Friday, March 31, 2023 | Ramadan 8, 1444 H
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What do a politician and AC have in common?

I’ll tell you later. In the meantime, in what could be a significant game-changer for the Sultanate of Oman, and the entire MENA region, the Kyung Hee University in Seoul, working alongside the University of Notre Dame in the United States has this week announced the successful development of a highly efficient window treatment, a transparent radiative cooler, that can potentially reduce energy costs by reducing the need for air conditioning units in hotter climates.

This is no overnight discovery, as Professor Sang Hyuk Im and his PhD student researcher Jin Hyuk Heo first published the theoretical possibility for the ground-breaking perovskite solar cell, way back in 2015. The early trials promised so much that even though the research team laboured intensively in the interim, struggled with the limitations imposed by the diminishing efficiencies of single-layered processes, they were always confident, according to the researcher, that they would find a way.

This week’s announcement that they have found a way to successfully ‘sandwich’ dual layered structures within solar cell window coatings has significant energy-saving implications for the region, with the initial research theoretically proven, but without sufficient savings for commercial investment, this multi-layered nanotechnology holds so much promise for Omani society, as air conditioning free environments must be so much healthier. Personally, I wouldn’t be throwing out the units just yet, but all things being equal, the writing is on the wall.

Professor Im’s team bypassed the initial issue of reduced efficiency through the utilisation of a process that sealed each layer in a laminated coating. He explained that "As the demand for photovoltaic electricity grows in the future, so will the need for higher efficiencies to reduce the overall cost. The new perovskite-perovskite tandem cells will be a great improvement in terms of both a higher efficiency envelope and greater cost-effectiveness."

The second major issue was in maintaining clarity of vision, as initial research indicated a dual-layered technology was possible, in a relatively simple process. However, there was an unwanted change to the ability to see through the initial treated windows which affected their transparency significantly, as in shutting out the light sources, vision through those windows was poor, and would never be acceptable to even the most desperate of purchasers. Fortunately, Dr Tengfui Luo, Wenjie Shang, Seongmin Kim, and their highly regarded team at Notre Dame, were able to perfect a process that used the process without adversely affecting the visual experience, thus opening a plethora of commercial opportunities.

The UK’s Daily Mail heralded the breakthrough, writing “The coating lowers the temperature inside buildings, without expending a single watt of energy,” and explained that normal windows allow ultra-violet and infrared light through, heating rooms, whereas this new process effectively blocks them maintaining a cooler interior, with predictions of a conservative thirty per cent reduction in daytime temperatures, and equivalent energy savings in hot, dry, environments. Even in their cooler climate, the Mail’s science correspondent, Shivali Best, is talking significant energy savings in the region of 30 per cent.

Personally, I’ve never liked air conditioning a lot, even though they are pretty much an essential in Oman. But they can be noisy and intrusive, and sitting, sleeping, or working under the perpetual motion of an AC unit can’t be good for you can it! But worst of all is the environmental change when you leave the house and go outside. Your glasses fog up, and you stumble like a drunkard. The heat hits you like an express train, the change having twice the effect. It can’t be healthy; it can’t be good for you. In fact, the only place I like the air conditioner is at the gym, where it’s my favourite machine.

I genuinely hope this research, this game-changer, can be the ‘next big thing, in building and construction in the Sultanate of Oman, because you need to understand that an air conditioner is like a flailing politician... makes a lot of noise but doesn’t get much done!

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