Research on Sustainable Refrigeration System Nabs 2nd Place Win at the 8th Undergraduate Research Competition

August 5, 2021

The Undergraduate Research Competition (URC) is one of the largest competitions in the GCC that promotes scientific research among undergraduate students and supports the UAE government’s initiative of fostering innovation and empowering the youth to prepare them for the future. This is the eighth year of the competition and the research event has attracted creative minds not only from the GCC but in other countries as well such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Malta, and Morocco.


Around 315 original research papers were presented from 87 major universities in different disciplines, including engineering, natural and health sciences, business administration, education and law, and arts and social sciences.


The Chemical Engineering senior project of Khalifa University students Muna Al Jasmi, Anfal Abloushi, Shamma Thani, Reem Saeed Salem, and Ali Ahmed Algallaf, supervised by Prof. Lourdes Vega and Dr. Daniel Bahamon, won second place in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Category of the competition, with the project titled “Design of an Adsorption Air-Conditioning System Using Low Global Warming Potential (GWP) Refrigerants.”


“This system is the first of its kind in the region and considered as one of the most promising technologies because of its advanced features as it does not depend on the electric energy generated from fossil fuels. It can work using electricity from renewable sources and a great alternative from an economical as well as environmental point of view,” Muna said. She explained that the system uses water as the refrigerant that provides powerful cooling while at the same time offers a sleek design that incorporates simple construction, easy control, quiet operation with no vibration, and low maintenance.


Cooling systems are an essential technology in our life, especially in arid and semi-arid regions, like the UAE.


“Current air-conditioning and refrigeration systems are energy-intensive, consuming around 17 percent of the global electricity production and more than 60 percent in the Emirates, representing a major impact on global warming and climate change. Moreover, the primary refrigerants used today have a high global warming potential (GWP), being thousands of times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Hence, active work is needed to replace them with low GWP refrigerants and to find more efficient cooling equipment. In their research project, our group of students proposed and designed an adsorption refrigeration system as an alternative to the compression system using water as the refrigerant, a silica-gel as the adsorbent, and a solar collector to provide the heat source to operate the system, a creative system with much lower impact into the environment than the ones currently used, representing a step forward on solving this very important environmental issue,” Dr. Vega said. 


“Obtaining second place in such a strong competition is a well-deserved recognition of their hard and innovative work and we are so proud of them!” she added.


The design the team came up with can be used here in the UAE and in other countries with similar weather conditions. 


“This project gave us an opportunity to apply the chemical engineering knowledge we gained during our academic journey to find and implement a solution to a major climate dilemma. We expect that in the near future, these novel technologies will change the whole scenario of sustainability, and will position the UAE to become a pioneer in the field of the new green economy globally,” Muna added.


Dr. Fawzi Banat, Professor and Chair of the Chemical Engineering Department, commented, “In the Shanghai Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2021, which is dedicated to academic institutions for teaching and research, the Department of Chemical Engineering is ranked among the top 76-100. To achieve this ranking, the department achieved high scores on all of the analyzed indicators, which include articles indexed in Web of Science, the total number of citations, citations per article, articles published in the top 25% of scientific journals, and international interaction developed through collaborations with foreign institutions.”


“The department is dedicated to research and teaching excellence and currently offers doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees,” Dr. Banat added. 


The UAE actively supports a knowledge-based economy transformation, and events such as the URC encourages students to be more involved in accelerating the research needed to drive innovation in the country.


Ara Maj Cruz
Creative Writer
5 August 2021