And to think…

Many of you must have watched the news headlines on TV this week; many might have gathered it from the ‘net.

Mumbai—and much of Maharashtra—has gone down under. Under water.

And to think that all this water is now going to go purely to waste, completely unused.

… And that, starting some time right from say February next year, we are once again going to yell desperately about water shortage, about how water-tankers have already begun plying on the “roads” near the drought-hit villages. … May be we will get generous and send not just 4-wheeler tankers but also an entire train to a drought-hit city or two…

Depressing!


OK. Here’s something less depressing. [H/t Jennifer Ouellette (@JenLucPiquant) ]:

“More than 2,000 years ago, people were able to create ice in the desert even with temperatures above freezing!” [^]

The write-up mentions a TED video by Prof. Aaswath Raman. Watched it out of idle interest, checked out his Web site, and found another TED video by him, here [^]. Raman cites statistics that blew me!

They spend “only” $24 billion on supermarket refrigeration (and other food-related cooling), but they already spend $42 billion on data-center cooling!!


But, any way, I did some further “research” and landed at a few links, like the Wiki on Yakhchal [^], on wind-catcher [^], etc.  Prof. Raman’s explanation in terms of the radiative cooling was straight-forwards, but I am not sure I understand the mechanism behind the use of a qanat [^] in Yakhchal/windcatcher cooling. It would be cool to do some CFD simulations though.


Finally, since I am once again out of a job (and out of all my saved money and in fact also into credit-card loans due to some health issue cropping up once again), I was just idly wondering about all this renewable energy business, when something struck me.


The one big downside of windmills is that the electricity they generate fluctuates too much. You can’t rely on it; the availability is neither 24X7 nor uniform. Studies in fact also show that in accommodating the more or less “random” output of windmills into the conventional grid, the price of electricity actually goes up—even if the cost of generation alone at the windmill tower may be lower. Further, battery technology has not improved to such a point that you could store the randomly generated electricity economically.

So, I thought, why not use that randomly fluctuating windmill electricity in just producing the hydrogen gas?

No, I didn’t let out a Eureka. Instead, I let out a Google search. After all, the hydrogen gas could be used in fuel-cells, right? Would the cost of packaging and transportation of hydrogen gas be too much? … A little searching later, I landed at this link: [^]. Ummm… No, no, no…. Why shoot it into the natural gas grid? Why not compress it into cylinders and transport by trains? How does the cost economics work out in that case? Any idea?


Addendum on the same day, but after about a couple of hours:

Yes, I did run into this link: “Hydrogen: Hope or Hype?” [^] (with all the links therein, and then, also this: [^]).

But before running into those links, even as my googling on “hydrogen fuel energy density” still was in progress, I thought of this idea…

Why at all transport the hydrogen fuel from the windmill farm site to elsewhere? Why not simply install a fuel cell electricity generator right at the windmill farm? That is to say, why not use the hydrogen fuel generated via electrolysis as a flywheel of sorts? Get the idea? You introduce a couple of steps in between the windmill’s electricity and the conventional grid. But you also take out the fluctuations, the bad score on the 24X7 availability. And, you don’t have to worry about the transportation costs either.

What do you think?


Addendum on 12th July 2018, 13:27 hrs IST

Further, I also browsed a few links that explore another,  solution: using compressed air: a press report [^], and a technical paper [^]. (PDF of the paper is available, but the paper would be accessible only to mechanical engineers though. Later Update: As to the press report, well, the company it talks about has already merged with another company, and has abandoned the above-ground storage of compressed air [^])

I think that such a design reduces the number of steps of energy conversions. However, that does not necessarily mean that the solution involving hydrogen fuel generation and utilization (both right at the wind-farm) isn’t going to be economical.

Economics determines (or at least must determine) the choice. Enough on this topic for now. Wish I had a student working with me; I could have then written a paper after studying the solution I have proposed above. (The idea is worth a patent too. Too bad I don’t have the money to file one. Depressing, once again!!)


OK. Enough for the time being. I may later on add the songs section if I feel like it. And, iterative modifications will always be done, but will be mostly limited to small editorial changes. Bye for now.

 

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A few remarks on the Eco-Cooler

While generally browsing ISHRAE[^]’s Web site after a long while today, I ran into this coverage of the so-called Eco-Cooler [^] in their News Section.

… My earlier coverage of another creative usage of the used plastic bottles was here: [^] (see the “farm ponds” section in that post).

Anyway, coming back to the Eco-Cooler, a simple Google search on the inventor’s name (“Ashis Paul”) will give you quite a few links, e.g. here [^] and here [^]. A sketchy story as to how Paul ended up inventing the cooler is mentioned here [^].


The idea is so simple that you just have to wonder why no one else thought of it before!

Apart from the cultural reasons (people in this part of the world arguably don’t always try to tackle their life’s problems creatively; they arguably just sit idle and whine and complain) the other reason, I think, is that to a learned engineer (and I will call myself that), it would be difficult to think that the cooling effect obtained this way could be significant—the claim is a drop of up to 5 degrees Celcius (i.e. 9 degrees Fahrenheit) in the room temperature!

… I don’t know why, but somehow, at least on the face of it, a claim of this big a temperature drop does seem unbelievable, at least initially.


