Approximately 2.8 billion people live in the hottest parts of the world, but only 8% have access to air conditioners (AC), and those that do will see an increase in energy use to keep cool. It is estimated that 14 billion AC systems will be needed by 2050, putting a strain on existing power grids, and the increase in cooling alone will account for a 0.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, according to the World Economic Forum.
To combat this problem some MIT researchers have developed a cooling system that requires zero electricity.
The device resembles a solar panel, but instead of providing electricity, it provides cooling. Picture the top of a food storage container that provides cooling for the food. It utilizes a combination of radiative cooling, evaporative cooling, and thermal insulation.
It requires a tiny amount of water for its evaporative cooling – once a month in wetter locations and once every four days in the hottest, driest regions.
Thus far, their research has demonstrated a 300% cooling power enhancement over state-of-the-art radiative cooling, under unfavorable climate conditions, and that previous critical challenges in passive cooling can be overcome – a potential game changer for addressing the world’s growing cooling needs.
This makes sense, considering that billions of people will soon be buying their first air conditioners in countries with fast-growing economies such as India and Brazil, where already dangerous heat and humidity levels exist.
The challenge ahead is to make this technology available and affordable when compared to current AC.
Others are working on this same idea, such as Ahis Paul in Bangladesh. He developed a clever DIY (do-it-yourself) cooling system that doesn’t need any electricity and is built from a common waste item: empty plastic soda bottles. It is called the Eco-Cooler (pictured). In just three months, Paul’s company has helped install its smart powerless air conditioners, called Eco Coolers, in 25,000 households, with many more still ahead.