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Temasek-backed start-up seeks to cool Singapore in a 'greener' way

Amala Balakrishner

SINGAPORE (Nov 18) : A US start-up backed by Temasek Foundation, the non-profit arm of Singapore’s state-owned investment firm, is set to beat Singapore’s humidity with a new bladeless fan.

Temasek Foundation is investing US$1 million ($1.4 million) in Phononic to help develop the pilot project, called Outdoor Active Cooling in Singapore (OACIS). Eight OACIS fans are currently on trial in Singapore.

According to Phononic, the fans use 50% less energy, making them more environmentally-friendly than air conditioners and bladed fans.

The “cool zones” that these fans create also see temperatures of up to 10% lower than the surrounding areas, and up to 15% lower humidity.

Top image: One of Phononic's OACIS fans at Clarke Quay in Singapore. Credit: Phononic Facebook page.

Anthony Atti, CEO and co-founder of Phononic, says the first-of-its-kind cooling project confronts head-on the challenges posed by an ever-changing climate.

“Singapore has set the scene for the rest of the world, and together, we’re delivering sustainable cooling solutions,” Atti tells reporters at the media launch of OACIS at Octopas Spanish Tapas Bar at Clarke Quay, where three of the fans are installed in.

Another five of the bladeless outdoor fans are installed at Jurong Lake Gardens – three at the water park and two at the children’s play areas.

Atti is looking to extend OACIS to other parts of Singapore, with plans to install the fans in Sentosa by 2020.

Here, the “smarter” fans will automatically adjust their modes based on the temperature and humidity levels of the surroundings. Currently, the modes have to be adjusted manually by a user through an application.

With the usage of air-conditioning making up 30% of Singapore’s energy consumption, Lim Hock Chuan, chief executive officer of Temasek Foundation Ecosperity, believes that Phononic’s OACIS fans will cool Singapore in a “sustainable way”.

The Temasek Foundation Ecosperity is the sustainable solutions arm of the foundation.

Atti points out that the fan does not release greenhouse gases or toxins, and uses less energy than other air coolants.

As a basis of comparison, he says that the OACIS fan consumes between 0.45 kilowatts (kw) of energy in its lowest mode and 2.3kw in its highest mode. This contrasts with the 3-5kw consumed by air-conditioners, and 2.3-2.6kw consumed by traditional fans.

Atti explains that the differential comes from the air-conditioner artificially creating cold air through a compressor. It then absorbs heat from the environment and converts it into fluid or gas.

Furthermore, the hydroflurocarbons and hydrocarbons in-build in the air-conditioners can possibly emit carbon dioxide into the environment, notes Atti. He adds that such leaks contribute to global warming.

Phononic’s OACIS fan, counters such issues by using carbon dioxide and water to absorb heat.

While he declined to disclose the price of OACIS, Atti says there is a “difference between price and cost” in that the price “should reflect the value of the product”.

Even so, Lim of Temasek Foundation Ecosperity is of the opinion that OACIS fans “further improve the liveability conditions and quality of life”.

He adds that he is now “look[ing] forward to more people and places benefitting from OACIS, indoors [and] outdoors”.