Anyway, here are a few things you could pursue, especially if you are a student of mechanical engineering:

  • First, name (or hit your text books and find out) the principle that explains the cooling effect.
  • Then, assume suitable values for the air flow, and using the appropriate thermodynamic/psychrometric charts and property tables, determine whether the inventor’s claim is acceptable. (I have not done this cross-check myself before writing this post; I just assumed that someone at ISHRAE must have done it!)
  • Now check out the DIY YouTube videos on this invention. If interested, think of building an Eco-Cooler and measuring its performance yourself. (And if you do that, and if you are from Pune or a nearby place, then do drop me a line. I would love to come over and check it out myself.) Alternatively, think of doing a “simple” CFD analysis and compute the estimated temperature drop. [… And to think how people keep asking me where I get all my student-project ideas from!]

Next are a few notings (assuming that the cooling effect is indeed big enough) to help you put it all in the right context, and then also some pointers as to how you could try and modify (and even optimize) the existing design.

  • Bamboo Curtains: First, try to put it in some context: People in India often use bamboo “chaTai”s or mats [^] as window covers/curtains. (Also the khus curtains.) Some of these “chaTai”s do carry regularly spaced holes. Do such mats (or even Venetian blinds) give rise to any cooling effect? Can they? Why or why not?
  • Flow Pattern: Using ink blobs or other tracers in a flow of water, visualize the geometry of the flow going into a hole, and ask yourself: Is a bottle surface at all necessary? Why? When?
  • Shape and Size: Would you get a better effect if you modify the dimensions of the bottles used in the Eco-Cooler? Is the size of the water bottle optimal? How about the shape?
  • Mounting: What if you mount the bottles on the board not at the neck but at the base? Would it be more stable? Would it be more convenient because nothing goes protruding outside the room? Many questions below assume mouting on the base, such that the bottles come protruding inside the room. Let me call it the Internally Protrduding Design (IPD for short), as compared to the Externally Protruding Design (EPD, which is shown in the original photographs and videos).
  • Materials: How about changing the material? What if you use clay for the tube?
  • Evaporative Cooling: Assume IPD. Would keeping the clay tubes wet help enhance the cooling? You could keep them wet via a simple system of water from an overhead tank running over or percolating through the thickness of the clay tubes. For this purpose, arrange the base circles in a hexagonal lattice arrangement (rather than the simple square lattice they show in the original sketches and videos). In any case, compare the cooling obtained using the dry Eco-Cooler vs. that using the desert cooler. Then, compare it with the wet Eco-Cooler. To do that, first find out the natural cooling limitations of the desert cooler. (Something like this was a unit test question I had asked my ME (Heat Power) students last year.) Where would the wet Eco-Cooler be more effective—in the humid coastal areas (e.g. in Mumbai), or in the dry-and-hot areas (like in the plains or Delhi)?
  • Cooling Achieved: Estimate the size of the biggest room that may be effectively cooled using EPD. Repeat for IPD. Also find out (by CFD analysis or by experiment) the locations where the cooling would be effective enough to bring (at least a bit of) comfort to a human being.
  • Forced Circulation: What if you use forced air circulation with IPD? Would it lead to any better cooling? Don’t guess! Bring out your charts, tables and calculators once again, assume suitable values for fans, and provide a quantitative estimate. Then, also figure out if a forced air circulation could be economical enough.
  • Enhanced Natural Circulation: (Assume both designs in turn.) Think if you could possibly enhance the natural air circulation by using some simple cardboard flaps erected on the outside of the room. (Do a quick-and-simple CFD analysis if you wish.)
  • Radiation: How much of the temperature drop can be attributed to the obvious reduction in the radiative heating alone?
  • Internal Reflection: Is the total internal reflection an important factor here? Would using clay tubes (of varying cross section) reduce the glare due to total internal reflection?
  • Noise Generation: Does the arrangement emit sound (as in a patch of bamboo trees)?
  • Aesthetics: Assume IPD: Think of how the cooler design may be used creatively for aesthetic enhancements of the room interiors in a middle-class apartment or bungalow. (The cooler doesn’t have to be used only in the slums!) Could ready-made panels of standard sizes be made in clay or alternative materials (e.g. cheap ceramics) just as cost-effectively? Would painting the bottles help?
  • Reverberations: Assume IPD: Refer to technical acoustics. Can you reduce the sound reverberations if you use such shapes near walls? Could plastic bottles be at all effective in this respect? How about the clay tubes? Would the existence of the holes modify the sound-dampening effect due to the protruding tubes? Would they introduce unwanted modulations? Estimate the range of sound-frequencies (or of musical tones) that stand to get impacted (for the better or for the worse) due to the presence of the Eco-Cooler.

Enjoy…


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “too laalee hai savere waalee, gagan rang de tu mere man kaa…”
Music: Sapan-Jagmohan
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Indivar Naqsh Lyallpuri [^]

[BTW, this song reminds me of another song which has a similar tune. (I don’t know music well enough to make out “raaga”s. In fact, I often cannot even make out tones! I can only compare the tones in a hand-waving sort of a manner, that’s all! … It’s just that sometimes I happen to notice some similarities.) See if you can guess it—the other song. I will tell you the answer in my next post.]

[I have a habit of coming back and modifying my post a bit even after publication. But guess, at least for this post, there really isn’t anything left to add or modify.  Actually, I did modify! [sigh!] I clarified the two designs and even added the names for them. I even changed the title a bit!!…  Anyway, bye for now, and take care…]

[E&OE]