Newgen solid state cooling could be set to make waves that could bring much-needed disruption to the entire HVAC industry.
Not only is it real, but although the concept has been around for centuries since the Peltier effect was discovered, this new generation technology is no longer an announcement of some academic breakthrough that’s going to take 20 years (if ever) to come to market. It's on the market right now and being manufactured by one of the world’s largest consumer whitegoods manufacturers.
It's currently available only in limited markets, but Haier is a massive global brand making waves in the Australian HVAC market even now.
So. what’s the excitement?
In 99.9 per cent of peoples’ minds, the future of air conditioning has been, and always will be engaged entirely around reasonably foreseeable – ongoing ‘tweak-level’ changes to the existing systems technology. These are largely due to the imminent and ongoing legislative changes to refrigerant technologies to make them less prone to the absolutely massive climate change impacts that some of the most common ‘ozone friendly’ gasses have.
Yes, to make refrigerants more ‘planet friendly’ and patch up the hole that CFCs and HFCs created in the ozone layer, they engineered a whole class of technology (that became the legal standards) that while reducing previous levels of impact, nonetheless locked in unacceptably large climate change impacts of refrigerants.
The most common domestic and automotive refrigerant - R134a - is nearly 1,400 times worse than C02 on climate change impacts. Some, like R404a, common in larger domestic and small commercial units is nearly 4,000 times worse than C02 on climate impacts.
New technology heralds an imminent disruption of the entire HVAC industry as a result of players like Phononics, as well as others such as EIC and TECA. These US companies’ products feature compact, lightweight, solid state coolers for electronic cabinets and computer enclosures in harsh industrial military and other environments. Units up to approx. 1.0 KWhr are available.
Haier Group Corporation on the other hand is a Chinese collective multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company headquartered in Qingdao, Shandong. After partnering with German company Leibherr in 1984 to manufacture fridges, it went on to own brands like Fisher & Paykel, Sanyo, GE Consumer & Industrial and many more across a wide variety of consumer communications, electronic and whitegoods product sectors and now it is set to bring solid state cooling to consumer refrigeration.
“What’s the big deal about solid-state technology?” I hear you asking. For a start, there's no compressor, no moving parts and no cooling liquids in a unit capable of operating almost silently. Furthermore, it operates using around 25 per cent less energy than standard refrigerators while (likely) costing around the same price and dramatically reducing resource use and the transport and toxic pollution generation of those eliminated materials.
Phononic’s fridges are found in hospitals and science labs, although the partnership with Haier aims to bring its appliances to consumers as early as right now.
According to an article on Digital Trends, “the first batch of Phononic slash Haier fridges will be available in China later in 2016. Cheaper, more efficient, and damn near impossible to malfunction; this isn’t just a new player in the refrigerator industry, it just might wind up being the only player.”
Reading the blurb on the Phononics website, it seems they are completely scalable. Think cooling individual chips on circuit boards in watts to kilowatts of cooling for large scale domestic HVAC and refrigeration. It's not much of stretch to think of them jumping into larger commercial scale uses as modularisation and LED-like leapfrogging of technology gains accrue in short time frames.
Just as digital technology is disrupting other technologies, so solid state cooling will radically disrupt both the current HVAC and refrigerant technology.