It’s hot. Really hot.

As record-breaking temps sweep the nation, the mercury continues to climb toward 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more in the shade. Yet this is the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. Heat indexes will continue to increase as climate change accelerates, making triple digits more and more the norm — and cooling systems a hot commodity.

But have you ever noticed that your air conditioner hasn’t changed in a really long time?

Some companies, such as SkyCool and Therm-X, are already working to modernize heating and cooling devices. Other researchers are even looking at novel technologies such as crytocooling, responsive window paneling, and “smart muscles.” For now, SkyCool’s thermal radiation model seems to be the winner, but what if we could go even bigger?

This is where chemical engineer Roland Dittmeyer and his team of scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have proposed a new, big idea. Since heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems already move large quantities of air — replacing the whole volume of air in buildings up to 5-10 times an hour — what if you could combine HVAC systems with carbon capture and hydrogen fuel technology?

The proposal is still largely theoretical, but it’s an exciting concept.

Imagine for a moment that the unit meant for cooling was multipurpose. Not only would it be designed to circulate the air inside, but it would simultaneously capture carbon dioxide and water — a net-negative process to help reduce greenhouse gases. The CO2 and H2O would then undergo an electrochemical process to extract a hydrogen molecule from the water to produce hydrogen fuel.

The key here is that this combined system would not only address heating and cooling needs but also provide a localized green fuel in the process. This could help eliminate the excess energy required to transport fuels, reduce grid load, and even cost — a home run on both climate change and economics.

While we don’t yet know what the future of air conditioners will look like, one thing is for certain: It definitely won’t look like our parents’ units anymore.

To learn more about how green hydrogen fuels are becoming a possibility, check out our blog that highlights three emerging hydrogen markets — and if you’ve heard of other ideas to modernize cooling systems be sure to let us know in the comments!

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