Impact Journalism Day 2017

Zero-power cooling, with plastic

Bangladesh is predicted to be among the South Asian countries the most affected by an expected two degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures in the coming decades. A 2013 World Bank report called Bangladesh a “potential impact hotspot” threatened by “extreme river floods, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and very high temperatures”.

Bangladesh is already feeling the heat – literally – as warming trends take over globally. The rural population, which stands at more than sixty percent, is especially vulnerable =to rising temperatures. Unlike the urban population, a large chunk of which live in air-conditioned homes, people in rural areas don’t have such options.

Luckily for them, Grey Dhaka, the Bangladesh unit of US-based multinational advertising and marketing agency Grey Group, may have found the answer to tackle the sweltering heat. Last year, Grey Dhaka introduced the Eco-Cooler, which is the world’s first ever ‘zero-electricity’ air conditioner.

The way it works is just as mesmerising as it sounds. What is most alluring about it is its simplicity.

Repurposed plastic bottles are cut in half and mounted on a board or a grid in accordance with the window size with the bottlenecks facing the inside of the house. The board is then installed on the window. The science behind it is this: hot air enters the open end of the bottle and is compressed at the neck of the bottle, turning the air cooler before it is released inside the house.

Based on the direction of the wind and pressure generated by airflow, the Eco-Cooler can reduce the temperature by as much as five degrees Celsius which is the same as an electric air conditioner.

The man behind the incredible idea of recycling plastic bottles to cool the air is inventor Ashis Paul. The way the idea occurred to him is rather interesting. One day, he overheard his daughter’s physics tutor explaining to her that air cools as gas expands. The inventor in him began to play with this simple concept of physics and an idea sprung into his mind: making air-conditioners out of plastic bottles.

In a country where most of the population still reside in rural areas and access to electricity is limited, the Eco-Cooler can be considered as somewhat of a miracle. More than 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population live in corrugated tin houses which amplify the sun’s heat. During the summer time the scorching heat can get unbearable with temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

Here is where Eco-Cooler steps in. It has already brought relief to thousands of people living in the countryside for whom the invention’s cost-effectiveness and simplicity make it instantly appealing.

Grey teamed up with Grameen Intel Social Business Limited (a partnership between the non-governmental organisation Grameen and Intel) and distributed units of Eco-Cooler for free in different parts of the country. Grameen was a natural choice for Grey since the former has a wide reach across villages in the country. Grey sent their teams to these villages where people were taught how to make an Eco-Cooler.

Today, more than 25,000 households have an Eco-Cooler in their homes. It has been installed in places such as Nilphamari, Daulatdia, Paturia, Modonhati and Khaleya.

In recent times, like the Eco-Cooler many works of innovation have come out of Bangladesh, with a particular focus on the disadvantaged section of society. Being a developing country, Bangladesh faces a horde of economic, social and environmental challenges which require out-of-the-box solutions. For these solutions to have a considerable impact they need to be simple, cheap and efficient. The Eco-Cooler checks all the boxes and perhaps that is the reason behind its immense success.

Inventor Ashis Paul said, "Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries of the world, where 80% of its population is under the poverty line - with no access to electricity, and modern conveniences. […] Eco-Cooler was designed from day one to be free to make and distribute – using sustainable products that have the lowest environmental impact possible. It was designed to bring a bit of relief to the poorest communities around the country."

(This story was originally published in The Daily Star)


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 6:47:58 PM |

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