Biology Inspired Cooling Technology

Solar-powered Mistbox slashes summer cooling costs

by Katie Medlock, Published 5/22/2016 on inhabitat at

1. Sustainability Problem: Energy

Rising temperatures increase energy demand for air cooling methods. The hotter it gets, the more energy it takes for condenser units to produce cold air.

2. Technology: Mistbox

  • Using the concept of human perspiration-evaporation cooling method, Mistbox created an affordable and easy to install device to mist any style AC unit
  • Self-manages to determine when your AC unit needs some help and will emit mist to cool the air around the unit and in-turn increase the cooling capacity of the system and use less energy
  • Completely solar powered, and qualifies for a tax credit
  • Saves 30% or more on monthly energy bills and comes with an app to track your savings, pays for itself within on summer!

3. Stakeholders

  • Cooling system manufacturers
  • Mistbox investors and employees
  • Energy companies
  • Potential, future and current AC unit owners

4. Deployment

  • Distribute to large and popular home improvement and home good stores
  • Increase awareness of Mistbox technology, savings, and tax credits
  • Teach people how to install the technology to existing units


Water evaporation as a power source

  1. Issue: Energy and water

The number one source of energy uses fossil fuels, which are natural resources that are increasingly becoming scarce. It is difficult for new potential sources of energy to be created in a sustainable way that reuses a natural resource. The issue regarding water is the environmental problem of smaller bodies of water becoming evaporated and nonexistent.

  1. Water evaporation as a power source

  • Columbia University researchers are working on an energy source using water vapor. Water evaporation is a form of solar energy and, on a small scale, can be harnessed and then utilized to power small devices.
  • Researchers are using bacteria that naturally absorbs water really well. When the bacteria absorbs water, it swells; when it loses water, it contracts. This acts as a small muscle, which the team is using to power the small machines.
  • While at the beginning stages, this has the potential to be extremely effective due to the very low cost of the project.
  1. Stakeholders: energy utilities, homeowners, energy consumers, etc.
  1. In order to deploy this technology, researchers would have to genetically modify the spores used so they do not germinate into bacteria. Then, an in-land body of water, i.e. a reservoir, would need to be covered with a water evaporation-powered machine. This will lead to two advantages: the power generated from the machine and the slowing down of the evaporation process for the body of water.


A project to solve wasted time in traffic – AIM Autonomous Intersection Management

Problem: Wasted time in traffic – commuters are spending more time stuck in traffic. According to TOMTOM, commuters spent “an average 66 more hours stuck in traffic” in 2014 than in 2013.

Technology: Autonomous Intersection Management (AIM): “a new intersection control protocol that exploits autonomous vehicles’ extraordinary capabilities of control, sensing, and communication to make traffic management at intersections much more efficient than traditional control mechanisms such as traffic signals and stop signs. This video illustrates the principle behind this new traffic control protocol and demonstrates its potential using Marvin, the autonomous vehicle developed at the University of Texas at Austin.”

AIM logo

Change of mind – The vision:  “When I show people that video, I tell people to not envision themselves with their foot hovering over the brake or with their white knuckles on the steering wheel, but rather they’re in the back seat with the windows dark, doing a crossword puzzle or reading the newspaper, talking to family or whatever,” he says. “Once the driving is not a human task and people grow to trust the software controllers, people will also get used to the idea of cars going through the intersections.”

Implementation of Technology:

  1. Autonomous Cars: In order to work, roads would need to have mostly autonomous cars.
    1. Need autonomous cars to respect the same intersection control protocols designed for people.
  2. New multi agent intersection control scheme – designed for autonomous vehicles
    1. Utilize the intersection more than traffic lights and stop sign
    2. The aim reservation protocol: potential to reduce congestion and fuel usage
    3. Reduce the need for a lot of acceleration and deceleration – hence, reduction of harmful emissions
  3. Implementation of dedicated short range communication (DSRC): it allows autonomous cars to communicate with the servers at the intersection – Intersection manager.
    1. Intersection manager in each car is autonomous agent in a multi-agent system
    2. Technical challenge: to design a communication protocol between the agents ensuring cars can get through intersection quicklycalcul and guarantees no collisions (as long as there are no mechanical failures and the cars follow the protocol).
    3. Calculates the car proposed trajectory – guarantees safe passageway based on reservations from each car to the intersection manager.

This project isn’t finalized, hence, we cannot implement it. However, it would be a good idea to implement a pilot program on a small town. Once glitches are fixed and technology proven to be successful, a roll out to a larger scale would be the next step.


