A cool solution for water collection

14 September, 2021

A defroster for refrigeration systems can save energy while providing a steady source of water.

Michael Eisenstein

Refrigeration is ubiquitous wherever people live or work in the developed world, but researchers are still grappling with fundamental challenges associated with the energy efficiency of this technology. Yong Jin and Noreddine Ghaffour at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudia Arabia have now developed a potential solution that could also provide a ready source of freshwater.

Frost forms on almost any cold surface exposed to moist air. But a refrigeration system’s efficiency can be greatly reduced when frost forms on the heat exchanger that draws excess energy out of the coolant to keep it cold. By some estimates, this can lead to a 20% increase in energy consumption—and since refrigeration accounts for roughly 15% of global electricity use, this waste adds up.

This problem also offers an opportunity, notes Ghaffour. “Frost represents both a significant challenge in terms of energy consumption and a valuable source of water,” he says. “In some countries like Saudi Arabia, every drop counts.” 

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