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Harvard Student Designs Air Conditioner Without Electricity
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Harvard Student Designs Air Conditioner Without Electricity

Air Conditioning 101

What if we could cool our homes without using electricity? Sounds pretty far fetched, right? Air conditioning, as most people know it, requires some form of electricity. Air conditioning technology, in very simplified terms, is a refrigeration cycle in which hot air is extracted and cool air is blown in. For the most part, this is how most cooling technology works. Without getting too technical, you need electrified coils to accomplish this process. Unless of course, you real old school and use muscle power to wave around a fan.


Enter Green Screen

Gina Ciancone and her team of collaborators at Harvard rethought our entire approach to air-conditioning. Gina, a Harvard design student, believes air-cooling can also be accomplished without electricity or muscle power. But with, plant power! Her “Green Screen” proposal was the winner of Harvard’s The Mittal Institute Seed for Change Program.

Green Screen is a zero-electricity air-cooling panel made entirely of agricultural waste. The waste used for these panels would have otherwise been burned by farmers and further contributed to air pollution. Such intense air pollution also traps in heat within cities and leads to deadly heat waves. This “Green Screen” solution offers a remedy to air pollution and extreme heat. This entire concept relies on the principle that plant and agriculture waste can absorb heat and produce passive cooling via compression.

Photos via Mittal South Asia Institute


Green Screen uses circular design principles to create alternative uses for agricultural “waste”. Circular design methods look beyond the current make-use-dispose business models we have grown accustom too. A circular design model aims to redefine growth by exploring new consumption methods. In this particular instance, the Green Screen proposal offers an opportunity to transform “waste” into a product used to cool those most at risk from extreme heat. Green Screen was developed through multiple phases of design thinking and data analysis of heat and pollution in New Delhi, India.

Photos via Mittal South Asia Institute


Gina Ciancone and her “Green Screen” collaborators received $40,000 USD to produce Green Screen prototypes designed for the slums of New Delhi, India via the Seeds for Change Program. The Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change Program supports innovation and entrepreneurship in India and Pakistan through an annual competition. Through the Seed for Change Program, grants are awarded to interdisciplinary student projects that positively impact societal, economic, and environmental issues in India and Pakistan.

Air Conditioner Without Electricity

Photo by Arihant Daga


Green Screen will now enter a testing phase of sorts. This summer the Green Screen team will be working in India to implement a pilot product. Gina Ciancone and the team will also be testing the screen’s cooling effectiveness at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Indicating Green Screen’s potential space related use-cases.



To learn more about Green Screens and the The Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change Program, click here.

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