Can the Sun Keep You Cool?

I probably don't have to tell you that it's been hot this week—almost every state in the country reported a high temperature above 90°F somewhere within its borders yesterday. And as we all know, oppressive heat means oppressive energy consumption, a vicious cycle that perpetuates the effects of global warming. New York City's power company, Con Edison, reported all-time usage records earlier this week as people remained indoors with their air conditioning cranked, causing scattered blackouts across the city (our managing editor has been without power for three days). But what if our air conditioners were able to harness some of the sun's wicked heat and turn it into the life-saving cool air on which our comfort depends? Florida-based Matteran Energy might be able to help us do just that.

Instead of using expensive photovoltaic cells to convert solar radiation to electricity directly, Matteran's solution uses far-cheaper thermal-collection technology to heat a synthetic fluid with a very low boiling point (around 58°F), creating enough steam to drive a specially designed turbine. And although a fluid-circuit system converting heat into electricity is nothing new, Matteran's innovative solution increases the system's efficiency to a point where small-scale applications make economic sense (see the animation on the company's Web site for a more thorough explanation).

So far, Matteran has created only small amounts of refrigeration, but the technology is in place to take the next step, creating a unit with the equivalent cooling of a standard window-mounted A/C that is powered entirely by the sun's heat—something I don't think our carbon-choked planet will be running out of anytime soon. —John Mahoney

Link – matteranenergy.com (via Treehugger)