Energy answer may be: converting air to water
May 16, 2007
As scientists bring more evidence to the table supporting global warming, innovations and resolutions to an imminent energy crisis are needed, according to Insa Riepen, executive director of Recycle Utah.
"New inventions are great because we are going to have to come up with something quick," Riepen said. "If we don’t, we will be either melting or freezing pretty darn soon."
Heber resident Joseph Ellsworth, the chief technical officer at XDOBS.com, has invented something, he claims, that may solve a portion of our energy demands. Through a natural process, he’s developed a product that makes water from air without using electricity or fuel.
Basically, Ellsworth said, he enhances the natural creation of dew that forms at night.
"The technology is an air-to-water conversion that uses the cold of the night sky to chill the air to the point where the water can condense out of it," Ellsworth said.
The theory is exciting for Riepen.
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"We need the water," Riepen said.
To create the water out of thin air, a combination of wind and sometimes either salt water or antifreeze runs through a series of plastic panels to help cool the panels, which speeds up the dew point.
So far, Ellsworth has only tested the product in-house, but this summer it will be in use at the Citrus Research Center at Louisiana State University.
Fresh water, Ellsworth said, is in high demand in areas around the Gulf of Mexico. Salt water builds up in the citrus tree roots and ends up killing the trees.
"They are running about 50 percent of capacity," Ellsworth said. "Since they don’t have a good source of fresh water, we are going to test the idea of using the system to flush each tree once a month to wash salt out of the root zone. It’s an interesting deal where agricultural values are high enough where it justifies investing money on a system like this."
This technology is immune to power outages and disruptions like municipal water failures, which makes it ideal for areas that experience hurricanes, Ellsworth explained.
"Global warming has some weird implications where it could disrupt water supplies in major cities," Ellsworth said.
There is a waste product associated with making water from air. However, Ellsworth has figured out a way to use the waste to reduce the carbon footprint.
"It generates a single waste product: cold air." Ellsworth said. "That can be used to reduce electricity consumption for air conditioning."
The cool air produced from making water can be stored and piped back into buildings to cool them without using electricity, he said.
"More options the better," Riepen said. "As our energy sources become way more expensive, people like to find ideas to benefit from. I am sure there will be great ideas coming."
The cooling system is silent without the use of fans. It’s something, Ellsworth said, that will benefit not only energy costs, but also those with allergies.
"We basically absorb the cold at night from the night sky and chill stored fluid 18 degrees below night time average and use it to chill the building," Ellsworth said. "That allows us to give a completely silent and very clean system that can work in the areas where swamp coolers won’t work.
He compared it to older freezers.
"It’s circulating air into each room to chill it," Ellsworth said. "You’ve seen the old style freezer that has a thermal transfer coil, it’s similar physics to that."
In new homes, he said, tubes are installed into the ceiling.
"We chill the ceiling and the cold air drops off the ceiling and comes down to where the people are at," Ellsworth said. "Air conditioning and swamp coolers are always blowing on you or making noise, this system does neither."
In Utah, he said, most people and most businesses never run air conditioning as low as they want because the energy costs are so high. This technology, he said, will save more money than solar panels.
"They run it warmer than what is comfortable," Ellsworth said. "This allows you to reach a comfort level without worrying about power costs."
Developing this product started when Ellsworth lived in California and went through the Silicon Valley power crisis from 1999-2000. During that time, the California grid reached maximum levels and power outages were the norm.
"I was watching healthy companies being driven out of business because of power costs," Ellsworth said. "I was looking at these nasty economic costs and my personal power bill went from $130 a month to $800 a month. People around us were losing houses."
Afterwards, he started to research the eliminating underlying energy problems. While Utah, he said, isn’t near the same as California, many areas are reaching grid capacity during peak demand periods. More efficient cooling could reduce problems.
"Look at a Wal-Mart, they have about 450 tons of air conditioning per day and the average house is 3 and 5 tons," Ellsworth said. "You equip a Wal-Mart center with this and you’ll get close to 90 percent power reduction overall.
"Indirectly," he continued, "whenever you can take that kind of carbon out of the air, it effectively slows down global warming."
If Wal-Mart alone installs his system, he said, it will "offset about three years of growth due to population and industrial increases, It will have a larger impact on reducing green house emission than any other readily deployable technology.
"If you can take enough of it out of the air, you can reverse global warming," Ellsworth added. "That’s the ultimate goal of all of our sweet technologies."
For more information on XDOBS.com and its technologies, go to http://www.xdobs.com.