National University of Singapore researchers have pioneered a new water-based air-conditioning system that cools air to as low as 18º C (64.4º F) without using energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants.

This disruptive type of technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still being used in our modern-day air-conditioners. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the novel system is portable and it can also be customized for all types of weather conditions.

NUS Engineering researchers developed a novel air cooling technology that could redefine the future of air-conditioning. Image Credit: National University of Singapore. Click image for the largest view.

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 percent less electricity than current compressor-based air-conditioners used in homes and commercial buildings. This translates into more than a 40 percent 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.

Adding another feather to its eco-friendliness cap, the novel system generates potable drinking water while it cools the ambient air.

Associate Prof Chua said, “For buildings located in the tropics, more than 40 percent of the building’s energy consumption is attributed to air-conditioning. We expect this rate to increase dramatically, adding an extra punch to global warming. First invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, vapor compression air-conditioning is the most widely used air-conditioning technology today. This approach is very energy-intensive and environmentally harmful. In contrast, our novel membrane and water-based cooling technology is very eco-friendly – it can provide cool and dry air without using a compressor and chemical refrigerants. This is a new starting point for the next generation of air-conditioners, and our technology has immense potential to disrupt how air-conditioning has traditionally been provided.”

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 vapor 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 liters of potable drinking water can also be harvested after operating the air-conditioning system for a day.

Associate Prof Chua explained, “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. This novel technology is also highly suitable for confined spaces such as bomb shelters or bunkers, where removing moisture from the air is critical for human comfort, as well as for sustainable operation of delicate equipment in areas such as field hospitals, armored personnel carriers, and operation decks of navy ships as well as aircraft.”

The research team is currently refining the design of the air-conditioning system to further improve its user-friendliness. The NUS researchers are also working to incorporate smart features such as pre-programmed thermal settings based on human occupancy and real-time tracking of its energy efficiency. The team hopes to work with industry partners to commercialize the technology.

Looks and sounds good. But that discharge temperature looks barely adequate for the developed world’s jaded consumers. Drying the air will make huge difference, cooling the circulating air far enough to condense out the water vapor is a big part of the A/C energy cost. So it looks like a sure half way, first step, kind of thing.

The approach is also a sophisticated look at A/C as its done now. Going to two steps with such impressive results is sure to cause an engineering rethink for current designs marketed in the developed world now. Is it a revolution or disruptive technology? Almost.

Where new installations with capital cost decisions are tight and running expense is a concern, this technology should find a warm reception.


Comments

37 Comments so far

  1. Roseland67 on January 11, 2018 8:02 AM

    The last 5-10 °F could be by vapor compression,
    Energy savings alone could justify both if reliable.
    Wondering how often the membrane has to be serviced
    Or replaced?

  2. Matt Musson on January 12, 2018 9:41 AM

    Could be a game changer.

  3. Greg M. Green on January 15, 2018 12:37 AM

    This novel technology is also highly suitable for confined spaces such as bomb shelters or bunkers, where removing moisture from the air is critical for human comfort, as well as for sustainable operation of delicate equipment in areas such as field hospitals, armored personnel carriers, and operation decks of navy ships as well as aircraft.

  4. Benjamin Luker on January 15, 2018 11:41 PM

    The research team is currently refining the design of the air-conditioning system to further improve its user-friendliness.

  5. Ella Smeaton on January 16, 2018 9:39 PM

    The approach is also a sophisticated look at A/C as its done now.

  6. Jeff Anger on July 25, 2018 4:17 PM

    I am very interested in this technology, I live in Phoenix Arizona and I could see your technology being tested here. I would love to get involved with the marketing and sales of this new tech, I can help!

  7. Ludatest @ZJ on October 19, 2018 2:43 AM

    That’s great create design. It will human protect environment.

  8. Himan Gholami on January 7, 2019 11:20 AM

    this is great.I would love to get involved with the marketing and sales of this new tech in our company, I can help

  9. sanjay on April 2, 2019 7:03 AM

    I am involved in solar hybrid air conditioning,can you update me whenever the technology/product is commercially ready.

