Innovation is a driving force behind most industries, including HVAC. Keeping up with industry research, and looking toward the future, helps HVAC professionals to anticipate upcoming changes to the industry, and to be prepared when they happen.
There is no shortage of innovation in the sphere of HVAC. I recently came across some interesting designs (and one product already on the market!) that provide a useful glimpse into the types of projects that may shape the HVAC industry of tomorrow.
Large-Scale Air Purification System
A new purification system on the horizon provides higher levels of purification and sanitation for large-scale applications such as hotels and other big businesses. It also seeks to protect HVAC service employees from exposure to viruses when they service a system.
Rather than filter out viruses, the system destroys them with photocatalysis, which uses a semi-conductor to create radicals to zap the viruses. Photocatalysis has been around for decades but is only now becoming refined enough to provide a marketable solution.
Promethium, the company seeking to bring the filtration to market, evolved from the work of two the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) students, and a University of California (UC) Berkeley graduate. The technology can be used in several ways – from water purification to energy generation – but purifying air is the first priority.
Each unit is customized for a specific application, but a “basic” standard unit starts at around $10,000 and can clean 40,000 square feet of space, enough for a casino gaming floor, for example.
The project won $250,000 in a contest sponsored by UNLV’s Lee Business School and has also signed a research agreement with Purdue University. It should be ready to go to market this year.
Dual-Mode Heating and Cooling Device
Duke University is demonstrating the heating and cooling capabilities of nanomaterials, including a dual-mode heating and cooling device that could lower HVAC energy costs by nearly 20% in the United States if widely deployed.
The invention combines mechanics and materials science to either harness or expels certain wavelengths of light. Depending on conditions, rollers move a nanomaterial sheet back and forth to expose either heat-trapping materials on one half or cooling materials on the other. Designed at the nanoscale, one material absorbs the sun’s energy and traps existing heat, while the other reflects light and allows heat to escape.
Flair’s Smart Vents are DIY devices that fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes The cooling portion of the sheet has ultra-thin silver film covered by an even thinner layer of clear silicon. Together, they reflect the sun’s rays like a mirror. The unique properties of the materials also convert energy into mid-range infrared light, which does not interact with the gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere and easily passes into space after it is emitted.
For heating, an ultra-thin layer of copper is topped by a layer of zinc-copper nanoparticles, which interact with the copper beneath them to trap light onto the surface, thus absorbing more than 93% of the sunlight’s heat.
The “reversible thermal contact” allows users to switch between two modes of heating or cooling. The device would be especially useful in the world’s temperate climate zones that require both heating and cooling during the year – and sometimes requires both within a single 24-hour period.
Do-It-Yourself Smart Vents
Flair’s Smart Vents are do-it-yourself (DIY) devices that fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes. The vents control airflow across individual rooms to boost efficiency. Electronics for the low-profile devices are contained in a casing that rests under the floor level. They can be hard-wired for power or can use two C batteries.
The Smart Vents work with smart thermostats and/or with Flair’s Puck cylindrical devices that include temperature control and monitoring. The Smart Vents coordinate their open/shut status depending on temperature needs.
For example, the vents can be used to equalize the temperature and route heating and cooling intelligently. It can provide a solution if one room is too cold when cooling or too hot when heating. The approach is aimed at approximating the results of zoned HVAC systems at much lower costs and to replace existing wall ducts.