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Solar-powered air conditioning

Air conditioning in the summer months is putting more and more pressure on the electrical grid. To address this problem, a new research project has developed a low-cost, solar air conditioning unit.

Energy

Absorption cooling is a system that uses a heat source to drive cooling and it requires very little power. Although a very promising technology, current systems are expensive and incompatible with common air conditioning designs. In response, the EU-funded 'Cost-effective solar air conditioning' (CESAR) project sought to design and build a small, cheap absorption cooling unit that uses a renewable energy source. To achieve this, they needed to develop new cooling fluids, heat exchangers and a control system. As such, CESAR tested various cooling fluids before settling on the most promising one and studying it extensively for compatibility with the prototype device. The rest of the heat exchange system (absorber, generator, condenser and evaporator) has been redesigned to reduce cost and improve efficiency. Design software and algorithms were also advanced to aid in the development and testing of the prototype in the laboratory and in the field. Further development and validation of control system software and design tools is required. This new solar air conditioning unit promises to revolutionise the industry through significant power savings and increased use of renewable energy sources.

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