A Purdue University professor was granted a patent for heat exchanger technology that he says will improve the thermal performance of evaporative water cooling towers.

The technology is intended to increase the overall efficiency and financial performance of industrial power plants. Inside the towers, hot water is filtered through small plastic sheets, called film packs, while an industrial fan sends up wafts of cool air from underneath. The induced draft speeds up the process of evaporation that would occur naturally.

The patented technology is designed to enhance water adhesion to the film packs by introducing a differential static electric charge into the plastic. Water will “stick better” to the film packs, says Purdue Polytechnic’s Bryan Hubbard, because the element can have either a negative or positive charge. Gravitation to different sides of the plastic sheets based on electrical charge slows the flow through the film-fill media by spreading the water out and improving the evaporation rates.