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Flower Pots and Biomimicry: Natural Air-Conditioning

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The forecast predicts a string of 90-plus degree days. Air-conditioning not an option? Check out this nature-based, energy-efficient air conditioner.

The Cold Pot

That thing in the corner of the room may look like an empty flower pot, but it’s actually responsible for that nice, cool air that fills the room. Independent designer Thibault Faverie has produced a simple and natural air conditioner that relies on the process of evaporation.

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Faverie explains his creation this way:

“Based on ‘bio air-conditioning,’ the porous terracotta surface acts as a heat exchange; it absorbs water from the inside and sends it to the outer surface. On contact with air, the water evaporates. The change from a liquid state to a gaseous one results in the cooling of the object and consequently the inner aluminum pipe, where air circulates.”

The cooling slices within the aluminum tower are fanned by a small electric blower at the base of the tower. Thus, the hot air that comes through the wide mouth at the pot’s base is cooled as it travels upward, releasing through the outlet cover at the top of the pot. The cooling of the air is such that the room temperature can be lowered 14 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Reasons to love the Cold Pot: it’s energy efficient, low maintenance, and only requires 2 liters of water. It’s also more aesthetically pleasing than a tower fan.

If you find this idea intriguing, here are a few more applications of natural air-conditioning and biomimicry (solving human problems by imitating elements and systems found in nature). Though perhaps less practical for the home, these imitations of nature are incredibly fascinating.

1. A Whale of a Fan

Scientists and technology designers have taken a hint from one of nature’s largest creatures: the humpback whale. The rough edges of the whale’s massive flippers (the largest found in the ocean) are apparently not “just barnacles” but enable the whale to swim better, illustrating that smooth edges are not necessarily more efficient when it comes to air flow.

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WhalePower industrial fans move 25 percent more air than traditional fans while using considerably less energy. The company is aiming to apply these bumps to wind turbines in order to raise the energy output by 20 percent, as well as reduce the noise that turbines often create.

2. The Whirl Fan

PAX Scientific is a research and design firm that uses their study of “natural fluid flow to design industrial equipment and other technologies that are highly efficient and innovative.” Their slogan? Capturing the Force of Nature.

The company is marketing industrial, commercial, domestic, and computer fans that are based on the fluid movement found in tornadoes and whirlpools. This “innovative and stream-lined solution” cools air more efficiently than other fans and has a lower turbulence. In addition, PAX fans are quieter, use less energy for the same output, and enable a more controllable air flow than conventional fans.

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3. Termite-Inspired Ventilation

Termite mounds maintain a stable 86 degrees Fahrenheit despite the 70 degree range in temperature (34 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) that occurs on the African savanna. How do the little guys do it? They build tall mounds (25 feet high) with a chimney-like tube at the top. Like the Cold Pot, termites use evaporative cooling. Small holes at the base of the mound draw in air and lower the mound’s temperature as the air moves through the wet mud. Furthermore, termite mounds also use natural air currents to keep cool as the warm air rises and convection currents draw air from the base of the mound and out through the top.

Why does this matter? First, it’s flat out incredible. Second, humans are learning from these little guys. Architect Michael Pearce designed the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe after — you guessed it — a termite mound. The building is entirely naturally heated and cooled, and uses 35 percent less energy than conventional buildings. This energy efficiency has saved the owners $3.5 million in five years. Perhaps we’ll start seeing more mound-like buildings soon.

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See also: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)’s Breakwater Beacon in Saudi Arabia. SO COOL. (Pun not intended. Okay, maybe a little...)

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Nature is amazing. Plain and simple. Let's keep imitating it.

Sources: 5 Natural Air-Conditioning Designs Inspired by Nature WhalePower: Seeking More Efficient Blades Innovative Air Handling How Nature Does It: Cool Termites! Natural air conditioner cools with the power of terracotta and evaporation

Photo Credits: Pictures: Nature Yields New Ideas for Energy and Efficiency A whale of a turbine Natural air conditioner cools with the power of terracotta and evaporation Nature Blows My Mind! Miraculous Termite Mounds

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