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Winners announced in Cooling Solutions Challenge

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the winners of the Cooling Solutions Challenge prize competition. The initiative offered a total of US$195,000 (AU$290,000), for climate-friendly cooling innovations to protect people against extreme heat.

Solutions were sought to help first responders, individuals, households, or displaced populations keep cool during extreme heat events, which have become more common across the US, with increasing frequency, intensity, and duration.

“Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the country, often hitting underserved communities the hardest,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “That is why we must bring together and empower bright minds with bold ideas to solve one of our nation’s most dangerous and complex climate challenges.”

Winners were selected by a judging panel of experts in climate change, resilience, and emergency management.

According to DHS Senior Official Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, all the finalists deserved recognition for the way they attempted to combat climate change.

“Our grand prize winner’s submission was a standout that will have a real-world impact on energy consumption and the effects of extreme heat on the public,” she says.

That winner was Zephyr Innovations. The firm will receive US$50,000 (AU$74,500) for its “ultra-efficient” air conditioning solution incorporating liquid desiccant dehumidification and evaporative cooling solution. The system, which uses compressor-free/refrigerant-free technology, scored the highest in all judging criteria.

The runner-up, awarded the prize of Most Innovative Solution, was Small World Sciences LLC for its Improved Cooling Textiles for Clothing, Solar Shades, and Temporary Structures. The concept will develop fibres with heat reflective and emissive properties based on biomimicry of animals that have evolved to survive in extreme desert conditions, for use in clothing and building materials to reduce heat stress and save energy.

According to the DHS, the concept takes a page out of nature and is based on how ants cool themselves. The judges were so impressed with the innovative solution, they increased the prize money for this category.

Four “Use Case” category winners will each receive US$10,000 (AU$14,850):

  • TAC Jacket Cooling Solutions for first responders’ personal use or helping survivors who are at risk from heat-related stress
  • Hybrid Cooling Wrap for personal use and helping cool individuals in indoor or outdoor environments
  • Micro Nano Technologies’ air conditioning system for household, group quarter or multi-person use as an alternative to conventional air conditioning or built-in cooling solutions
  • Better Stuff LLC’s radiative cooling of structures for use in indoor/outdoor venues to cool homeless or displaced populations in public settings.

The judges also designated an honourable mention for creativity to CalidGear’s wearable thermoregulatory device.

The government plans to continue working with the providers of the most promising challenge solutions and provide mentoring and follow-on opportunities.

The DHS says it uses prize competitions to crowdsource innovation and harness the creativity of the American public to solve critical homeland security challenges. The DHS established the first-ever Climate Change Action Group (CCAG), which is comprised of senior officials from across the Department, to focus on promoting resilience and addressing multiple risks, including flooding, extreme heat, drought, and wildfires. The CCAG oversees the implementation of the Climate Action Plan and guides the Department’s approach to managing the climate crisis.

To hear a podcast about the the Cooling Solutions Challenge and the DHS’s other efforts to manage climate change, click here.

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