The Energy Saving Potential of Thermo-Responsive Desiccants for Air Dehumidification

Yi Zeng, Jason Woods, Shuang Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus Citations


The desiccant wheel is a promising technology for energy-efficient humidity control. However, its overall efficiency—hindered by the desiccant materials’ properties—remains low because traditional desiccants (e.g., silica gels) have a single isotherm regardless of their adsorption temperature. Thermo-responsive materials have been proposed to break this fixed affinity to water vapor, with drastically different adsorption isotherms depending on temperature. Its potential for improving dehumidification efficiency, however, has not been addressed. In this paper, we model the potential of a thermo-responsive interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) desiccant with temperature-dependent adsorption isotherms for energy-efficient dehumidification via a validated transient desiccant wheel model for humidity control of buildings. Thermo-responsive desiccants can improve the dehumidification performance due to their thermo-responsive switchable hydrophilicity below/above the lower critical solution temperature. Our analysis shows that thermo-responsive IPN desiccants can potentially reduce energy consumption by up to 30% compared to silica gels. The savings depend strongly on the critical temperature of the thermo-responsive desiccant and should be higher when the inlet temperatures are expected to be higher.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number114520
Number of pages17
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-78978


  • Dehumidification
  • Desiccant wheel
  • Energy efficiency
  • Thermo-responsive solid desiccant


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