In the 20th century, the HVAC industry brought air conditioning out of the lab and into millions of homes and commercial buildings. What was once a luxury is now a necessity in many countries. However, if the air conditioner is to improve the quality of life for billions more people, it must evolve into a much more sustainable technology. The air conditioner’s least sustainable quality is its heavy reliance on electricity. Tremendous amounts of fossil fuels are converted to carbon dioxide each year to produce the power needed by air conditioners. A rapidly growing demand for air conditioning could accelerate global climate change at a time when the world is struggling to reduce it. Air and water pollution could also increase as more power plants are built to meet the demand for electricity. And, the reliability of electric systems could be compromised as air conditioning creates high peak demands for power.
Indoor humidity control is another challenge for the HVAC industry. Conventional DX air conditioners and chillers all dehumidify air by first cooling the air below its dewpoint temperature. In many applications, the sensible cooling that accompanies dehumidification is more than the building needs. In humid climates, 30% or more of the cooling provided by a conventional air conditioner that meets a building's latent load must be "undone" by reheating the supply air.
AILR has been working for the past twenty five years to develop an alternative to vapor-compression air conditioners that can meet the challenges now facing the HVAC industry. By applying solutions that have a strong affinity for water vapor--liquid desiccants--AILR has developed new approaches to maintaining healthy and comfortable indoor environments with minimal impact on our world. Thermally driven versions of our liquid desiccant air conditioners have very low electrical demands. Their major energy input--heat--can be provided by solar hot water collectors or recovered from cogeneration systems, greatly reducing the carbon footprint for air conditioning. Our compressor-based liquid desiccant air conditioner, while it is driven by electricity, is more efficient than other compressor-based technologies that provide enhanced dehumidification.