Alternative cooling strategies could mitigate COVID-19 and climate change

Read the full story from Princeton University.

When most people think of cooling, they automatically imagine air conditioning (AC), or cooling the air in a room. But, there is a much more efficient way to cool people, using your body’s radiation.

To demonstrate the effect of radiant cooling, Forrest Meggers, assistant professor of architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and a team of researchers built a “Cold Tube,” in Singapore last year. It was an outdoor pavilion lined with novel insulated radiant panels that held cold water pipes inside. Because your body is constantly exchanging radiation with objects around you, and radiation flows from hot to cool surfaces, the participants who walked through the exhibit shed their radiation toward the panels, similar to what would happen if you stood near a freezer. The participants reported feeling cool, despite the air itself having temperature and humidity levels that would ordinarily feel sweltering. The new research showed that people could feel comfortable in hot and humid outdoor environments using only radiant cooling, which could use far less energy than cooling large volumes of air.

The researchers, collaborating with scholars at the University of British Columbia, University of Berkeley, ETH Zurich in Singapore, and the University of Pennsylvania, published their results August 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Associated journal article: Eric Teitelbaum, Kian Wee Chen, Dorit Aviv, Kipp Bradford, Lea Ruefenacht, Denon Sheppard, Megan Teitelbaum, Forrest Meggers, Jovan Pantelic, Adam Rysanek (2020). “Membrane-assisted radiant cooling for expanding thermal comfort zones globally without air conditioning.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2020, 202001678; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2001678117

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