“How can we make pipes that are resistant to corrosion?”
We need pipes to transport into our homes water and other fluids necessary for survival. However, the interface of these fluids can interact with the pipe casing and cause corrosion, which can make the material dangerous for use. So how can we use our engineering mindset to fix this problem? Well, what if we were to develop a pipe whose material is impenetrable to oxygen? Well, this is the idea behind a technology known as barrier pipes and is used in residential units around the world.
“Is there a cooling equivalent to district heating?”
District heating is great for delivering hot fluids to a local community. But sometimes we want things to be cooled instead. So is it possible to create a cooling equivalent to district heating? Well, it turns out that engineers have created something called district cooling which can store and transport chilled water at command!
“How can we direct the flow of air?”
HVAC systems often rely on the flow of air for operation. However, since air is a gas, it can be very difficult to control. So how can we use our engineering mindsets to contain it? Well, let’s think back to some basic principles. We know that that gas is a fluid. And we already know that one method for transporting another type of fluid (liquids) is to use pipes. So what if we were to make a conduit that does this same exact mechanism except for gases? Well, it turns out that this system is actually one of the most widely used HVAC structures on the planet, and has been termed a duct by engineers.
“How can we add energy to a fluid with one simple part?”
Fluids are so useful for doing things! But sometimes our fluid doesn’t have enough energy inside it. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, what if we were to use a mechanical motor with a hole in it, and if we were to pass our fluid through it? Then the fluid would gain energy from the rotational motion. Well, it turns out that this solution actually works and is known as an impeller. This added energy can change the pressure of a fluid, and energy can even be decreased if we use smart planning! In fact, it turns out that turbines are a specific form of an impeller.
Fan Coil Unit
“What is an affordable alternative to VAV systems?”
Variable Air Volume (or VAV) systems are great for controlling the weather in an interior space. However, these machines can be quite expensive, so how can we use our engineering mindsets to solve this problem? Well, let’s start with some basic components, a fan to move around air and a heat exchanger (also known as a coil) to control the temperature. With this combination, we can create an HVAC system called a Fan Coil Unit. Fan Coil Units are typically used in smaller buildings where ductwork is not as necessary and are popular in Italy and Eastern Europe.
“How can we use a fan to control gases?”
Most HVAC systems by moving around gases. However, materials at this phase can be quite difficult to control, so how can we use our engineering mindset to create such a mechanism? Well, we know that blades on a turbine react when a fluid passes through it, and through symmetry we can assume that a fluid will react to motor movement. So what if we were to construct something similar (like a motor) that would take in the gas, impart kinetic energy through its centripetal acceleration, and then change its direction by 90 degrees? Well, this is the fundamental idea behind a centrifugal fan and is one of the most fundamental components of modern HVAC systems.
“How can we control the flow of air without spending too much money?”
Directing airflow how many HVAC systems such as fans and air conditioners work. However, how can we do this in a safe and affordable manner? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to solve this problem. Let’s start with basic physics. We know that if air passes through a cross-section of multiple vents, then the air molecules will be forced into a particular direction (while large objects would be blocked). So what if we were to attach such vents in front of an HVAC system? This setup is known as an HVAC grille and can be seen in the face of nearly every heating and cooling system.
The Compressibility Factor
“How can we quantify how much a gas deviates from its ideal form?”
In introductory chemistry and physics classes, all gases are assumed to be completely ideal. However, in the real world gases usually are not so easy to work with. So how can we quantify a gas’ deviation from its ideal form? Well, let’s start from the basics. We know that all of the gas’s properties can be completely related to one another through the ideal gas equation p*v_specific=r*T. It would logically follow that if we were to divide the product of the pressure and the product of the specific volume by the universal gas constant times the temperature, we should end up with a ratio of 1/1.So what if we were to find out a gas’s specific volume, temperature, and volume of a gas in its non-ideal form, take their ration, and use that as a constant in a modified ideal gas equation? This is known as the compressibility factor and is commonly represented as z in the non-ideal gas equation p*v_specific=z*r*t.
“How can we control an HVAC damper?”
HVAC dampers are instrumental for controlling heating and cooling for buildings. However, since they are located in isolated air ducts, we will need to use some form of remote control to operate them. This is where damper controls come in. Damper controls allow for the angle of the ducts of a damper to be adjusted at will, inducing optimal living conditions.