October 20, 2015

Technological Advancement: The History of Evaporative Cooling

Unlike evaporative cooling, modern environmental systems have little history to back up their presence. Conversely, cooling through the evaporation of water is regarded as an accomplished temperature handling solution with a mountain of history. In fact, if this seasoned environmental manipulator was to take the form of a man, he'd be a wizened gentleman, whereas his electricity-based air conditioning sibling would be hardly more than a babe in arms.

In travelling back in time to the age of the Pharaohs, perhaps even centuries beforehand, our forebears soaked blankets in water and felt hot air cool as the water warmed and then vaporized. Of course, the evaporative products of today are more dynamic because of electric fans and electric water pumps. There's rubber tubing and filters, super-absorbent sponge media and much more, but the principle is still much the same as when the technology was first pioneered in ancient times. It leverage's simple laws of physics, the equitable exchange of energy as a carrier changes state. The inventors of old wouldn't have deciphered the law in such high science terms, but they would have felt the spark of the concept when standing close to a large body of water, a lake or the sandy beach of a Mediterranean isle. It was cooler in these locales, even on the hottest days when the sun was at its fiercest high.

This isn't pure supposition. Old pottery fragments and temple frescoes illustrate the process in action, showing pots of water being fanned by slaves in an effort to cool their masters. The Romans then took the method to the next level, installing aqueducts in their homes so that cold water would rush between their villa rooms when the Italian summer was at its height. Even the Renaissance period got in on the act, with the iconic inventor Leonardo Da Vinci giving birth to mechanical systems that were designed to funnel water through a ball of wool and direct a current of air through this temperature-manipulating media.

Time moved on and so did our need for greater heat management as the industrial age blossomed. Mechanical water wheels and electric fans came into existence to infuse the process with a more active profile. Textile mills and other large factories could no longer maintain their products at a suitably high manufacturing standard unless some form of evaporative cooling was introduced. A quick succession of inventions, the introduction of the first patented evaporative mechanism in 1916, dragged the method from its wet sheets and clay pots origins. This sent fully-realized mechanical systems with dynamically moving parts into those hot factories to quickly cool the textiles and the workers who manufactured them, giving substance to our early twentieth century and its many modern products.

Peter Ross Enterprises

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