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Multistage and passive cooling process driven by salinity difference

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Space cooling in buildings is anticipated to rise because of an increasing thermal comfort demand worldwide, and this calls for cost-effective and sustainable cooling technologies. We present a proof-of-concept multistage device, where a net cooling capacity and a temperature difference are demonstrated as long as two water solutions at disparate salinity are maintained. Each stage is made of two hydrophilic layers separated by a hydrophobic membrane. An imbalance in water activity in the two layers naturally causes a non-isothermal vapor flux across the membrane without requiring any mechanical ancillaries. One prototype of the device developed a specific cooling capacity of up to 170 W m−2 at a vanishing temperature difference, considering a 3.1 mol/kg calcium chloride solution. To provide perspective, if successfully up-scaled, this concept may help satisfy at least partially the cooling needs in hot, humid regions with naturally available salinity gradients.


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