid climate in the tropics to arid climate in the deserts. While it can be used for indoor living and commercial spaces, it can also be easily scaled up to provide air-conditioning for clusters of buildings in an energy-efficient manner.”
NUS said it’s cost-effective to produce the system. Right now the team is further developing the design to boost user-friendliness, and aim to incorporate smart features like real-time tracking of energy efficiency or “pre-programmed thermal settings based on human occupancy.” They’re hoping to collaborate with industry partners on commercialization.