Integrated AC process eliminates refrigerants

By Mary Page Bailey |

With the goal of decreasing the climate impact of residential air conditioning (AC), Kraton Corp. (Houston; www.kraton.com) has developed the NexarCool technology in collaboration with Texas A&M University (College Station; www.tamu.edu), India Institute of Technology Bombay (www.iitb.ac.in) and Indian companies Porus Laboratories Ltd. and Infosys Ltd. “NexarCool is a novel water-based space-cooling technology that is free of the chemical refrigerants commonly used in standard AC, which are a significant source of ozone depletion and global warming,” explains Vijay Mhetar, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Kraton. Leveraging the moisture-transport properties of Kraton’s Nexar copolymer, the technology can effectively control humidity and temperature independently, since it contains a water-based evaporative cooler and an electro-osmotic membrane dehumidifier unit that work in tandem, says Mhetar. Furthermore, the technology does not require a compressor, which further improves upon its energy efficiency. In the NexarCool system, water vapor from indoor air is ejected to the outside when voltage is applied to the membrane dehumidifier unit. The dry indoor air is then passed to the evaporative cooling segment, where it is cooled as it loses heat to evaporate the water.

NexarCool has been demonstrated at laboratory scale, and the partners are working toward a fully integrated prototype unit and scaling up critical components of the value chain to reduce the cost per unit. The prototype will be tested in a laboratory that simulates the climates of different Indian cities. Since the technology is targeted for residential applications, the cost is key, emphasizes Mhetar. “The greatest needs for innovative cooling technologies are often in emerging markets. Therefore, affordability is considered a key barrier to scale,” he adds. Beyond residential AC, Kraton is exploring potential applications in humidification, dehumidification and atmospheric water harvesting.

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