Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
EVAPORATIVE HVAC APPARATUS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/139291
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An evaporative HVAC apparatus is disclosed for use in a vehicle air conditioning system. In at least one embodiment, the apparatus provides a housing positioned substantially in front of a vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending therethrough. At least one thermal core is positioned within the housing. The at least one thermal core comprises at least one absorbent wicking layer sandwiched between a pair of substantially planar thermal layers. At least one fluid line is in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer. Thus, as air from a vehicle blower moves through the evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent an exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers.

Inventors:
HARMS JONATHAN S (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2017/016872
Publication Date:
August 17, 2017
Filing Date:
February 07, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
AERMIST LLC (US)
International Classes:
B60H1/32; B60H1/00; B60H3/02; F24F5/00; F24F6/04
Foreign References:
US5079934A1992-01-14
US20150362201A12015-12-17
US4879075A1989-11-07
US20070163772A12007-07-19
US20120266608A12012-10-25
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SANDERS, Justin G. et al. (Suite 5A 76, Irvine California, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is: 1. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing;

an at least one thermal core positioned within the housing and comprising:

an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and

the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers; and

an at least one fluid line in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer;

whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle.

2. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the at least one wicking layer is constructed out of an absorbent microfiber material capable of being saturated with fluid.

3. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , wherein each of the thermal layers is constructed of a gypsum-ceramic casting. 4. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the first surface of each of the thermal layers is convoluted so as to maximize the surface area of each of the thermal layers.

5. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , further comprising a plurality of thermal cores positioned within the housing in a spaced-apart arrangement, such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores.

6. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 5, wherein the thermal cores are vertically oriented within the housing and positioned in a horizontally spaced-apart arrangement.

7. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 5, wherein the thermal cores are horizontally oriented within the housing and positioned in a vertically spaced-apart arrangement.

8. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 5, wherein each of the thermal cores is positioned within the housing such that the exposed first surface of each of the opposing thermal layers faces outwardly away from the housing.

9. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 5, wherein each of the thermal cores is positioned within the housing such that the exposed first surface of each of the opposing thermal layers faces the exposed first surface of the thermal layer of an adjacently positioned thermal core.

10. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , further comprising an at least one vehicle reservoir configured for capturing and holding a volume of condensation that may be formed by the vehicle evaporator. 11. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 10, further comprising an at least one condensation supply line extending between the vehicle evaporator and the at least one vehicle reservoir for allowing the condensation from the vehicle evaporator to be delivered to the at least one vehicle reservoir. 12. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 10, wherein the at least one fluid line extends between the at least one vehicle reservoir and the at least one wicking layer.

13. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 12, wherein the housing provides an at least one fluid inlet aperture through which the at least one fluid line extends a distance into the housing so as to be in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer.

14. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 13, wherein the at least one fluid inlet aperture is positioned within a bottom surface of the housing, such that any excess condensation within the housing and thermal cores is able to naturally flow back down through the at least one fluid line and into the at least one vehicle reservoir.

15. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 12, further comprising an at least one pump configured for drawing condensation from the vehicle evaporator into the at least one vehicle reservoir, and selectively delivering condensation from the at least one vehicle reservoir to the at least one wicking layer.

16. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 12, wherein the at least one vehicle reservoir provides a manual fill aperture positioned and configured for allowing the vehicle reservoir to be manually filled with an additional volume of fluid as needed. 17. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the housing is formed of a gypsum- ceramic casting.

18. The evaporative HVAC apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the housing is formed of an absorbent microfiber material, capable of being saturated with fluid, substantially encapsulated by a gypsum-ceramic casting, thereby allowing the at least one wicking layer of the at least one thermal core to be in fluid communication with one another.

19. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing;

a plurality of thermal cores positioned within the housing in a spaced-apart arrangement, such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores, each of the thermal cores comprising:

an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and

the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers; and

an at least one fluid line in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer;

whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle.

20. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing;

an at least one thermal core positioned within the housing and comprising:

an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface;

the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and

the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers;

an at least one vehicle reservoir configured for capturing and holding a volume of condensation that may be formed by the vehicle evaporator; and

an at least one fluid line extending between the at least one vehicle reservoir and the at least one wicking layer, thereby allowing a volume of condensation within the at least one vehicle reservoir to be selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer;

whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle.

