As heatwaves become more extreme, cooling solutions are increasingly important, but the challenge is how to build cooling systems without contributing to climate change.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies (CSET) at the University of Hull has developed a new, energy efficient cooling system for data centres. The technology is 50% more efficient than existing indirect evaporative air conditioning, and 90% more than mechanical vapour compression. As a result, the technology delivers near to zero carbon air conditioning and reaches a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 52.5.
The new dew point air conditioning technology works by indirect evaporative cooling – no refrigerant or mechanical compressor is used. Instead, it cools the air by water evaporation, but does not add any moisture into the air-conditioned space, like data centres. Importantly, thanks to the patented complex heat/mass exchanger, the new technology can produce the cooled air with a temperature below the ambient wet-bulb temperature. This reduces the ducting size which would be required if using a conventional evaporative air conditioner.
This innovation offers a new method for cooling which could greatly reduce power use and be used worldwide. The technology can be used for cooling a range of buildings but has found a particular home in cooling data centres.
The data centre market has grown rapidly over the past 40 years, especially during the pandemic when global internet traffic surged by 40% at the start of 2020.
The system was first rolled out on an industrial scale in 2020, when CSET installed two 4kW systems at the Aura Innovation Centre. Compared to the existing mechanical vapour compression AC systems installed at the centre the new units saved 24,000kWh annually. This saves about 5,600kg per annum of carbon emissions and £3,400 per annum off their energy bill.
In 2021, funded by the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) programme, another 100kW system was installed at Hull City Council’s Maritime Data Centre. This saved 350,000kWh in power compared to the previous systems, reduced emissions by 100,000kg and saved £54,750 per annum in energy.
The IEEA supports partnerships between developers of energy or resource efficient process technologies as they partner with industrial companies, willing to demonstrate the solutions on-site. The IEEA is funded by BEIS and managed by the Carbon Trust in partnership with Jacobs and KTN.
Phase four of the IEEA is open for applications until 19 September 2022.