The Dyson Air Multiplier: A $300 Bladeless Cooling Machine


Image: Dyson

The Air Multiplier fan from Dyson has no visible blades--just a ring, one-foot across, mounted on a circular base--but out of it flows a strong, turbulence-free cylinder of cooling air. Vacuum magnate Sir James Dyson has done it again, or so it seems. The Air Multiplier fan is a piece of home cooling technology with a potent wow factor and, quite likely, the potential to save quite a lot of energy.

Dyson is the billionaire British industrial designer behind the eponymous vacuum cleaner, and the James Dyson Foundation, which hosts the James Dyson Award, a yearly prize that has elicited many a green-tech wonder (check out our slideshow of the 2009 entrants).

Funky fan technology
First, a bit about the technology. The fan consists of a ring (there are 10" and 12" versions) that is something like a circular airplane wing: it is shaped into an airfoil, a profile that causes air to accelerate over its surface. In the base of the fan is an air intake, powered by an "energy efficient" brushless motor, where air is sucked in at up to 5.28 gallons per second. The air then accelerates 15 times as it is projected through the unique shape of the aperture, or ring. We're told this process resembles the effect of a turbocharger or jet engine. The result it that unlike conventional fans whose spinning blades chop the air, creating a buffeting effect, the Air Multiplier projects a smooth stream. And you can't chop your fingers off, even if you want to.

Ok, but is it green?
So what makes the Dyson Air Multiplier green and TreeHugger-worthy? Let's discuss. First, fans are typically an energy-efficient way to stay cool. Window-mounted air conditioners and central cooling systems-even the most efficient ones-can't compete with the simple airflow of a fan. The movement of air over the skin causes moisture to evaporate more quickly, accelerating the rate of cooling. Even in the wintertime, ceiling fans can move warm air down from up high to where we can enjoy it.

At the moment we don't know much about the energy efficiency of Mr. Dyson's new fan. Is it more or less efficient than the old fashioned bladed fans? This remains to be seen. We're told that the technology in the Air Multiplier is based on the same principal as the Airblade, Dyson's revolutionization of the hand dryer. The Airblade claims to be over 80% more efficient than the conventional kind, which bodes well for the performance of the Air Multiplier. But this may be largely due to the Airblade's substitution of high-speed air for air that is electrically headed--not the case with Air Multiplier.

This radical remake of the home fan may also have benefits for air quality. Cleaning the Air Multiplier is a simple job, easier than cleaning most bladed-fans. This is important because household dust is a common carrier of indoor pollutants like bromated flame retardants and other airborne synthetics. The design of the fan also allows for the possibility of a filtration system integrated into its base (though it doesn't seem there is such a feature now).

So we'll have to wait for some energy stats before we can really say whether or not Sir Dyson's new gadget is green-tech. It certainly isn't cheap-tech: 10" and 12" versions cost 299.99 and 329.99, respectively.

Tags: Air Conditioning | Cooling | Designers | Gadgets