Los Angeles Scientists Create Miniature and Flexible Air Conditioning Unit

UCLA scientists have created a flexible, hand-held air conditioner. In hopes of developing quieter and more energy-efficient cooling systems, researchers at UCLA have come up with a gadget that could mean we may be able to start carrying air conditioners with us on especially hot days.

Current air conditioners can be expensive to maintain, and sometimes use more energy than is needed. For example, portable air conditioning units cool the entire room when it is not always necessary to use all this energy. Plus, considering that the average American home spends about 2.7% of their income on energy bills, the UCLA researchers were inspired to create something a bit more effective.

The new air conditioning device uses thermoelectric power, which means it doesn’t work the same as traditional air conditioning. Instead, the devices use electrocaloric effects which is an electric field used to move unwanted heat faster. According to the Los Angeles Times, the head scientist Qibing Pei used a specialized polymer when layering the unit. He then layered it between the heat source and the heat sink — which is the area that absorbs all the unwanted heat. When the polymer touches the heat sink, the polymer’s molecules line up, reducing its thermodynamic quantity. Doing so forces the heat from the polymer and into the heat sink faster than normal.

Not only is Pei looking to focus on cooling an individual rather than an entire room or home, his team believes that building the device out of a flexible material will make it even more efficient. This is because the device can be used in a variety of ways, from putting it in a pocket or even attaching it to a cell phone.

When testing their product, the researchers attached their special device to a Samsung Galaxy S4 battery and found that it was able to cool the phone much faster than on its own. The device was able to cool the phone by 8 degrees Celsius in five seconds when air cooling it alone only dropped the temperature by 3 degrees Celsius.

The device is currently in the first step of mass production.

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