How adaptive traffic signals can help reduce GHG emissions?

1) Sustainability issues : Wasted fuel and money, extended commuting time, unlivable streets and related GHG emissions due to traffic congestion. It is an Energy, Health and Mobility issue.

2) Technology Article :

  • The technology is an adaptive traffic signal system called SCATS that has been deployed in the city of Bellevue, outside of Seattle. It has been first developed by the Australian Transport Roads and Maritime Services for the City of Sydney and distributed by Australian companies.
  • How does it work? The timing of the intersection signals fluctuates in real-time with traffic conditions using a series of wires embedded in city streets and boulevards
  • Benefits : The system saves drivers $9 million to $12 million annually and enables a decrease of 36% to 43% on heavily trafficked streets during rush hours!
  • State of the art : Only 3% of the nation’s traffic signals are currently adaptive, the largest number being in Los Angeles.
  • Condition : The system works in smaller cities with particular problematic corridors and prevent from widening the lane and creating a bigger infrastructure impact.

3) I work for the NYS DOT

The stakeholders that will need to use the technology found :

  • The NYS DOT will have to promote this solution
  • The Department of Transportation in smaller cities of the State of New York
  • The technology distributors and deployers
  • The New York State Sustainable Business Council might be concerned since smarter road lights will enable a more efficient, sustainable and vibrant business life in the State


  • Choose a medium size city around NYC with a specific corridor with traffic issue, partner with a SCARTS distributor and deploy the solution as a one-year pilot project on its more congested streets
  • Measure and promote the savings in fuel consumption and decrease in CO2 emissions to other medium size cities in the State AND to commuters (residents and companies) – through a state-wide PR campaign for example
  • Scale-up the initiative simultaneously in 10 new cities and celebrate results in terms of GHG emissions reduction at the state scale, translating it into quality of life net profit and households savings

Google and the Driverless Car

1.) The sustainability problem is Safety and Health: Across major cities everywhere, thousands of people are killed every year due to wreckless, thoughtless drivers. How do we make city streets safer? 2.)

  • Google has recently doubled the number of driverless cars they have permits for in California to 48
  • The new permits are for a new fleet of cars that they are in the process of testing
  • Google has published a report listing the details of the car accidents for all of their autonomous vehicle collisions
  • All of the accidents have been a consequence of human error, and not the vehicles themselves
  • Autonomous Vehicles can be leveraged to make roads safer all throughout the world and reduce the number of victims due to unsafe drivers
  • Article Title: Google’s Driverless Car Fleet More Than Doubles In A Month
  • Website: Value Walk
  • Link:
  • Brand Name: Google
  • Technology Name: Autonomous Cars

3.) Stakeholders:

  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Federal Motor Carrier Saftey Administration
  • National Highway and Traffic Saftey Administration
  • Major Insurance companies
  • All people using technology

4.) First 3 steps to deployment:

  • Step 1 – Complete regulatory reguirements and testing for vehicle safety
  • Step 2 – Collaborate with a select set of small, low traffic cities and monitor accidents
  • Step 3 – If the autonomous vehicles are performing safely, then roll out to other cities

This Billboard Sucks Pollution from the Sky and Returns Purified Air


  1. The problem is air quality. Air quality is closely correlated to childhood asthma, and other respiratory health complications.


  1. Article title- This Billboard Sucks Pollution from the Sky and Returns Purified Air

Website name-



  • The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) developed a billboard to scrub contaminated air in the City as Lima, Peru has the highest air pollution levels in all of South America according to the World Meteorological Association.
  • The billboard sign uses the shifts in temperature, pressure and vacuum to combine incoming air with water to capture dust, metal vapors, germs and bacteria.
  • The single sign at the intersection of Bajada Armendariz and Paseo de la Republica scrubs about 500,000 cubic meters of air a week eliminating 99% of airborne bacteria.
  • The billboard requires he same amount of power as running a small emergency generator and can have impacts reaching up to 5 city blocks


  1. Citizens of the city, construction site workers, landscape managers, and local municipalities in areas experiencing severe air quality degradation because of smog and construction


  1. Steps for deploying the technology:
  2. Third party verification of the billboards capabilities
  3. Market the technology to strategic organizations in an effort to partner with construction and health care companies
  4. Lobby for regulations requiring new construction and industrial areas to only be allowed pollution scrubbing billboards within the immediate vicinity.