IMAGINE an air-conditioner that harnesses the air that people breathe every day as cooling medium, and is environment-friendly because it does not use freon, or any chemical refrigerant.
How cool (no pun intended) is that?
Anyway, this is the 21st century and with enough bright minds, every thing is possible. Like harnessing air, which is practically limitless, infinite, inexhaustible!
This time, it is one mind inside the head of a teenager then at the Philippine Science High School in Naga, Camarines Sur, in the Bicol region. Now, she’s in her 19th summer, a “Pisay” (PSHS’s popular name) alumna, and about to enter college at a De La Salle University (DLSU) to take up mechanical engineering. The PSHS is under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Meet Maria Yzabell Angel V. Palma, the young girl behind the AirDisc Air Conditioning Technology, which she developed in 2016 and perfected after one-a -half years while she was still at PSHS-Naga Campus.
She’s been recognized for her feat by the International Federation of Inventors’ Association (IFIA), which even invited her to Switzerland in February, but she failed to go because she was then graduating.
IFIA got her under its radar after 10 foreign organizations gave her awards for her AirDisc Air Conditioning Technology.
Her most immediate goal is not money, she said; it is helping people and the environment through her brainchild. She estimated that her unit would cost from P25,000 to P40,000. It can be used at home, at offices, or company buildings and other venues.
“I want to help those who cannot afford an air-conditioner,” she said told the BusinessMirror in an interview on July 30 during a news conference with PSHS leaders at a hotel in Quezon City.
That’s where she sees her invention’s significance, recalling that in 2016 more than 100 million units of air conditioners were produced globally but not everybody could afford one, she said.
“This AirDisc will be very affordable to everyone specially the less fortunate. And it is significant to Filipinos. We know it is very hot,there is global warming and it is getting worse every year.
“This cooling system will be a means so the poor, not just the rich, will be able to buy an air-conditioner,” Palma said.
The AirDisc may still be currently quite expensive because it is still new and the production is still limited, but with expected increasing demand and more production its price could go down soon, Palma explained.
She said that loans or installment facilities will be made available to consumers, or it could even be given free of charge, based on the consumer’s economic status.
She added that in the long-run the consumers could save with the use of AirDisc because its electric consumption is low at 150 watts compared to commercial air conditioners which consume 1,200 watts, Palma explained.
No chemical refrigerant
Palma said the air-conditioning technology that she invented does not use a chemical refrigerant.
She noted that commercial air-conditioners in homes and cars use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) chemical refrigerants that are harmful to people and the environment.
She said her design does not use freon and it uses much less electricity. One vital aspect of her invention is its ability to harness air molecules, which, certainly, is abundant, an understatement, to say the least.
“What it will only use as cooling medium is air—the air we breathe,” the young inventor said.
Her invention, she pointed out, uses a new compressor, or more precisely, a centrifugal compressor, which does not build up air moisture inside the compressor and, thus, creates no water residue.
Since AirDisc does not use a chemical refrigerant, she said it will not contribute to greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
The United Nations has mandated the phase out of chemical refrigerants so the use of AirDisc is timely, she explained. It should be noted that 1 kg of HFC is equivalent to 20,000 kg of carbon dioxide which is detrimental to the environment and to people’s health.
Open for partnership
Palma, who got help from her father, a mechanical engineer, said they are finalizing a commercial prototype that is expected to be completed late this year or early-2019, then start manufacturing the AirDisc air-conditioner.
“We are still open for partnership,” the young inventor said, pointing out that at least five companies have already approached her family.
Palma prefers that there will be a manufacturer in every region, like Asia, the United States, and others, “so there will be no monopoly and [that the product will be] well distributed.”
Proverbial light bulb
She recalled how she got the proverbial “light bulb” in her head lighted up and got the idea for a freon-less cooling system.
It was in her project, a cooking equipment similar to an oven she and her classmates were researching in 2016.
She said she noticed “cold air” coming out of the device and then decided to continue a research on it. She consulted her father, of course.
Palma saw in one of her researches in the Internet a study by Japan’s Refrigerant and Air Conditioning Industry that in Africa, one of the hottest places on Earth, has the lowest demand for air-conditioners.
The reason: prices of air-conditioners in African countries are not affordable to the majority of the people, unless one has a stable job.
“Here in the Philippines, my family is not well-off. Every time I turned on the air-condition my mom would tell me to switch it off. As a child, I was asking, ‘why mom does not like to switch the air-condition on,’” said the PSHS alumna. She now realized the reason why: high cost of electricity.
Now, she wants others to benefit from her invention.
“I wish this project will take off because my goal is to help other people, not just for profit or make money. If we can have a big manufacturing company many people will be employed and raise the Philippines’s employment rate,” Palma said. She also wants to have a manufacturing plant in the Philippines.
The patent for her AirDisc Air Conditioning Technology is pending in the United States and in the Philippines.
The 10 awards Palma received for her AirDisc aircon technology:
- Leading Innovator Award from International Intellectual Property Network Forum;
- International Leadership Award from Eurobusiness, Haller, Polland;
- International Leadership Award from China Association of Invention, China;
- Leadership Excellence Award from MyRis, Malaysia;
- Leading Student Award from National Research Council of Thailand;
- Leading Innovator Award from Indonesian Innovation and Invention Promotion Association, Indonesia;
- International Leadership Award from World Invention Intellectual Property Associations (WIIPA), Taiwan;
- Best Invention Award from WIIPA, Taiwan;
- Special Citation for the Best Invention from MyRIS, Malaysia; and
- International Best Young Inventor from Romanian Inventors Forum, Romania.
Palma was one of the PSHS alumni and students from some of the science school system’s various campuses across the country who were presented by the PSHS in the media briefing.
The PSHS System management, led by Executive Director Lilia T. Habacon and by her Deputy Executive Director Dr. Rod Allan A. de Lara and other officials, as well as Director Richard P. Burgos of the Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) campaigned for the school’s 2018 National Competitive Examination.
De Lara said the 16 PSHS campuses are populated by around 8,000 students (all scholars), and has a current year budget of P4 billion.
With that budget, which he conceded is already high but can stand an increase for equipment and laboratory facilities, the “budget per student [of PSHS] is around P200,000 per year.”
The budget is much higher than that of the Department of Education (DepEd) per student at P25,000 every year, he noted. But compared to international standards, like in Singapore, PSHS’s budget is low, he pointed out.
De Lara said the PSHS Campus in Palo, Leyte, Eastern Visayas, got a DNA testing equipment worth $100,000 (around P53 million) only after one of its students, Hillary Diane Andales, won a global science competition that gave her P20 million ($400,000) worth of prizes.
The DNA testing equipment was part of Andales’s prizes. It was donated to her school by the organizers of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which is about communicating science as understandable as possible.
De Lara said the PSHS System needs more laboratory facilities and equipment.
He cited the PSHS students’ consistent winning performances in international contests, recalling, for instance, their five-year successive overall championship feats in 2013 in the Asean Plus Three Junior Science Odyssey competition.
Habacon and de Lara said, “we have the brightest students in the Philippines.” They have the numerous awards to back it up.
The awards the PSHS scholars have reaped included those from the Olympiad mathematics competitions, such as two gold (Malaysia, April 2017), gold and silver (Singapore, July 2017) and silver (Brazil, July 2017).
Burgos encouraged the PSHS System to initiate a stronger information campaign about its students’ achievements and other activities to attract more youths into science as well as let Filipinos know about the 16 campuses of the school in the country’s 16 regions.