Energy Performance and Thermal Comfort Delivery Capabilities of Solid-Desiccant Rotor-Based Air-Conditioning for Warm to Hot and Humid Climates: A Critical Review

Edward Halawa, Frank Bruno

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There has been considerable research worldwide on desiccant-based air-conditioning during the past 30 years. The rationale for the push for this new research focus has been twofold: (a) the need to provide an alternative to conventional refrigerative air-conditioning systems which rely heavily on fossil fuels as their energy sources, and (b) the need to provide better thermal comfort in air-conditioned spaces in warm to hot and humid climates. A desiccant air-conditioning system consists of several components to cool and dehumidify the air before it is supplied to a conditioned space. Earlier research work has identified the potential advantages of this technology, which include the following: (1) working fluids that do not impact on the ozone layer, (2) reduced electricity consumption, (3) improved indoor air quality, (4) simpler construction and less maintenance, and (5) integral provision of heating and cooling for cold/temperate climates. On the other hand, the authors of this paper identified the following drawbacks: (1) inevitable heating of air while being dehumidified, (2) the need for desiccant regeneration and low thermal COP paradox, (3) limited options for regeneration heat sources, (4) limited options for reliable cooling, and (5) low electrical coefficient of performance (COP). This paper presents a critical review of the energy and thermal comfort performance of solid-desiccant rotor-based air-conditioning systems, and discusses in detail their potential advantages and drawbacks. This critical review found that the drawbacks of the systems outweigh their identified advantages. The main reason for this is the inevitable heating of air while being dehumidified and counterintuitive addition of moisture to air during the evaporative cooling process. During the past 30 years of research and development efforts, no significant innovations have been discovered to resolve these crucial issues. Unless future research and development is directed to find a breakthrough, this technology will have limited commercial application.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6032
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

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