Night-Sky Cooling Systems
“How can we use the nighttime chill to cool a building?”
Traditional HVAC systems have brought wonders to human civilization, but sometimes as engineers we would like to reinvent the wheel. To begin, everyone knows that the nighttime has its own coolness. So what if we were to take advantage of this by applying a liquid coating to the roof of a building, let the night chill cool it down, funnel it through gutters to a thermal storage, and then use it through the day? Well, this is the fundamental idea behind Night-Sky Cooling Systems. This method offers a low infrastructure low-cost, and low-energy alternative to traditional HVAC systems. That being said, Night-Sky Cooling Systems also consume large amounts of water and are heavily dependent on a cool night sky to keep them running.
“How can we transform rotary motion into linear motion?”
Generating rotary motion from something like an engine can be very simple. However, what if want to have periodic linear motion? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to figure this out. What if, we were to make a simple linkage that would allow for a connection between rotary and linear motion? Well, this machine is known as a cam and can be found in all sorts of devices, one of the most famous being the internal combustion engine.
“How can we keep a building’s air fresh?”
Buildings are great for enclosing an interior space. However, if there is no contact with the outside, then the air inside will become trapped and polluted. So how can we make sure that fresh air is continually supplied without overcooling the building? Well, we can use something known as ventilation, that allows some air to pass in and some to pass out, creating a continuous cycling of air. Ventilation is a fundamental part of the built environment and has become of the most important standards.
“How can we calculate the efficiency of a heat engine?”
Heat Engines are one of the most widely used technologies today, being used in applications from automobiles to trains. However, our purchase of any model will be guided by the efficiency we want. So how can we measure this quantity? Well, we know that a heat engine works by taking in and putting out heat. And we also know that because of the second law of thermodynamics, some of this input heat will be converted to useful work. So what if we were to simply take the ratio of the output work and input heat (w_out/q_in) and use this as a quantifier? Well, this value is known as the Thermal Efficiency and is one of the most vital concepts of thermodynamics.
Building Automation Systems
“How can we make an intelligent building?”
With the advent of the internet of things, automation has become a very trendy topic. Due to its generalized nature, it can be applied to almost anything. And buildings are no exception. Building Automation Systems are computerized networks that take input from temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors to actualize adjust internal settings in the building,. This includes adjusting the HVAC setpoints and air handler settings. Building Automation Systems are often referred to as smart buildings and can pave the way to the future in energy efficiency.
Direct Digital Control
“How can we control a building automation system?”
Building components can consume quite a bit of energy. However, this energy usage can be mitigated greatly if devices were able to obtain data from the surrounding environment and communicate it to one another. This IoT-like technique is known as Direct Digital Control, and can be a great investment by increasing productivity while lowering utility costs, occupant complaints, and maintenance fees.
“How can we remove fine particles from a gas without contact?”
When a gas is being transported for use, it often has many fine particles (such as dust and smoke) attached, which can induce health issues. Traditional methods of removing these particles involve using physical barriers to filter out all particles. However, this has the effect of disrupting the flow of the gas. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, we know that from fundamental physics that there are two types of forces (contact and distance). And we also know that the latter can be caused by either gravitation, electrical, or nuclear interactions. And these fine particles in the gas are susceptible to become polarized and become at the whim of electromagnetic interaction. So what if we were to simply implement electromagnetic plates perpendicular to the flow of a gas, and suck up all of the fine particles while keeping the gas itself intact? Well, this is the fundamental idea behind Electrostatic Precipitators and are used in industries all around the world.
Absorption Heat Pumps
“How can we make a heat pump without using electricity?”
Heat pumps usually operate because of electrical energy. However, sometimes we may not have a constant supply of it. So how can we design heat pumps to compensate for this? Well, let’s think about it using our engineering mindset. Normal heat pumps work by taking a refrigerant (commonly ammonia), pumping condensing and depressurizing it, and exposing it to outside air to increase its temperature and evaporate it and then returning to its original state through the use of a mechanical pump. Our non-electricity driven Absorption Heat Pumps diverge by stuffing the ammonia directly into water after evaporation and pumping up the pressure through a low power compressor. Absorption heat pumps require a gaseous form of energy such as solar fuels and can be commonly found in industrial and commercial edifices.
Solar Air Conditioning
“How can we have solar powered air conditioning?”
Solar PV is set to take the world of residential energy by storm, with its low-cost and emission-free technological prowess. However, it currently faces one serious bottleneck, HVAC systems. HVAC systems consume tremendous amounts of energy, and an affordable solar system powerful enough to run it could prove expensive.
Or at least it used to be.
With the advent of higher efficiency AC systems and cheap PV, Solar Air Conditioning is more science fact than science fiction. Solar AC not only has the potential to save on a voluminous emission load but also energy bills. With this milestone reached, expect even higher adoption rates of residential PV!