UCLA researchers have developed a new type of air conditioner that is not only energy efficient and eco-friendly , but can also fit inside your pocket. When we think about air conditioners, the image that comes into our minds is a big bulky machine that is fitted onto a wall that cools down the entire room. These machines usually pump refrigerant fluids, that can harm the environment when they break down or aren’t disposed of properly. This new research, can possibly change all of this.
How does it work ?
These devices are named – thermoelectric coolers – do not work in the same manner as traditional ACs. They need expensive ceramic materials and are not the most efficient in cooling down entire rooms as the traditional ACs. The reason for this is the way they work.
The researchers have said these devices use electrocaloric effects , in simpler terms, an electric field is used to move the unwanted heat through specially designed materials. Polymers with special properties are used and is placed between two points – a heat source where the heat is generated and the heat sink that takes away the heat.
When this polymer comes in contact with the heat source, it will absorb the heat. At this point, the electric field is inactive. When the polymer comes in contact with the heat sink, the electric field is turned on. This field will cause the molecules of the polymer to arrange themselves in a particular order which will push the heat into the sink.
Cheaper than traditional ACs ?
Besides being energy efficient, there is another reason why this technology could end up being cheaper than the AC we use today. Traditional ACs are used to cool an entire room. With this technology, companies could instead cool down individual seats thus saving on their AC bills. The researchers have even used this method to cool a Galaxy S4 by making a cooling device with flexible materials. Their results showed that this caused the phone to cool down by around 8 degrees.