The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

UConn researcher invents a self-cooling tent

- By Amy Coval

A new invention from a UConn researcher is set to make camping a breeze.

Although summer is a popular time for camping, rising global temperatur­es have made the tent a hot, poorly ventilated space to sleep in, researcher Al Kasani found. Kasani, a Ph.D. student at UConn studying chemical engineerin­g, studies all things renewable energy — from electric cars to solar power.

An avid camper and self-proclaimed nature lover himself, Kasani saw firsthand this issue of the too-hot tent and set out to find a solution.

However, Kasani’s initial vision also stretched beyond camping. He said that he has always noticed how tents are utilized during times of natural disasters. After earthquake­s and during wars, Kasani said, tents were always being used in recovery efforts, whether that be shelter for the displaced or as makeshift hospitals. Because these people could be in precarious states, Kasani said he worried about the temperatur­e inside these tents leading to other conditions like heat stroke.

The inability to manage the inside temperatur­e of camping tents pushed Kasani to look into the possibilit­y of a “self-cooling tent.”

Working with the Technology Commercial­ization Services (TCS) and UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineerin­g (C2E2), Kasani was able to develop new technology that would allow a tent’s internal temperatur­e to be 20 degrees cooler compared to outside.

The tent cools itself by utilizing a resource that is often found in abundance near campsites: water. A single gallon of water is all it takes to cool the tent for a full 24 hours. Turning to nature for a sustainabl­e solution is something that Kasani said was key in his mindset during developmen­t.

“I knew that nature was the best place [to get] inspiratio­n . ... We all know that plants wick water from the ground, then they sweat and then they cool themselves,” Kasani said. “We also know that they get their energy from the sun; what I did was simply find a material that could do the same job.”

Kasani said that creating a product that worked with the environmen­t instead of exacerbati­ng global warming was always at the forefront of his design. Now, his final product needs only water and sunlight to create a more comfortabl­e tent environmen­t.

The cooling effect works by pulling water into the material of the tent in what is called “evaporativ­e cooling technology.” As the material becomes damp, it cools the inside air significan­tly. The tent was created to have a small footprint, literally and environmen­tally. The lightweigh­t fabric makes it easy to carry, while utilizing a renewable resource like water makes it a much more sustainabl­e option compared to portable air conditioni­ng systems or fans that use electricit­y.

Kasani said the inventing process was no easy feat. For him, some of the biggest struggles were mental rather than in the lab.

“It is difficult to believe that you can create something that no one has thought of before. At first I believed, ‘Hey, this idea is not that significan­t.’ That was my mindset,” Kasani said. “After I started talking to people in my group and some other places, I [realized] no one has ever thought of this; this is something innovative.”

Although Kasani’s new tent technology is not commercial­ized yet, he said that he receives calls every week from recreation companies and tent manufactur­ers that are interested in creating and selling his invention. Right now, Kasani said that he is undergoing negotiatio­ns with a few of those companies, and his true goal is to one day see the tent serve campers and disaster victims alike.

“The practical goal for me was to add value to the world . ... An idea in your brain is just an idea. A thesis is just a thesis and can just sit in a library for a long time. [When] the idea becomes something useful for people, I think that’s where the real value starts to build,” Kasani said.

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