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A cool way to cut building energy use and a social media energy experiment receive funding

Published on December 8, 2016 by Sharon Adarlo

A novel way to cool and dehumidify buildings, and a mass social media experiment aiming to reduce energy use are two research projects that have received funding from Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership this year. E-ffiliates, a corporate membership initiative of Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, facilitates academic and industrial collaboration, enhances teacher-student-practitioner interactions and promotes technology transfer between Princeton and its corporate partners to address global energy needs and environmental concerns.

Details of the two funded projects are provided below.

Meggers, Forrest PhotoForrest Meggers

Assistant Professor of Architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

 Reducing Building Energy Demand with Novel Design Integration of Advanced Liquid Desiccant and Nonporous Hydrophilic Membrane

 In the United States, 40 percent of the country’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial and residential buildings. At the global scale, the percentage is even higher: 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, directly and indirectly. Looking at the energy consumed by a building, more than half is devoted to heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), with nearly a quarter for air conditioning.

To reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, this project investigates the use of the combination of a novel liquid dessicant (a drying agent) and a hydrophilic (water-loving) membrane to cool and dehumidify buildings. In a small-scale experiment, the liquid dessicant flows inside a tube made up of the hydrophilic membrane. Fresh air that is hot and humid is pumped around the tube, which wicks away moisture from the air and transfers it into the liquid dessicant, producing comfortably dry air for ventilation. This research project seeks to scale up the experiment to cool and dehumidify room-size spaces, where temperature and humidity sensors will track the efficacy of the technology.

When implemented, this technology has the potential of reducing building energy usage while maintaining indoor comfort for hot and humid climate conditions.

Diana TamirDiana Tamir

Assistant Professor of Psychology

 Reducing Energy Consumption with Psychological Interventions

 Climate change poses a huge threat to humanity, the environment, and economy. Without significant efforts to curb climate change, the human species is on track to suffer catastrophic worldwide consequences in the near future. An immediate approach to curbing climate change is to reduce household energy usage.

This project proposes using simple, actionable strategies from psychology research to reduce individuals’ energy usage. These strategies would be deployed in specially-made Facebook ads and target energy consumers throughout New Jersey. Energy usage in different regions of the state will be tracked and compared.

Previous studies utilizing these interventions via email on campus saw significant reductions in energy usage from two to five percent. Given that people spend on average an hour and forty minutes on social media per day, this medium should provide an impactful method of delivery, and the data from how ads are perceived can yield insights in human behavior and social media usage. Reducing each individual households’ energy use by even as little as one percent translates to a reduction in carbon emissions of 16 million metric tons annually and an energy cost savings of $143 million a month in the US.

More on the project funding:

Funding for these projects, totaling $263,211, was awarded after a review of proposals submitted by Princeton faculty and senior researchers. The two projects will run from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.

Funding is made possible through contributions of E-ffiliates member companies, and is intended to promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research in energy- and environment-related fields that can become market-ready solutions. Previous projects funded through E-ffiliates include the production of advanced biofuels via bioengineered yeasts and the development of a more sustainable version of concrete. More information on past projects can be found here.

For more information on Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, contact Sharon Adarlo, communications specialist, at or (609) 258-9979.