Air Conditioning Reimagined
Floridians are no stranger to sweltering summer temperatures and the unpleasantness that comes with it: the stickiness of humid air clinging to our clothes, boiling hot seatbelts, the tendrils of sweat that seem to perpetually gather on your face. The summer heat drives people to go to the beach, eat ice cream and even return to homes equipped with air conditioning.
However, most air conditioners are very energy efficient and are linked to respiratory problems with prolonged exposure (2). Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, the University of British Columbia, and the Singapore-ETH Centre have banded together to research a more environmentally friendly alternative. They have named it the “Cold Tube”, and it is a “system of rectangular wall or ceiling panels that are kept cold by chilled water circulating within them” (2). Unlike traditional AC-cooling systems, which cool and dehumidify the air in a room, the Cold Tube absorbs heat emitted by the body, and without cooling the air passing over the skin.
The Cold Tube can be used both indoors and outdoors. In 2019, The Cold Tube was tested in Singapore on 55 participants. Despite the weather being in the high 80s, most of the group reported feeling “cool” and “comfortable” as the invention absorbed their body heat (1).
Project Co-lead and Assistant Professor of Environmental Systems at UC Berkeley, Adam Rysanek, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the public's awareness how sensitive our health is to the quality of the air we breathe indoors [...] As the climate changes and air conditioning becomes more of a global necessity than a luxury, we need to be prepared with alternatives that are not only better for the environment, but also our health.”
1. Ruefenacht, L. (2020, August 19). "Cold Tube" cooling system uses half the energy of an air conditioner. Retrieved September 01, 2020, from https://newatlas.com/energy/cold-tube-cooling-air-conditioner/
2. University of British Columbia. (2020, August 18). This 'Cold Tube' can beat the summer heat without relying on air conditioning: Chilled panels use less energy than conventional A/C and work in open spaces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 01, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200818142116.htm