Accelerating a revolution in energy-efficient A/C

As air-conditioning season approaches in Canada, Evercloak is on track to make cooling systems way more sustainable  

Around the world, the hum of A/C has become a ubiquitous sound. And that noise will only get louder as climate change dials up the global thermostat, triggering a growing number of deadly heat waves. Ironically, the more fossil fuel we burn to run our air conditioners and stay cool, the more planet-warming emissions get released into the atmosphere, making the problem worse.

Today, Evercloak is taking aim at that problem.

In 2020, the Waterloo-based startup was one of 10 winners selected for funding from Natural Resources Canada’s Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada (BESC) Program. This highly competitive federal program focuses on supporting Canadian entrepreneurs and firms to advance cleantech solutions that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For Evercloak, that solution is a nanoengineered membrane that can cut the energy needed for air conditioning by more than 50 percent. 

It’s a game-changer that promises to create huge impact. According to the International Energy Agency, air conditioning accounts for 10 percent of current global energy consumption. That number is expected to triple by 2050 due to global warming, urbanization and rising income levels in developing countries.

As a result, HVAC companies are looking for technologies to shrink their carbon footprint. “Tackling today’s climate crisis requires bold and innovative solutions,” says Evercloak CEO Evelyn Allen. “Evercloak is using the huge potential of nanomaterials to radically improve air conditioning.”

“Innovations in clean technology, like Evercloak’s efficient A/C system, will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. Improvements in energy efficiency get us a third of the way to our Paris targets – this is how we get to net-zero.

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources

To cool air, air conditioners not only have to lower the air temperature, they also have to remove water vapour from the air. Current systems do that by cooling the water vapour until it condenses — a very energy-intensive process. 

Evercloak’s technology separates these two stages. First, it dehumidifies the air using ultrathin graphene membranes that allow water vapour to pass through, leaving dry air behind. Next, it cools that air using a traditional vapour compression system. Because the water has been stripped out, this step requires less than half the energy than conventional air conditioners use.

Thanks to $1.3 million in funding, with support from Government of Canada’s BESC program, Evercloak is making big strides in scaling up its membrane manufacturing process, optimizing the membrane performance and incorporating them into a bench-scale A/C unit to test in a real-world environment.

The performance data gathered from those tests is being used to validate the feasibility of building a full-scale pilot unit. At the same time, the project has helped Evercloak secure additional funding and establish an initial partnership with an HVAC company, moving the disruptive technology closer to commercialization. 

“Thanks to the support from Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada, Evercloak is positioned to transform the HVAC sector,” says Allen. “By increasing the efficiency of air-conditioning systems, our technology can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by half a gigatonne each year by 2050.”

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