Description:
EVAPORATIVE HVAC APPARATUS

RELATED APPLICATIONS [0001] This application claims priority and is entitled to the effective filing date of U.S. non- provisional application serial number 15/041 ,607, filed on February 11 , 2016, which is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. non-provisional application serial number 14/834,288, filed on August 24, 2015, which is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. non-provisional application serial number 14/336,715, filed on July 21 , 2014, which is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. non-provisional application serial number 13/789,632, filed on March 7, 2013, which claims priority and is entitled to the filing date of U.S. provisional application serial number 61/607,950, filed on March 7, 2012. The contents of the aforementioned applications are incorporated by reference herein. BACKGROUND

[0002] The subject of this patent application relates generally to heating, ventilation and air- conditioning ("HVAC"), and more particularly to an evaporative HVAC apparatus. [0003] Applicant(s) hereby incorporate herein by reference any and all patents and published patent applications cited or referred to in this application.

[0004] By way of background, evaporative coolers operate by releasing water into the air in order to obtain an acceptable degree reduction in air temperature, dependent in part on the humidity of the outside air. Relying upon the thermodynamics associated with the conversion of water from a liquid to a gas, the majority of evaporative coolers employ a fan or blower that draws hot outside air through a wet, porous media. So long as the outside ambient air remains dry - typically below thirty percent (30%) relative humidity - such coolers can provide cooling during even the hottest days of the year at a fraction of the electrical power requirements of compressive refrigeration coolers.

[0005] Operation of a traditional evaporative cooler has the blower drawing outside air into the housing of the cooler, typically after the air first passes through a wetted media. Water in the wetted media evaporates into the dry air as it passes through, cooling and humidifying the air in the process. The blower then exhausts the cooled air from within the housing and into the areas to be cooled, displacing the warm ambient air with the cooled, conditioned, and humidified air. Evaporative heaters operate in a similar fashion, only using heated water in the wetted media so as to warm the air that is exhausted.

l [0006] Maintenance of a traditional evaporative coolers and heaters requires periodic cleansing of the water reservoir. The number of operating hours between cleanings is primarily dependent upon the operational environment of the device. Such cleanings are important to maintain the efficiency of the unit, as well as to prevent an accumulation of undesirable molds, fungus, and odors. Additionally, traditional evaporative coolers typically require large amounts of water to cool the air, which not only hinders water conservation efforts, but also adds considerable moisture in the building in which the cooler is installed. Traditional evaporative coolers are also typically only able to operate efficiently in areas where the humidity is below thirty percent (30%).

[0007] Therefore, a need exists for such an evaporative device - both cooling and heating devices - capable of operating efficiently regardless of the humidity level of the outside air, and without the requirements of having to frequently clean the device or move large volumes of air or water to achieve the desired air temperature.

[0008] Aspects of the present invention fulfill these needs and provide further related advantages as described in the following summary. SUMMARY

[0009] Aspects of the present invention teach certain benefits in construction and use which give rise to the exemplary advantages described below. [0010] The present invention solves the problems described above by providing an evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle. In at least one embodiment, the apparatus provides a housing positioned substantially in front of a vehicle evaporator of the air conditioning system and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing. An at least one thermal core is positioned within the housing. The at least one thermal core comprises an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer sandwiched between a pair of substantially planar thermal layers. An at least one fluid line is in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer. Thus, as air from a vehicle blower of the air conditioning system moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent an exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle. [0011] Other features and advantages of aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following more detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of aspects of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] The accompanying drawings illustrate aspects of the present invention. In such drawings:

[0013] Figure 1 is a partial perspective view of an exemplary evaporative HVAC apparatus integrated into an exemplary HVAC duct system, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0014] Figure 2 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 2-2 of Figure 1 , in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0015] Figure 3 is an enlarged cross-sectional view taken of the encircled area 3 of Figure 2, in accordance with at least one embodiment; [0016] Figure 4 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 4-4 of Figure 2, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0017] Figure 5 is a cross-sectional view, with portions shown in phantom, of a substantially rectangular-shaped evaporative HVAC apparatus, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0018] Figure 6 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 6-6 of Figure 5, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0019] Figure 7 is a partial exploded view of a further exemplary evaporative HVAC apparatus, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0020] Figure 8 is a perspective view of a further exemplary evaporative HVAC apparatus, with a portion of an enclosure of the apparatus omitted for clarity purposes, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0021] Figure 9 is a partial perspective view of a further exemplary embodiment of a substantially planar-shaped thermal core, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0022] Figure 10 is a partial cross-sectional view taken along line 10-10 of Figure 9, in accordance with at least one embodiment; [0023] Figure 11 is a simplified schematic view of a plurality of substantially planar-shaped thermal cores positioned within an exemplary HVAC system, in accordance with at least one embodiment; [0024] Figure 12 is a simplified schematic view of a further exemplary HVAC apparatus as installed in a vehicle, in accordance with at least one embodiment;

[0025] Figure 13 is a partial cross-sectional view taken along line 13-13 of Figure 12, in accordance with at least one embodiment; and

[0026] Figure 14 is a partial cross-sectional view taken along line 14-14 of Figure 12, in accordance with at least one embodiment.

