Johnson Space Center,
A JSC engineer turns the Sun's heat into a cool invention
- When JSC engineer Michael K. Ewert entered his design for a solar-powered
house in his sixth-grade science fair, he never dreamed he would
some day be designing air conditioning systems for a human habitat
on the Moon. But that is exactly how it turned out.
has been developing a cooling system for the Moon since 1992, took
his original design concept and applied it to a more down-to-Earth
application -- solar powered refrigeration.
started with a conceptual design for a solar-powered air conditioning
system for use on the Moon. I began looking at what people were
doing on Earth and became interested in solar refrigeration systems.
Technically, it is the same type of cooling system but on a smaller
scale," Ewert said.
As a result,
Ewert was awarded his third patent since 2001 for his solar-powered
refrigeration system. The latest patent focuses on the innovative
control techniques that enable the refrigerator to run efficiently.
solar refrigerator -- a battery-free 0.1-cubic-meter (4-cubic-foot)
design -- is operated by a variable speed compressor, solar panel
and thermal storage unit that work together to utilize the Sun's
energy and run the refrigerator with optimum efficiency.
can run on as little as five hours of sun[light] a day. It tries
to keep a cool temperature all the time. The control system matches
the amount of sunshine to the compressor's speed so that it can
run slow in the morning and speed up in the afternoon when the Sun
is most intense," Ewert said. "During a stretch of cloudy
days, the refrigerator builds up thermal storage and can remain
cold for up to a week."
Inc., founded by co-inventor David Bergeron, is currently selling
the solar cooling system for $1,150. Two dozen have sold to date
and Ewert has high hopes for the refrigerator's future.
company is small, but sales have continually increased," Ewert
said. "I see the first potential use in the area of small business.
It (the solar refrigerator) could easily be used for such things
as selling refreshments. Hopefully, the price will come down and
more people will be able to use it."
he enjoys working on inventions that have worldwide implications,
such as his solar refrigeration concept, because of the benefit
that he can bring to people around the globe.
me to work on technology knowing it has the potential to improve
people's lives," Ewert said.
Ewert is hoping
to promote his state-of-the-art solar cooling technology to the
automotive industry later this year.