Solar powered air-conditioning developed in Canberra

proofpositive 6 February 2009 14

The Australian National University is reporting that an air-conditioning unit that runs on solar energy has been developed right here in Canberra.

The premise is that these units reduce peak demand on the power grid, reduce the need for nasty refrigerants and should be cheap to produce due a design with minimal moving parts.

I also heard on the grapevine that the same people may be close to perfecting a perpetual motion machine.

[ED – to be fair using more energy to combat a super-abundance of energy as we currently do seems technologically primitive, there probably is a better way without heading to perpetual motion]


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14 Responses to Solar powered air-conditioning developed in Canberra
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p1 p1 10:52 pm 06 Feb 09

Yeah, I got a good look and bit of a tour of the sliver cell research last year, looked pretty tops.

GregW GregW 8:31 pm 06 Feb 09

The ANU marketing machine is an impressive thing. There is no doubt that good research occurs within the College of Engineering and IT, but this technology has been under active research for decades, most of which ANU has played little roll in, and they certainly aren’t at the leading edge. Its a similar situation for thin film solar, combined heat and power, phase change energy storage etc…

Sliver cells seem revolutionary though…

monomania monomania 7:00 pm 06 Feb 09

This sounds like a very good idea. Not wanting to be cynical but a lot of good ideas get announced in the too preliminary stage, probably about the time the present grant is running out. I hope this is an almost economic idea if it comes to fruition and a lot more sensibly priced than PV electricity is at the moment. If the idea becomes fashionable, price won’t matter anyway.

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 2:35 pm 06 Feb 09

They are into some seriously cool projects in ANU.

There is another area that is trying to design solar power generation based on mimicking the functioning of chloroplasts in plants – the green bits that photosynthesise.

(I wonder if that would lead to PV panels that are green instead of black?)

niftydog niftydog 2:14 pm 06 Feb 09

taco said :

It’s not aircon as I understand it – it’s a type of heat pump/exchanger

A refrigeration unit is also a heat pump/exchanger. The difference is a refrigerator contains a “compression heat pump” and this seems to be an “absorption heat pump” – like a gas-powered camping fridge.

p1 p1 1:27 pm 06 Feb 09

Bees have used evaporative cooling for at least the last 130 million years, including through several periods of global warming. Funny thing is they don’t know anything about the laws of thermodynamics, inversion layers or university research programs (that need funding perhaps?).

And thus, proof the Darwinian Evolution if flawed and Intelligent Design is the only possible answer.*

*(I am of course being very, very, sarcastic with this comment).

fnaah fnaah 12:51 pm 06 Feb 09

You make it sound like one day a bee just thought “hmm, evaporative cooling, what a great idea”, then told all her friends, and hey presto, evaporatively cooled bees. Hurrah for their cleverness! 😉

finder finder 12:39 pm 06 Feb 09

Bees have used evaporative cooling for at least the last 130 million years, including through several periods of global warming. Funny thing is they don’t know anything about the laws of thermodynamics, inversion layers or university research programs (that need funding perhaps?).

fnaah fnaah 12:26 pm 06 Feb 09

fnaah- it’s not Newton’s laws. It’s the laws of thermodynamics

Yes, I know that’s how the air cooler works, I was referring to the “perpetual motion machine” mentioned in the OP.

Kramer Kramer 12:16 pm 06 Feb 09

Looks like a great concept – a quick Google of the underlying technology (ejector cooling) reveals that this has been in the works for a while. The proposed solution would also be able to heat you house in winter!

Can’t wait to see the commercially produced coolers, and it is great to see ANU again coming to the fore with very practical technology developments.

The cat did it The cat did it 12:11 pm 06 Feb 09

fnaah- it’s not Newton’s laws. It’s the laws of thermodynamics (1st and 2nd Laws are eloquently explained by Flanders and Swann- see http://www.iankitching.me.uk/humour/hippo/entropy.html)

Ejector cooling has been all the rage for a while, because it allows you to get a refrigeration effect with a low-grade energy source, like solar thermal, that can produce useful amounts of energy at 80 degrees C or so, and do it cost-effectively. This means that you don’t need electricity to drive a compressor pump. Of course, the ANU write it up as if they are leading edge, and they might be, but there are many others working in the field as well. A lot of basic work was done by Soviet scientists in the 1950s.

The potential is huge- good luck to them.

fnaah fnaah 11:30 am 06 Feb 09

I also heard on the grapevine that the same people may be close to perfecting a perpetual motion machine.

I can’t tell if this is a thinly veiled attack on the inventors, or evidence of the reporter’s lack of understanding of Newton’s laws.

taco taco 10:53 am 06 Feb 09

It’s not aircon as I understand it – it’s a type of heat pump/exchanger

The difference is that aircon refrigerates the air using electricity before blowing it around, while a heat pump works by pushing the heat around using the heat itself

p1 p1 10:22 am 06 Feb 09

A solar powered aircon unit makes an incredible amount of sense. I think the first people to market a self powering unit which does a reasonable job at a reasonable price will make a fortune.

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