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MIT researchers invented cooling tech that doesn’t need electricity

Published Sep 22nd, 2022 3:53PM EDT
passive cooling tech could cool without electricity
Image: weyo / Adobe

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Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a passive cooling tech that could revolutionize how we keep things cold. The new tech, which relies on a three-layer design, was showcased in a new press release. It only requires water, and researchers have used it to cool ambient temperatures by up to 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers published their findings in Cell Reports Physical Science. According to the study, the passive cooling tech relies on a three-layer setup that includes a solar reflector, an evaporator plus emitter, and insulation. The design allows heat to pass through while also cooling the water contained within.

The top layer of the device is made of an aerogel with air enclosed in multiple cavities. This insulating material allows water vapor and infrared radiation to pass through. The researchers outlined how it works in a press release from the university. The secondary layer is made of hydrogel. The cavities of this layer are where the water resides. Finally, the last layer is a mirror.

The researchers say the passive cooling tech works by reflecting light and infrared radiation back up through the two gel layers. This allows it to stave off heat that would otherwise pass to the storage box underneath the device. In humid conditions, the researchers say the device may allow food to be stored for up to 40 percent longer than without it.

how MIT's passive cooling techImage source: Zhengmao Lu et. al / Cell Cell Reports Physical Science

This new passive cooling tech combines older methods – where people would dig holes and then store things underground to keep sunlight from warming them up. However, because it doesn’t require digging holes or building underground bunkers, this tech could open new doors to storing food and other items that require being kept at lower temperatures.

Of course, there are still some problems holding up any kind of product commercialization. That’s because the gel used in the device was created by MIT specifically for the experiment. And, unfortunately, it’s quite expensive to make from the sounds of things. If they can figure out a way to make aerogel both conducive to the tech and cheaper, though, this would be huge.

MIT has continued to deliver exceptional and intriguing tech and ideas. Earlier this year, scientists with MIT re-proposed an old theory on how to reverse climate change. They’ve even found a better way to boil water. This latest passive cooling tech is just one of many ideas the scientists and engineers at MIT continue to share with the world.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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