Condensation-free film for improved cooling

Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics have developed a special heat-conductive polymer film that can be applied to ceiling panels, allowing the panels to function well below the dew point

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics have developed a special heat-conductive polymer film that can be applied to ceiling panels, allowing the panels to function well below the dew point without condensation forming, providing cooling in tropical climates, without the risk of mould.

Cooling and heating account for some 32 per cent of global energy consumption, and also accounts for some 30 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. There is also the risk of poorly maintained air conditioning systems, which can spread mould and other bacteria, allowing mould to develop inside the equipment and in air ducts, posing health and safety problems.

An alternative building cooling system which has seen much development recently utilizes active systems that are built into ceilings, walls and floors. These systems have cold water flowing through them, providing cooling for the interior environment Their cooled surfaces absorb the heat given off by people and equipment, in a direct, noiseless and draft-free process.

Ceiling panels can be cooled at the push of a button or by means of a motion sensor, and in around three minutes they generate a pleasant ambient climate in the room beneath them.

However, these climate control components are limited by the dew point of the cooled surfaces – below a certain temperature, condensation forms on them.

The new breakthrough from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics’ Clear Sky Cooling project works to overcome this limitation. The special heat-conductive polymer film has the same effect as insulating glass, and allows the ceiling panels it is applied onto to function well below their dew point, without condensation farming.

Around two square meters in size, the modules can be combined flexibly. As the panels are multifunctional, they can act as energy-saving efficient LED lighting panels. With acoustic activation, the system simplifies interface planning. High-density modularity reduces the system’s overall size and saves on installation time. Sheets of film are individually printable and easy to replace. The long-lasting modules can be taken down and re-installed elsewhere.

With the problem of dewpoint resolved, these draft-free, energy efficient and low-maintenance cooling systems could see greater adoption by industrial workplaces, open-plan offices, and health-related environments such as hospitals, clinics, etc.

The technology is patent pending, and is being spun off to a startup called Interpanel, which will commercialise the film. The new multifunctional cooling and heating system will be available from mid-2017.

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