20 July 2019 
 
11 March 2019

Researchers pioneer water-based air-conditioner

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has pioneered a new water-based air-conditioning system that cools air to as low as 18 degrees Celsius without the use of energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants. This technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still being used today.

Photo: National University of SingaporePhoto: National University of Singapore
The novel system developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore generates potable drinking water while it cools ambient air.
Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the novel system is portable and it can also be customised for all types of weather conditions. Led by Associate Professor Ernest Chua from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, the team’s novel air-conditioning system is cost-effective to produce, and it is also more eco-friendly and sustainable.

The system consumes about 40 per cent less electricity than current compressor-based air-conditioners used in homes and commercial buildings. This translates into more than 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. In addition, it adopts a water-based cooling technology instead of using chemical refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbon and hydrochlorofluorocarbon for cooling, thus making it safer and more environmentally-friendly. To add another feather to its eco-friendliness cap, the novel system generates potable drinking water while it cools ambient air.

Current air-conditioning systems require a large amount of energy to remove moisture and to cool the dehumidified air. By developing two systems to perform these two processes separately, the NUS Engineering team can better control each process and hence achieve greater energy efficiency.

The novel air-conditioning system first uses an innovative membrane technology – a paper-like material – to remove moisture from humid outdoor air. The dehumidified air is then cooled via a dew-point cooling system that uses water as the cooling medium instead of harmful chemical refrigerants. Unlike vapour compression air-conditioners, the novel system does not release hot air to the environment. Instead, a cool air stream that is comparatively less humid than environmental humidity is discharged – negating the effect of micro-climate. About 12 to 15 litres of potable drinking water can also be harvested after operating the air-conditioning system for a day.

http://nus.edu.sg/

 


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