Imagine if air conditioning came without the hefty price tag of electric bills—if it was, in fact, entirely free. Tel Aviv University Professor Avi Kribus, best known now for his discovery of electricity-creating bacteria, has invented a solar energy device that would power air conditioning and heating. Additionally, Kribus’s device is smaller and therefore cheaper to manufacture than conventional solar units, fitting easily on the consumer’s roof.
Kribus’s solar project is a top priority for the European Union, who are subsidizing its development for the next three years. Demonstration units are currently being built in Italy and Spain.
So how does it work?
Using mirrors, Kribus has devised a way to collect sunlight from a large surface area and concentrate it on a very small area, where the light is then converted into energy. Using this concentration, Kribus explains, the photovoltaic cells can be made in much smaller sizes, thereby significantly reducing the cost of manufacture.
Kribus has also found a way to radically increase the efficiency of the solar device. While about 70% of the solar energy that is collected usually goes to waste, it takes the form of thermal heat. Kribus has developed the technology to capture this thermal heat and use it as fuel for air conditioning and heating.
Kribus goes on to point out that when it’s hot and sunny outside, you need air conditioning, so getting air conditioning from solar power makes perfect sense.
Heat can’t be transported over large distances, and that leads to the next stage of Kribus’s plan: to develop solar collectors in small units that would be attached to the roof or wall of a home or office, replacing or at least complementing massive solar plants. Air conditioning, which is notorious for creating astronomical electrical bills in the summer, would suddenly be free rather than a luxury.