The backers of the Global Cooling Prize have announced the eight finalists who will compete for the top prize of one million dolllars and runners up prizes worth a further $2 million in total. Entrants were assessed on their technology’s ability to offer have at least five times lower climate impact than that of the baseline AC unit of a 5.3 kW fixed speed split AC unit with an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of 3.5 and using R410A refrigerant with a GWP of 2088.
Finalists come from around the world and represent companies large and small: Gree Electric Appliances. of Zhuhai, China; Daikin AirConditioning India;.Godrej and Boyce and ATE of India; S&S Design Startup Solution, also of India; Transaera Inc, M2 Thermal Solutions and Kraton Corporation, all of the US and Barocal of the UK.
The eight teams selected pitched a wide range of technologies, including smart hybrid designs of vapor-compression designs, evaporative cooling designs, and solid-state cooling technologies that use little or no global warming refrigerants.
Sir Richard Branson, Founder and CEO of the Virgin Group and global Ambassador for the Prize said: “It gives me immense satisfaction to say that we have received some absolutely revolutionary cooling ideas, What makes this competition especially exciting is the market transformation opportunity. It could be one of the biggest technology-based steps we can take to arrest climate change. Congratulations to the finalists of the Global Cooling Prize. I look forward to following all of you on your journey to winning the Prize and scaling your solutions globally.”
Representing the UK’s hopes is a start-up spun off from the University of Cambridge, Barocal Ltd. Here researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy are developing a solid-state cooling technology to solve the cooling challenge.
This solid-state Barocaloric cooling technology takes advantage of the properties of solid organic “plastic crystal” materials to provide cooling. By applying pressure to these organic solid crystals, it is possible to change their molecular orientation which results in a solid state phase transition, thus causing a change in their entropy (degree of disorder) which leads to a temperature change of the system.
The process of continuously “applying and releasing pressure” on the Barocaloric material results in solid-to-solid phase changes in the crystals which results in large thermal changes due to molecular reconfiguration. This produces a cooling effect which can be delivered either to the room air or to produce chilled water for cooling. These plastic crystals are flexible materials that are widely available and are low-cost and non-toxic. Research shows that the thermodynamic behaviour of these plastic crystal materials is very similar to commonly used refrigerants, which has the potential to create a viable and alternative cooling approach to the century-old vapor compression technology.