Kevin Feigelis is currently an undergraduate student studying Physics. He is an intern at the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2015, working with Professor Sunil Somalwar, on solar powered thermal dehumification systems.
1: Please briefly describe your research. I worked on a solar thermal dehumidification system. It uses a hygroscopic substance named Triethylene Glycol to absorb ambient moisture when exposed to air. By drawing moisture into the Triethylene Glycol, we effectively reduce the humidity contained in a standard room. Once this process is complete, the solution is then pumped through a large solar thermal collector outside the house, where it is exposed to sunlight in order to increase its temperature. After the temperature reaches a sufficient level inside the collector, the Triethylene Glycol is then exposed to air outside the house, where it will release the previously captured moisture to the environment.
2: How did you come to be involved in this research? My advisor, Professor Sunil Somalwar, pitched the idea in class one day and stated that he was seeking a student to work on the project this summer. I thought the idea was quite novel, and that it could make a difference in people's lives if the plan worked.
3: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? I believe that the advantage of using solar energy to power a dehumidification system is more than just decreasing the carbon footprint of your average household. Instead, the main benefit of building a system that is inexpensive to both build and maintain is that it is immediately relevant to developing nations where traditional air conditioning and dehumidification systems are not available, or at best unaffordable. Along with causing uncomfortable living conditions, humidity also promotes the growth of mold and bacteria, which may stifle the progress of an already challenging situation. Since the system is inherently passive, and requires minimal supervision, it is an ideal solution to alleviating both the discomfort and risks presented by the presence of high humidity.