  10. Plastic granulator on April 4, 2019 3:17 AM

    Learned a lot of knowledge

  11. Parwez Mhosin Khan on April 29, 2019 8:30 AM

    Please send me detail of this technologh
    How much Energy Consume for 1.5 ton Refigreton Use Power
    How much Cost for 1.5 ton Rifigration

  12. Saibesh on May 20, 2019 2:45 AM

    I am from India ( Kerala)
    I am very much interested in your technology. As am involved in Air-condition field for quiet long time.
    I will support for it’s Marketing in India.
    As am confident in Singapore technology as I worked there for 2 year in a manufacturing company
    Saibesh
    91 8138003800

  13. Patrick LAM on June 30, 2019 9:52 PM

    I am from Canada/Hong Kong/China, my company has a factory and wants to discuss the start to creating consumer products to market and to help reduce environmental damage, please update me whenever the technology/product is commercially ready.

  14. James Hii on December 7, 2019 6:24 PM

    I would very must interested, and would like to be your agent to market in Malaysia. My family are involved in Airconds business for more than 30 years. From plant, window unit, split unit & car aircond.

  15. WISSAM on December 8, 2019 2:12 AM

    I would very must interested, and would like to be your agent in Qatar. we are involved in Airconds business for more than 10 years. please share with more details and wayforward. thanks

  16. Antony Peter on December 9, 2019 7:17 AM

    Really great invention,
    Can i get more details

  17. Venkat Pandurangam on February 15, 2020 10:10 PM

    we are in the field of consultancy MEP specially air conditioning system
    WE CAN PROMOTE THE SYSTEM IN CHENNAI INDIA
    Have a nice day

  18. Venkat Pandurangam on February 15, 2020 10:11 PM

    we are in the field of consultancy MEP specially air conditioning system

    Have a nice day

  19. TIM J DOBSON on February 29, 2020 10:59 AM

    I’ve been following this the past 2 years. Water as a medium requires tricky details but not impossible. Keep me informed. I am still holding out for something like this that finally makes sense. I have a water Harvester for Air humidity, but this development goes more full circle . Are the cold water used for the dew point circulation wasted or dumped once it has absorbed heat from the hot air ?

  20. Navinda on March 11, 2020 10:42 AM

    I am from sri lanka i like learn about your project

  21. Philip Amato on March 15, 2020 11:58 AM

    Hi, but what happened to this project, have not scene any models on the market. Has the project failed?

  22. Amarnath Dash on April 3, 2020 3:30 AM

    I am interested to know your claim of reduction in power consumption. safety measures and after-sale complaints about how often is to be addressed. maintenance-free technology is viable in the present world.I would like to listen to you.

  23. R.nandagopal on May 2, 2020 10:16 PM

    Interesting and would like to setup a big market in india

  24. Abdulaziz Sharqi on May 11, 2020 8:08 AM

    Please we need information about your products and is it possible to make a factory in Saudi Arabia.
    Thank you in advance

  25. Nick on May 23, 2020 3:12 PM

    Am also holding out, waiting for this to be developed.

  26. Allen Tarr on July 13, 2020 10:56 PM

    I shall appreciate updated information.

    Thank you,

    ALLEN TARR
    Los Estados Unidos

  27. maifuj Khan on July 16, 2020 12:35 PM

    Air conditioning devlopedment new technology

  28. maifuj Khan on July 16, 2020 12:36 PM

    Air conditioning devlopedment new technology
    Changes and generate new things

  29. Joshua Harrison on July 18, 2020 3:04 AM

    Isn’t it true that HVAC will never go easy into the night, even at the cost of our humanity?

  30. mahendra sharma on July 25, 2020 5:30 AM

    Is it suitable for rail coaches?
    I am ex HVAC Engineer from Indian Railway.
    If suitable, kindly let me know how can help you for the expansion of your business in India?

  31. James Bangura on July 26, 2020 1:59 PM

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    I love your business and I would like to become a Sole Distributor in my country.
    What is the process?

    Regards,
    James Bangura
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  32. Ramiro B.Garcia on July 26, 2020 10:05 PM

    Please let me know where i can get this A/C..

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  35. Ramon F. Bernardo on August 21, 2020 10:30 PM

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    I’m Ramie from Manila, Philippines.
    I’m so impressed with your technology and I wish to become a Sole Distributor.
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    All the best,
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  36. Rodney on August 28, 2020 3:10 AM

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  37. Isaac groisman on October 7, 2020 12:02 PM

    Hi i am interested in distributing this technology here in central america.
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