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Monday, February 6th, 2023

DHS awards $195,000 to winners of extreme heat challenge

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As part of a competitive search for climate-friendly cooling solutions in the face of extreme heat conditions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded $195,000 to winners of the Cooling Solutions Challenge this week.

Participants worked on innovative solutions to heat, inventing means to help first responders, individuals, households, or displaced populations keep temperatures down during feverish weather. Climate change is expected to increase related issues over the years, and extreme heat is already deadly.

“Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the country, often hitting underserved communities the hardest,” Deanne Criswell, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, said. “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.” 

Prize competitions meant to strengthen the nation’s resilience to climate change were instigated by DHS last year. Winners of the Cooling Solutions Challenge were chosen by a panel of experts in the field of climate change, resilience, and emergency management. Together, they recognized Zephyr Innovations, Inc. of Massachusetts as the winner of a $50,000 grand prize for the idea development of a new air conditioning system.

Zephy’s solution was a cooling system that utilized a compressor-free/refrigerant-free technology to greatly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. The Ultra-Efficient Air Conditioning via Liquid Desiccant Dehumidification and Evaporation Cooling solution scored highest in every criterion the judges considered.

In second place was runner-up Small World Sciences LLC of North Carolina for Improved Cooling Textiles for Clothing, Solar Shades, and Temporary Structures. Dubbed the Most Innovative Solution, this idea won $25,000 for its development of fibers with heat reflective and emissive properties based on biomimicry of ants evolved to survive extreme desert conditions. These fibers would be used in clothing and building materials to reduce heat stress and save energy overall. 

Originally, that runner-up category would only have earned $20,000. The unique nature of the idea prompted the judges to change the award itself and tack on an additional $5,000 for Small World Sciences.

Other category winners were given $10,000 and included: 

  1. Nanohmics, Inc. of Texas – for TAC Jacket Cooling Solutions
  2. Young Ko, Evelyn Wang, and Jeffrey Grossman of Massachusetts – for personal use Hybrid Cooling Wraps
  3. Micro Nano Technologies of Florida – for household or multi-person use Fuel-Flexible Ultra-Efficient Air Condition System for Improved Resilience
  4. Hal Greenberger, Better Stuff LLC of Massachusetts – for Radiative Cooling of Structures meant to aid homeless or displaced populations in public settings

“All of the DHS prize competition finalists deserve recognition for the innovative and creative solutions they brought to the table to combat climate change,” Kathryn Coulter Mitchel, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said. “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.”