Scientists from the University of Hull have helped to develop a
solar-heated bed which could improve living standards for thousands
of Chinese farmers and reduce the environmental damage caused by
burning fossil fuels.
The bed is part of an innovative
solar system, which has been integrated into rural houses in
northern China to meet all the residents’ heating requirements.
During the winter months, the system
provides heat and hot water throughout the day.
Then at night, the system heats the
kang - a traditional
brick platform used for sleeping and family meals - providing a
comfortable sleeping temperature and heating the home.
Compared to traditional fired kangs,
the solar system is environmentally friendly and highly energy
Professor Xudong Zhao from the University of Hull, said:
The Chinese Government has an incentive programme to
help poorer families install the system. Families will benefit from
warm homes with zero energy bills. They will have comfortable room
conditions and improved health and living standards.
For the next 20 or 30 years these families will enjoy
free energy. This system will also help to reduce air pollution.
Industry in China has developed very fast and the economy is
booming but the environment is suffering.
The solar system, which has been
developed jointly with the University of Science and Technology of
China, has already been installed in the homes of more than 100
farmers and herdsmen in the Qinghai Province of China.
However, scientists believe there is
significant market potential in rural areas of Qinghai, Tibet,
Xinjiang and Gansu Provinces, where winter temperatures can plummet
to minus 15C.
It’s estimated that there are more
than 70 million fired kangs in northern China alone. Conventional
fuels include coal, wood and straw, all of which are low energy
Experts estimate that if 10% of
homes replace their traditional coal and wood fired kangs with the
solar system, 10 million tons of coal would be saved each year.
With traditional kangs, heat from a
stove or fire is channelled around an internal cavity to warm the
bricks, which radiate heat keeping the occupants warm. The new
system pumps heat from the water tank around a specially-developed
coil, which is built into the kang.
Despite low winter temperatures,
northern China has high levels of sunshine, making the solar system
a viable technology.
Tests show that the system can
achieve solar thermal efficiency of 58.7% and 53.8% for the water
and air mode operations respectively, while the savings on energy
bills will pay for the installation costs in around 4 years, making
it cost-effective to install.
In warmer seasons when less heating
is required, the solar system can be adapted to provide more hot
Earlier this year, Professor Zhao
and Professor Jie Ji from the University of Science and Technology
of China were presented with an Innovation Award at the 15th
International Conference of Sustainable Energy Technologies in
Singapore for their work.
The awards are organised by the
World Society of Sustainable Energy
Technologies (WSSET) - a non-profit partnership between
academic and industrial organisations, which aims to promote
sustainable development and technologies to minimise the impact of
Professor Zhao and his team at the
University of Hull are already developing a second generation
technology, which can transfer heat without using any power, for
which the Chinese Government is expected to pledge roll out