Researchers have proposed a four-in-one utility plant in tropical climates.
A team from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Engineering have suggested an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way of producing key essentials including electricity, water, air-conditioning and heat, which could be particularly beneficial for housing and building clusters as well as underground cities.
The smart-quad-generation plant could produce all four utilities simultaneously using a single, integrated system where energy efficiency is optimized by maximizing the recovery of waste energy that is generated.
The system also can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emission by more than 30 percent while meeting the various needs of electricity, water, cooling and heating.
“Currently, significant amount of energy is required for the generation of electricity, water, air-conditioning and heat,” associate professor Ernest Chua from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said in a statement. “Running four independent processes also result in extensive energy wastage, and such systems take up a huge floor area.
“With our smart plant, these processes are carefully integrated together such that waste energy can be harvested for useful output,” he added. “Overall, this novel approach could cut energy usage by 25 to 30 percent and the 4-in-1 plant is also less bulky.”
The plant uses natural gas to power micro turbines to produce electricity. Waste heat is generated from the exhaust gas in the process and efficiently recovered and channeled back to power chillers that produce chilled water required to cool and dry air for air-conditioning. Waste heat generated from the plant also may be used to produce hot water or steam.
The plant is particularly useful in tropical climates because it uses novel super adsorbent materials and membranes to remove up to 50 to 60 percent of moisture from the air to enable cooling to take place faster.
“The tropical climate is hot and humid, and our smart utilities plant is uniquely designed to operate efficiently in such weather conditions,” Chua said. “We developed innovative membranes to remove moisture from the air and coupled with a novel method of cooling the air, the plant significantly reduces the amount of energy needed to meet air-conditioning needs.”
He added: “This is unlike existing methods, which are usually very energy intensive.”