The UK Government is funding a consortium to help develop 'greener' air-conditioning systems, which are more energy efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly for planes, high-speed and underground trains and buildings.
Adoption of aircraft-style 'air cycle' air-conditioning technologies in buildings would eliminate emissions from conventional hydro fluorocarbon, or greenhouse gases.
Air traffic is forecast to double over the next 15 to 20 years, so this project is of vital importance. A reduction of only 10% in the fuel burn for heating and ventilating air for the 25 year lifetime of the current fleet could reduce emissions of CO2 by 14.4 Mega tonnes, the same energy usage as 2,526,315 homes.
The £800,000 two-year research and technology project, named New Environmental Control System Technology, or NECST, will create the technology needed to develop the air-conditioning systems.
Announcing the project, Science and Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks, said:
"Developing this potentially ground-breaking technology could be great news for the environment with huge potential to help cut carbon emissions in this area. Air-conditioning systems in aircraft consume an estimated 4% of total fuel burnt and cooling systems in buildings and trains are big consumers of energy.
"Working with industry to develop the products we'll need in the future will also help us maintain our position as the world leader in high value technologies".
The project will develop a suite of interactive computerised design tools, covering environmental systems, power systems, buildings and enclosures, which will assist in the development of the new air-conditioning technology.
The project is funded with £400,000 from the DTI-led Technology Programme and the remainder by a consortium of leading international companies in this field, including: Honeywell Aerospace, BRE, Goodrich, GKN Aerospace, the University of Manchester and Airbus UK, together with associated invited stakeholders from the aircraft, train and building sectors.
A spokesman from Honeywell Aerospace said "We are pleased to lead a consortium investigating more efficient use of environmental control systems for aircraft, trains and buildings. Emphasis is being placed on more environmentally friendly cooling/heating systems whilst minimising whole life cycle costs. Consortium members are drawn from private and public companies as well as academic institutions and their expertise will be combined to achieve the goals of the project. Suitable stakeholders are also being contacted to ensure that the project is guided towards the requirements of the ultimate users of these optimised systems".
"This is a particularly interesting project for us to be involved in" says David Strong, Managing Director of BRE Environment. "It is as challenging as it is important. We have to learn how to reduce the carbon emitted by transport systems and buildings, but there is the added bonus here of the project bringing benefits to the UK economy and providing jobs. Over the years BRE has built up a tremendous knowledge base in connection with air-conditioning, ventilation and energy efficiency. Our team of environmental experts are looking forward to working with fellow project partners and pooling their expertise."
NECST exemplifies the type of collaborative venture that is needed to develop into businesses, jobs and prosperity for Britain.