A chance encounter with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the Fox and National Geographic series presented by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, caused an “A-ha!” moment for me not long ago. During one episode, Tyson walked on a beach explaining the fundamental differences between weather and climate, accompanied by a rambunctious Labrador retriever that bounced left and right, forward and back responding to any number of stimuli that influenced him from one moment to the next. Weather was like the dog, said Tyson: changes in winds patterns, front positions, rainfall and other input had a butterfly effect that made long-term weather forecasts all but useless and subjected us to changing daily conditions. He was like climate: his overall trajectory was influenced by the fluctuations of the dog’s ramblings and reflected the averages of his meanderings.

That visual was still fresh in my mind as I opened my email later in the day and read about a study at Arizona State University asserting that releasing excess heat from air conditioners resulted in higher outside temperatures, creating a positive feedback loop. The higher outside temperatures drove demand for even more indoor cooling, which led to more excess heat being released. While a large part of the study focused how the increasing demand will affect energy consumption and supply, I couldn’t help but see that presumably ever increasing demand for comfort cooling as the dog that will affect energy supplies and water use in the already arid regions. What’s more, while all consumers will certainly feel the effects, both in their wallets and in the environment, industrial processors in the Southwest will certainly be among the first to face demands to use less energy as well as reuse and recycle what energy they consume to the greatest degree possible.

Recovering and reducing waste heat will certainly be among the initiatives of a thermal processing consortium that received funding in May to develop a technology roadmap for thermal manufacturing processes such as drying, curing, melting and heat treating. According to NIST, which awarded the grant, advanced thermal manufacturing technologies such as improved waste-heat recovery and deployment of robust, real-time sensors have great potential to improve the energy efficiency of U.S. manufacturers, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises. ASM International, Materials Park, Ohio, will lead the consortium. According to Nexight Group, ASM’s technology partner for the $400,000 grant, several other associations, including the Industrial Heating Equipment Association, ASM Heat Treating Society, and the Metal Treating Institute will participate.

 

Linda Becker, Associate Publisher and Editor,

 BeckerL@bnpmedia.com