Nature’s Systems: Energy Conserving Air Conditioning Solutions

Nature’s Systems

A number of designers have recently turned to biomimicry in order to develop better cooling technologies. With an endemic of heat waves across the globe, air-conditioning usage has shot up. Contemporary systems require a large amount of energy to power them, so designers are looking to nature for some energy-conserving solutions.

Ventilation Inspired By Termites

Termites use an ingenious system of air pockets to generate natural ventilation through convection. Scientists noted that large termite mounds in Africa stayed surprisingly cool inside even when temperatures reached their zenith. This concept was the inspiration behind architect Mike Pearce’s design for Eastgate Centre, a large office and shopping complex in Zimbabwe. The building is cooled by air from outside, reducing energy consumption by ten percent when compared to conventional air-conditioning.

Countercurrent Heat Exchange Inspired By Birds

To help them survive in cold climates, ducks and penguins have an innovative adaptation to protect them from the elements. Body heat is conserved by a countercurrent configuration, which warms the blood closest to the animal’s core and cools the blood at the edge of its extremities. This system has been duplicated in the design of shell tube heat exchangers used for industrial-scale heating and cooling, in order to maximise efficiency.

Moisture Absorption Inspired By Ticks

The design of liquid dessicant dehumidifiers is a further example of biomimicry, mirroring the manner in which brown dog ticks secrete to absorb water from the air. The system is designed to draw humidity from the air inside a building.

Fans Inspired By Tornadoes and Whirlpools

PAX Scientific’s slogan is ‘Capturing the Force of Nature’. The enterprises produces fans which utilise the logarithmic spiral shape found in natural phenomena including tornadoes, whirlpools, and even airflow in the human trachea. They claim that this design concept increases cooling efficiency and reduces turbulence.

Fans Inspired By Whale Flippers

An enterprise called WhalePower has developed a fan based on the bumpy design of a humpback whale’s flipper. The company claims that this produces greater lift, thus moving a greater quantity of air. The fans are said to move twenty-five percent more air and use twenty percent less energy than conventional fans.

These revolutionary forays into biomimicry suggest that plants and animals can act as stimuli for the future, inspiring systems which are environmentally sustainable and economically efficient. These designs are only the start, but they provide an exciting foretaste of the lessons to be learned from biomimicry.