terracotta pipe installations cool down and purify humid, hot air using evaporation


terracotta pipe installations

 

Delhi-based Ant Studio has created the installation CoolAnt Coral, a radial air cooling and purification installation made of terracotta pipes. The functional public art revisits how cooling systems can be manufactured these days, touching upon the issues of the increasing heatwave various countries experience and the sustainability of using environment-damaging cooling plans. The exhibition design accompanies the design, technology, and nature studio’s previous reinvention of terracotta use titled The Beehive, a low-cost and eco-friendly cooling solution that recycles materials, prevents further climate damages, and releases no carbon emissions.

 

The team says that based on their research, the building sector in India consumes 40% of total electricity which is foreseen to rise up to 76% by 2040, almost double its present percentage. Ant Studio also borrows the 2017 research from Ozone Cell (a 2019 update can be read here) which stated that the air-conditioning demands in India would rise from 3.8 million to 6.2 million a year between 2020 and 2021. Drawn from this aggravated heating landscape in India, Ant Studio thought of a solution using a material that is commonly found in Indian homes.

terracotta pipe installations cool down and purify humid, hot air using evaporation
images courtesy of Ant Studio

 

 

evaporative cooling in terracotta pipe installations

 

The team said they would use the technique called evaporative cooling, the principle that the air is cooled down through water evaporation. They discovered that water molecules stick with the clay molecules as they pass through the pipes, keeping the clay wet and cool for a long period and that the hygroscopic quality found in clay helps throughout the cooling process. Terracotta has been a key player in Indian households to keep their water cool, and Ant Studio has toyed with the idea that it can work the same for air. While CoolAnt Coral shows a potential design for the creative cooling system, the Beehive displays how the actual product works.

terracotta pipe installations cool down and purify humid, hot air using evaporation
terracotta pipe installations cool down and purify humid, hot air using evaporation

 

 

the hygroscopic quality of terracotta

 

The team used computational fluid dynamics and computational analysis to shape and form their terracotta from pots to cones, and they also worked with the local potters in their region to actualize the products. The cones were fired at a mid-level temperature to guarantee that the hygroscopic quality of the terracotta would be intact. Once they had the right number of terracotta pipes, the team vertically stacked them inside a circular steel frame positioned in front of an industrial vent that produced hot, residual air to test out their experiment and idea. The construction resembles a beehive, a complement to the coral structure of CoolAnt Coral and the reflection of the ethos of experimenting with and protecting nature as part of the design studio’s main focus.

terracotta pipe installations cool down and purify humid, hot air using evaporation
stacked terracotta pipes of CoolAnt Coral

 

 

Coolant coral and the beehive

 

The results show a beehive-looking installation that has no refrigerants and consumes little to no energy. Its main materials only consist of terracotta, water, and steel. The role of the water comes as a homemade tank below the installation accumulates water and re-circulates it through a pump. The water passes through the cone-shaped terracotta where the cooling process takes place, thanks to the hygroscopic quality of the material before it flows out of the pipes and into the tank again.

 

The cycle repeats, and the team ensures that the installation is functionally aesthetic with minimal use of electricity – mainly for the water pump and tank – and high return of recyclability. They also share that all the materials they used during the experiment – and in the actual product once they have garnered enough funds to put the project forward within their communities – are recyclable, reusable, and bio-degradable. Through CoolAnt Coral and The Beehive, one can reinvent and revisit the way cooling systems are presently used, turning them into a low-maintenance, efficient solution.

 



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