Professor Marcelo Izquierdo from the Department of Thermal Engineering and Fluid Mechanics of the UC3M and researcher at the Instituto de Ciencias de la Construcción Eduardo Torroja (IETCC) of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas is building a solar cooling system that unlike the existing machines on the market, uses an improved absorption mechanism capable of producing cold water at a range of temperatures from 7º C to 18º C when the exterior temperature ranges from 33º C to 43º C. (about 45 to 64 F and 91 to 109 F) That could be cold enough for refrigeration and is cold enough for home air conditioning.

Driven by the Montreal Protocol organizing 191 countries to avoid using ozone depleting chemicals in air conditioning and refrigeration and improving efficiency to 25% of the 1996 level by 2010 there is a not news noticed but an intense level of activity outside the U.S. The protocol also stipulates that by 2020 all HCFC refrigerates will need be replaced. The research is considered very important and time critical outside of the U.S.

That gives some value to the announcement by the Spaniards that they have achieved a working chiller driven by (in part) the heat recovered from the inside of a building and solar to power an air conditioner adequate for 120 m3 or 4,238 cubic feet – say a room about 23 feet on a side by 8 feet high. It’s a pretty good size unit in an international point of view.

Solar Residual Chiller

The research team designed and built what is known as an absorption chiller. Their design cycles back the heat recovered inside of a building and solar energy to drive the unit. As you can see in the photo, it looks a lot like your home air conditioning compressor unit just outside the house. Using a lithium bromide solution and some water the chilled water can be cycled into a home and flowed through water to air heat exchanger (aka a fan coil).

While this isn’t noticed in the U.S it is a could become a significant matter as the system would reduce the amount of electrical power needed to drive afternoon air conditioning that is the main cause of the “peak use” period that loads the electrical grid so heavily.

The team has been at work since before 2005 when they got to a working unit. The results of their effort have been published in the current issue (Price Barrier of $31.50) in Applied Thermal Engineering under the title: ‘Air conditioning using an air-cooled single effect lithium bromide absorption chiller: Results of a trial conducted in Madrid in August 2005’. The team allows the improvement is from an innovative absorption chiller mechanism.

Just how much energy this might save is not in the press release, rather the focus is on environmental impacts. Whatever the results are, the idea to move the absorption chiller technology that has until now been available only in commercial and industrial sizes to home air conditioning may have a significant impact worldwide. Adding back the heat and adding solar energy has to a good idea. If any one buys into the full paper send along the details or add what you learn to the comments.

Now . . . What do you suppose they’ve been doing for past three years and just now break this news out? It might be a good idea to keep an eye on these guys if you’re in the HVAC business.



9 Comments so far

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