The Magical Cooling Capabilities of Air Conditioning Are Explained

We can't live without these cooling machines but how do they work? Watch this video to find out.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Today we both marvel at and rely on our air conditioning systems during hot weather. These nifty devices are so essential we often wonder, how did we live before them.

These machines not only cool our environments, making them tolerable, they come with often additional impressive features. But one question is often asked about these chilly operators, how do they work?

According to the American Chemical Society, the answer lies in chemistry with the help of refrigerants. There is an impressive physical law that sees liquids that convert to gas also absorb heat.

This is called phase conversion. Air conditioning uses this feature by forcing chemical compounds to go through a repeated process of evaporation and condensation in a closed system of coils.

These compounds are refrigerants. When hot air flows over the cold system of coils, the refrigerants inside absorb this heat as it changes states from liquid to gaseous.

The air conditioner then converts the refrigerant compounds back to liquid again and the extra heat is evacuated outdoors. This cycle continues ad infinitum so we can experience a fresh cool breeze.

It is worth noting that the chemical compositions of current refrigerant compounds are vastly different from a few decades ago. Environmental concerns led to international treaty agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol, that saw older refrigerant components banned.

Chlorine atoms were targeted in particular as they have the potential to severely damage the Earth's absolutely essential ozone layer. Luckily, new and novel refrigerants are environmentally much friendlier.