Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Product Evolution News Column

STEM Journal

September 15, 2015.
The Evolution of Air Conditioners Will Blow Your Mind
by Nick Solonko

     The extreme heat in some regions of earth really seem to bother people. Sweat is pouring down their temples. They are unable to concentrate, relax, and do their job. Something similar happened President James Garfield after he was shot. Wounded, President Garfield stayed at the White House where it was extremely hot in 1881. It was July, the middle of summer. He had people submerge cloth into ice cold water and then blow air through it. Although that did drop the temperature by about 20 degrees Fahrenheit at the White House, more than 500,000 tons of ice were used to keep him cool over the course of only 2 months. Later, he died. A normal electric fan was invented a year after that. In 1882, Schuyler Skaats Wheeler invented the electric fan in Los Angeles. It was later sold at Crocker & Curtis electric motor company. The rotors of the fan were made out of brass and while they spun they directed the airflow in a certain direction. These fans were used for cooling and ventilation. The motors had silk or cotton insulation which made the motors 80% larger than they are today. Later, the insulation was made of Polyimide coating. In the 1890's fans started having fan cages around them to protect the rotors. A few decades later, brass cages got replaced by steel because brass was needed to make bullets for WW1. Even though fans provide ventilation, it was proven that they don't cool the room. They actually make it warmer because of the heat produced by the motor. It still feels cooler because the air is traveling at higher speeds inside a space. In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning system. Ammonia was used to coolant and it was highly toxic. His air conditioner could significantly lower the humidity and that made the room feel cooler. A large % of humidity makes the temperature seem really hot. For example, a person dies within 6 hours if the temperature is 100 degrees and the humidity is 100%. If the humidity is lower, a person will have no trouble living with that high of a temperature. Even 29 years after the invention, the average air conditioner cost between $10,000 and $50,000. In modern currency it is between $120,000 and $600,000. Only the wealthiest of all people were able to obtain one. Current air conditioners are smaller, more efficient, and have more options. They are usually made of steel and plastic to reduce weight. Electric fans are still used today and also keep on evolving. Both mechanical and aeronautical engineers work on evolving air conditioners. Today, air conditioners are almost in any household, office, and store. People in most countries of the world use air conditioners regularly and can't imagine a life without them.

Timeline of air conditioners of the past and present

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