With summer in full swing, and the heat of it just a little too much to bear, millions of people will turn to the marvellous creation that is the air conditioner.

Did you know that air conditioning/refrigeration was named among the 10 greatest mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century (according to a survey of ASME members) in 2000.

The roots of airconditioning grows way back to second century China, where an inventor, Ding Huane, crafted a manually powered rotary fan to explore the concept of air cooling. This intrigued the great American inventor, Benjamin Franklin, who then in 1758 started experimenting with evaporation and alcohol to reach freezing temperatures.

In 1902 the first modern airconditioner was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier, the father of the air conditioner. He was a skilled engineer who experimented with the laws of humidity control to solve an application problem at a printing plant in Brooklyn, NY. He borrowed the concept of mechanical refrigeration, established in earlier years where air is sent through coils filled with cold water to cool the air, while removing moisture to control humidity in the room. A belt driven air conditioner condensing unit was later developed and became the ‘go-to’ model in the growing U.S. marketplace for air cooling systems.

Today’s air conditioners follow same foundational science as Carrier’s 1933 system, but uses a more advanced option for vapor compression, diagnostics and controls, electronic sensors, materials, and energy efficiency.

Air conditioning has grown from a luxury item to a necessity and has provided many benefits for the user. In addition to the obvious contributions, air conditioning altered architectural design, allowing windowless office buildings and houses without porches, also playing a major role in migration patterns and the economic development in the U.S., by enabling business opportunities in locations known for their hot and steamy climates.

Credit: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

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