Girl, 19, develops air conditioner without refrigerant

Switzerland-based inventors’ group recognizes Filipina teenage student’s feat after 10 groups conferred her awards

Dubai: A 19-year-old Filipina student has developed an energy-efficient air-conditioner that could revolutionize the way homes are cooled and completely does away with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as cooling agent.


Maria Yzabell Angel Palma (also known as Yza), an incoming mechanical engineering freshman student at the De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila, has earned plaudits for inventing an AC unit that works on low power — and without a refrigerant, according to Philippine media reports.

The 19-year-old from Naga City, some 408km south of Manila, was in senior year at the elite Philippine Science High School (PSHS) Bicol campus in 2016 when she came up with her AC invention that uses a disc-shaped compressor. 

Instead of using as cooling medium, her AC uses low compression and a high volume of air molecules as refrigerant.

The first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in Buffalo in 1902. 

Current air-conditioning systems use piston or rotary compressors to pump with the harmful hydrofluorocarbons.

Now, she’s been recognized for her feat by the International Federation of Inventors’ Association (IFIA), which invited her to Switzerland in February — but failed to go because she was then graduating.

IFIA learnt about her after 10 foreign organizations gave Palma awards for her AirDisc Air Conditioning Technology — including those from the China Association of Inventions, as well as Taiwanese, European and Asean awards bodies.

Palma said she and her father Bernardo, a mechanical engineer, had already completed the application with the Virginia-based US Patent and Trademarks Office. 

Palma said she developed the revolutionary system of cooling as her research project when she was in senior year at the Philippine Science High School-Bicol (PSHS has 14 other campuses around the Philippines).

The AirDisc technology discovery, Palma told Philippine media, came as an “accident”.

She was then working on an eco-friendly oven for her research subject when she was in Grade 10. The energy-efficient oven technology was dubbed the “AirWave Oven”.

While further developing the AirWave oven in which she was using copper tubes, Palma said it resulted in emitting cold air at the end of the tubes. 

“So I thought why not just develop something from this?” she recalled.

Contrifugal compressor

The heart of the green AC is the centrifugal compressor, explained Palma. The compressor uses rotating concentric air tanks with air inlets that continuously take in enough air molecules from a room for compression.

The generated heat from the air compression is separated and thrown out to the atmosphere while the resultant compressed air molecules with less heat are allowed to expand. 

This process effectively and continuously lowers the room temperature.

Palma said she and her father are now looking for local and foreign partners who will commercially manufacture the AirDisc airconditioner.

The teen said she and her father have started aggressively looking for manufacturing partners.

The father-and-daughter team recently completed the online application process for patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The reason why they applied with the US patent agency, she said, is that they ultimately plan to bring the AirDisc to the US and the rest of the world.

Patent treaty

She told the local media that the US and the Philippines are among 152 “contracting states” of the Patent Cooperation Treaty that assists the world’s inventors and innovators seeking international patent protection for their inventions.

Asked about her invention’s potential, the young inventor said she was excited about her AirDisc technology to 

become the future of airconditioning for homes and offices — not just in the Philippines but in other countries.

Prototype

One advantage of AirDisc is that it only uses 350 watts of power, about a quarter of the 1,200 watts needed by traditional airconditioners with the same cooling output.

Palma said the prototype they will manufacture commercially was further improved, needing only 150 watts for a 0.5 horsepower unit.

“The prototype I researched on used 350 watts but the commercial prototype that will be available in the market will only be 150 watts,” she told Philippine Star.

Because it does not need freon for cooling, AirDisc aC dispenses with harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Experts point to HFCs as one a major cause ozone layer depletion.

AirDisc is seen as a timely answer to the United Nation’s Kigali mandate to phase out HFCs as chemical refrigerants.

Scientists claimed a kilo of HFC is equal to roughly 20,000 kilos of CO2 greenhouse gas.

Palma, the youngest of six daughters, said that she had gotten a lot of help from her father, Naga City-based food entrepreneur Bernardo Angel, a mechanical engineering graduate of DLSU-Manila.

The AirDisc has won gold medals from the World Inventors Contest 2017 in South Korea, the International Invention Innovation Competition 2017 in Canada, and the International Intellectual Property Invention, Innovation and Technology Exposition Thailand 2018.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said they are ready to provide Palma with technology and financial support to further develop the AirDisc.

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