In the past twenty years or so, we have gotten more serious about conserving energy and creating more renewable resources to help power our cars, homes, and work spaces. Along with these innovations, companies began developing new technology to help us save energy and money on lighting and heating (or cooling) our homes and one of them is the Energy-Free AC.
After many years of research, investments, and revolutionizing the energy markets, a group of scientists may have found a way to air condition our homes without using any energy whatsoever – and it resembles plastic wrap. Is something with such a simple design what we may need to go energy-free when cooling our homes on hot summer days?
Unlike solar panels, which we are just now becoming more widely accustomed to, the Energy-Free AC works 24/7. Even after the Sun sets, the wrap keeps doing its job – and with no use of electricity.
The wrap is also relatively inexpensive and can be mass-produced to fit basically any need from homes, to schools, to power plants or office buildings. “We feel that this low-cost manufacturing process will be transformative for real-world applications,” said Xiaobo Yin, a mechanical engineer from the University of Colorado Boulder.
During the day, Earth heats up by absorbing the Sun’s rays. To get rid of this heat, when the Sun goes down, Earth releases infrared rays back into the atmosphere. This process, called radiative cooling, allows Earth to repeat this process every day.
The developers behind this new Energy-Free AC, heat-reflecting plastic were curious to see if there was a away they could create a material that would reflect the Sun’s rays without the use of any electricity, thus maintaining its use as an energy-free cooling material. (LOOK AT: Do humans have the talent to regrow body parts?)
The team tested this theory by using a material made of one layer of polymethylpentene that is a little thicker than aluminum foil, another thin layer of reflective silver, and small red glass beads between them.
As light rays hit the glass beads through the polymethylpentene, the light was scattered back toward the Sun by the beads and the reflective silver layer. As a result, whatever was underneath the silver was able to cool off, as it was not interrupted by the light rays. This process is known as phonon-polariton resonance.
Plastic v. Panel
When the team decided on trying out some field studies, the results were spectacular. When the material faced the Sun directly at its highest point (at noon), it produced a cooling effect of up to 90 watts per square meter. In addition, over a 72-hour period, the material had a cooling effect equivalent to 110 watts per square meter.
These results are comparable to those of a single solar panel over the same course of time.
“Just 10 to 20 square meters of this material on the rooftop could nicely cool down a single-family house in summer,” said Gang Tan, an architectural engineering professor at the University of Wyoming, colleague of Yin’s, and co-author of the study.
Is The Energy-Free AC the Future?
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This material seems to be very revolutionary, especially for something that seems to the average person to be so simple. That means there is a possibility that, if this material were to be introduced to consumers, it could be quite popular.
In conjunction with solar panels, which can be used a a source of energy for other uses in the home (i.e. lights, heating, appliances), this material can help bring energy costs down during hot months and work without using an extra electricity. Who wouldn’t want that?