Cooling houses with out heating the planet – new know-how for extra environment friendly AC

air conditioner wall

Startup Transaera is utilizing a category of supplies referred to as steel natural frameworks, or MOFs, to make air conditioners that may have as much as 5 occasions much less impression on the local weather than standard ACs.

Startup Transaera is utilizing a category of supplies, superior by MIT Professor Mircea Dinca spent more than a decade creating a more energy-efficient air conditioner.

As incomes continue to rise in developing countries, demand for air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050. The increase would multiply what is already a major source of greenhouse gas emissions: air conditioning currently accounts for about 20 percent of electricity use in buildings. World.

Now startup Transaera is working to curb those energy demands with a more efficient air conditioner that uses safer refrigerants to cool homes. The company believes that its machine can have a fifth effect on the climate as compared to conventional ACs.

“The thing about air conditioning is that the basic technology hasn’t changed much since it was invented 100 years ago,” says Ross Bonner, SM ’20, chief engineer at Transarea.

If Transarea’s small team is successful this will change rapidly. The company is currently a finalist in a global competition for air conditioner redesign. The winner of the competition, called the Global Cooling Prize, will receive $1 million to commercialize their machines.

At the heart of Transaera’s design is a class of highly porous materials called metallic organic frameworks, or MOF, which passively draws moisture from the air while the machine is working. Co-founder Mircia Dineko, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy in MIT’s Department of Chemistry, conducts pioneering research on MOFs, and members of the company’s team see the material’s commercial progress as an important part of their mission.

“MOFs have a lot of potential applications, but what holds them back is the unit economics and inability to manufacture them in a cost-effective way,” says Bonner. “TransEra aims to commercialize MOFs on a large scale and lead the way in the success of bringing MOFs into the public domain.”

Dinc’s co-founders are Transaera CEO Sorin Grama SM ’07, who is also a lecturer at MIT D-Lab, and CTO Matt Dorsen, a mechanical engineer who worked with Grama at the previous startup.

“I’m excited by this idea to create something revolutionary,” says Gramma. “We designed these new devices, but we’re also bringing this physical knowledge together with Mircea and our colleagues, and blending the two to create something really new and different.”

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Gramma and Dorson previously collaborated with Promethean Power Systems, which develops off-grid refrigeration solutions for farmers in India. To date, the company has installed 1,800 refrigeration systems that serve approximately 60,000 farmers every day. After stepping down as CEO in 2015, Village returned to the institute to teach at MIT D-Lab and took up residence as an entrepreneur at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT.

It was during that time that Gram was introduced to the MOF by Rob Stoner, deputy director of science and technology for the MIT Energy Initiative and founding director of the MIT Tata Center.

Stoner introduced Grama to Dinacu, who had been studying MOF since joining MIT’s faculty in 2010 and grew up 10 miles from Gramma’s hometown in Romania.

The interesting properties of MOFs come from their large internal surface area and ability to finely tune the shape of the small chambers that move through them. Dinc had previously developed MOFs with chambers large enough to trap water molecules from the air. He described them as a “sponge on steroids”.

Gramma began to think about using the material for refrigeration, but soon another application presented itself. Most people think that air conditioners only cool the air in one space, but they also dry the air they are cooling. Conventional machines use an evaporator, a cold coil, to force the water out of the air through condensation. The cold wire should be made cooler than the desired temperature in the room to collect the moisture. Dorson says that pulling moisture out of the air consumes about half of the electricity used by traditional air conditioners.

As air enters the system, Transaera’s MOFs passively collect moisture. The machine’s waste heat is used to dry the MOF material for continuous reuse.

Transaera was formally founded in early 2018, and the Global Cooling Prize was announced later that year. Hundreds of teams expressed interest, and Transarea was eventually selected as one of eight finalists and $200,000 were given to prototype competition organizers.

Bonner joined the company in 2019 after exploring avenues for carbon neutral ACs as part of a mechanical engineering class at MIT.

When COVID-19 began to spread widely in countries around the world, it was decided that the cooling prize trial in India would be conducted remotely. Adding to the challenge, the co-founders did not have access to their lab in Somerville due to restrictions and were using their own equipment and garage to complete the prototype. After shipping its prototypes, Transaera had to help award organizers set them up for field trials at multiple locations in India via a live video feed. The team says the results validated TransEra’s approach and showed that the system’s climate impact was significantly less than in baseline units.

Transarea’s system also used a refrigerant called R-32 with zero ozone depleting potential (ODP) and nearly three times less global warming potential than other commonly used refrigerants.

The milestone further convinced Transarea’s small team that they were onto something.

“This air conditioning problem can have a real, physical impact on people’s quality of life,” Dorson says.

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The Global Cooling Prize will announce its winner next month. Whatever happens, Transaera will develop the team this year and run additional tests in Boston. The company is working with large manufacturers who have supplied equipment for prototyping and shown founders how they can integrate their equipment with existing technologies.

Despite Transarea’s approaching commercialization of air conditioners, the company’s foundational work with MOF continues. In fact, TransEra recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore a more efficient path to MOF production with a lab at MIT.

“MOFs open up a lot of possibilities for all kinds of revolutionary devices, not only in air conditioning, but also in water harvesting, energy storage and supercapacitors,” says Gram. “This knowledge we are developing can be applied to many other applications down the road, and I think we are leading the way and pushing the edge of technology.”

Still, Transera’s founders are focused on getting their ACs to market first, acknowledging that the problem they’re trying to tackle is big enough to keep them busy for a while.

“It’s obvious when you look at the hot, humid tropical regions of the world, there’s a growing middle class, and the first thing they want to buy is an air conditioner,” Dorson says. “Developing more efficient air conditioning systems is important to people’s health and our planet’s environment.”

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