UK: An academic from the University of Sheffield has received £400,000 of funding to expand research into the natural cooling of buildings.

Dr Ben Hughes, a reader in the Energy 2050 institute, has designed a novel cooling system inspired by traditional architecture design to bring cold air in and reject hot air.

The system uses integrated water filled pipes to reduce incoming air up to 15°C without any mechanical intervention, providing free cooling.

The grant from from Innovate UK and the Zayed Energy Prize will fund a full scale demonstration site of the technology at a school in UAE (Abu Dhabi). This will become the first zero energy cooled school in the Middle East.

His team has already tested the technology in one of the Emirate states, Ras Al Khaimah. Results showed a temperature reduction of 10°C in the hottest month of the year.

“Air conditioning systems are the biggest energy consumer in the Middle East. By creating a cooling system that uses no energy, this could have a massive effect on energy and costs for the region and the wider world,” said Dr Ben Hughes.

In hot regions such as the Middle East, using wind catchers to provide natural ventilation is a well-known technique. However, it is limited in cooling performance, as it only depends on the structural design of the wind catcher.

“The heat pipes are vacuum-sealed so they don’t have recirculated water, but the bank of pipes has one end exposed to a cold sink to maintain the transfer cycle,” Ben Hughes told the Cooling Post. “The cold sink compartment uses recycled water. It’s not a permanent cold sink. It’s triggered by the temperature sensor so we flush the compartment on average once every 4 hours with cold water to keep the temperature difference between the exposed section and cold sink section to ensure the heat pipe cycle is maintained.”