As I mentioned in my earlier post about my A2Z Challenge theme I will talk about “Inventions Stories”. Today is the 1st of April which makes it the letter A. A with me today stands for Air Conditioners.
We should agree that without this invention our lives would be much much harder. Just a touch of a button and you move from the Equator to the North Pole in minutes maybe seconds, right?
Will you be surprised that it is not a modern idea? Actually, The idea of temperature controlling itself is back to ancient civilizations like Egypt and Rome. Ancient Egyptians had reeds hung in windows and were moistened with trickling water. The evaporation of water cooled the air blowing through the window, though this process also made the air more humid (also beneficial in a dry desert climate). In Ancient Rome, water from aqueducts was circulated through the walls of certain houses to cool them.
In 2005, the Heritage Group of the CIBSE awarded its first Blue Plaque to St George’s Hall, Liverpool (built from 1841–1854) recognizing it as the World’s First Air Conditioned Building.
In the modern era, advancements in chemistry made the way to the invention of modern AC. At 1758, Benjamin Franklin and Cambridge University professor John Hadley discover that evaporation of alcohol and other volatile liquids, which evaporate faster than water, can cool down an object enough to freeze water.
In 1830s, Dr. John Gorrie builds an ice-making machine that uses compression to make buckets of ice and then blows air over them. It didn’t go well because banks didn’t finance the project to go on a large scale production.
But the problem is so far all of the trials made a huge success in controlling the air temperature but not the humidity, which makes a big problem for us. Now we’re in 1902, and here is a Cornell Engineering 1901 graduate Willis Carrier or the “Edison of Air-Conditioning“.
While he was working at Buffalo Forge Company, he was assigned to solve a problem for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y. That was when he invented the first modern AC as we know it. His idea was based on passing air through some coils and VOILA it can control temperature and humidity. Designed to improve manufacturing process control in a printing plant, Carrier’s invention controlled not only temperature but also humidity. Carrier used his knowledge of the heating of objects with steam and reversed the process. Instead of sending air through hot coils, he sent it through cold coils (ones filled with cold water). The air blowing over the cold coils cooled the air, and one could thereby control the amount of moisture the colder air could hold. In turn, the humidity in the room could be controlled.
Nowadays modern ACs are based on phase conversion from liquid to gas which is known to absorb heat. ACs are forcing special chemical compounds (refrigerants) to evaporate and condense over and over again in a closed system of coils.
In the beginning, I mentioned that I chose this “A” invention from many others as I see it one of the most important inventions of all centuries. But that was not only because I hate to be sweating in summer 🙂
Carrier was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” in 1998. His invention had a huge impact on humanity. I will mention only some of them.
The introduction of residential air conditioning in the 1920s helped enable the great migration to the Sun Belt in the US. In California from 1995-2001, a group of scientists did tests to see what would happen to people if they did not use air conditioning. They wanted to see if the people would suffer or if their bodies would just adapt. The observations were that people were far more likely to go to the hospital without air conditioning. People were getting diseases, such as ischemic stroke, ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, dehydration, heat stroke, diabetes, and acute renal failure. We need air conditioning in today’s world if we want to live a healthy lifestyle.