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Taking Water Out Of The Power Plant Equation

UC's power plant pumps 12,000 gallons of water a minute through its cooling tower to prevent overheating. A couple of researchers have figured out a way to eliminate water and instead use air to shed heat.

To prevent overheating, U.S. power plants use as much water as the nations farms, 133 billion gallons a day. That puts an enormous strain on the water supply. But two University of Cincinnati professors have invented a way to cool things down that doesn't use any water. It uses air.

Raj Manglik and Milind Jog, professors of mechanical engineering in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, have developed new condenser fins that alter the air flow and provide better heat convection for cooling steam in the air-cooled condenser.

Here's how it works:


Manglik has a patent on the technology which he says will be increasingly valuable in highly industrialized parts of the world in the midst of climate change.

He says, "This is very innovative and translational technology which can be adapted, not just in power plants, but also in large scale commercial air conditioning systems."

Credit Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
UC engineers designed new condenser fins that shed heat more efficiently in power plants.

He's tested the system in a lab and now on a larger scale at EVAPCO, a major condenser manufacturer. Eventually it will be piloted at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto.

Even though this system doesn't use any water, tests show it is nearly as effective as water-cooled systems. Manglik says one to three years from now he hopes power plants can adopt and integrate his technology.