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Cooling the Future

Trailblazing Thermal Solutions

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2-3% estimated energy efficiency ratio (EER) improvement
126% increase in the effective air side surface area

The Challenge

Heating and cooling use 10% of global energy, more in hot areas. Air conditioners' high energy use leads to more greenhouse gas emissions, warming the planet further. This further increases demand for air conditioning, creating a vicious cycle for energy demand that could triple by 2050 compared to today’s numbers.

Additive manufacturing can make key parts like the air conditioner's condenser more efficient. It allows for complex channels that improve heat transfer by maximizing the surface-to-volume ratio. Our team set out to optimize the condenser’s design for additive manufacturing using algorithmic engineering.

The Process

Using a leading air conditioner's condenser unit as a baseline, the redesign focused on increasing efficiency by maximizing surface-to-volume ratio and minimizing pressure drop. The ring-shaped geometry features a series of lamellae fins stacked axially. They are distributed taking into account the airflow direction and the effective frontal entrance area that air would flow past.

Importantly, simulations revealed that increasing the number of fins was feasible without a significant penalty. Additionally, a specialized attachment was developed to link inner ring channels to the opening, allowing for easier depowdering with compressed air after printing.

Adjustments to the design included considerations of outer radius, flow passages, and the strategic use of triangular fins and lattice structures. The possibility of a rectangular shape is also being explored for its potential advantages.

The Results

The revamped condenser unit demonstrated tangible advancements, stabilizing operation at target temperatures. It is expected to exceed initial goals, predicting a 2-3% improvement to the energy efficiency ratio (EER), and achieving a 126% increase in the effective air side surface area, compared to the baseline unit. This foray into air conditioning underscores the untapped potential for crafting even more efficient air conditioning units. It opened our imagination to the breakthroughs possible when the industry’s top minds join forces with specialists in Additive Manufacturing and algorithmic engineering. This collaboration could dramatically enhance air conditioning efficiency, paving the way for a sustainable and greener future.