[0027] The above described drawing figures illustrate aspects of the invention in at least one of its exemplary embodiments, which are further defined in detail in the following description. Features, elements, and aspects of the invention that are referenced by the same numerals in different figures represent the same, equivalent, or similar features, elements, or aspects, in accordance with one or more embodiments. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0028] Turning now to Fig. 1 , there is shown a partial perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of an evaporative HVAC apparatus 20. As shown best in Fig. 2, the apparatus 20 comprises, in the exemplary embodiment, an at least one housing 22 having an inner surface 24 that defines a substantially tubular-shaped air passage 26 extending through the housing 22. An at least one wicking layer 28, having a first surface 32 and an opposing second surface 33 (Fig. 3), is formed immediately adjacent to at least a portion of the inner surface 24 of the housing 22. Additionally, an at least one thermal layer 30, also having a first surface 38 and an opposing second surface 39 (Fig. 3), is formed immediately adjacent to the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28, thereby sandwiching the wicking layer 28 between the thermal layer 30 and the inner surface 24 of the housing 22 and forming a substantially tubular-shaped thermal core 84 (Fig. 4). Thus, as shown best in Fig. 4, because the air passage 26 is substantially tubular-shaped, the thermal layer 30, in turn, is also substantially tubular-shaped. However, in at least one alternate embodiment, as discussed further below, each of the housing 22, wicking layer 28 and thermal layer 30 may take on any other size, shape, dimensions or configuration - now known or later developed - dependent, at least in part, on the particular context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized. The housing 22 further provides an at least one fluid inlet aperture 34 through which a fluid line 36 extends a distance into the housing 22 so as to be in fluid communication with the wicking layer 28. In short, and as discussed further below, in at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 is configured for producing relatively cold or hot air by selectively delivering fluid (such as water for example) to the wicking layer 28 via the fluid line 36 which saturates the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, permeates the thermal layer 30 such that a chilling or heating of the entire thermal layer 30 (depending, in part, on the temperature of the fluid and/or the temperature of the air moving through the air passage 26) occurs as a result of the fluid within the thermal layer 30 evaporating into the air located immediately adjacent an exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 (referred to herein as "nano-evaporation"), thereby changing the temperature of the air passing through the air passage 26. In other words, providing relatively cold fluid to the wicking layer 28 will operate to cool the thermal layer 30, such that air passing over the thermal layer 30 will also be cooled. Similarly, providing relatively hot fluid to the wicking layer 28 will operate to heat the thermal layer 30, such that air passing over the thermal layer 30 will also be heated. It should be noted that while water is the exemplary fluid utilized by the apparatus 20 in at least one embodiment, in further embodiments, any other fluid or combination of fluids, now known or later developed, may be substituted so long as the apparatus 20 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein.

[0029] In at least one embodiment, the housing 22 is constructed out of metal. However, in further embodiments, the housing 22 may be constructed out of any other material, or combination of materials, now known or later developed - such as plastic for example - so long as said materials are capable of allowing the housing 22 to substantially carry out the functionality described herein. In at least one embodiment, the housing 22 provides a substantially uniform outer surface 40, except for diameter step-downs 42 at each of a first end 44 and second end 46 of the air passage 26 where the housing 22 is to be positioned in-line with additional air ducts 48 (Fig. 1) - the step-downs 42 forming duct connector segments 50. However, in further embodiments, the housing 22 may take on any other size, shape or dimensions, now known or later conceived, dependent at least in part on the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be used. For example, in at least one such further embodiment as illustrated in Figs. 5 and 6, the housing 22 may be substantially rectangular-shaped. Additionally, in further embodiments, the first and second ends 44 and 46 of the air passage 26 may be linearly offset from one another - i.e., the first and second ends 44 and 46 of the air passage 26 may not be in linear alignment in further embodiments. Thus, the particular sizes, shapes and dimensions shown in the accompanying drawing figures are merely exemplary and should not be read as limiting in any way.

[0030] In at least one embodiment, the wicking layer 28 is constructed out of an absorbent microfiber material capable of being saturated with fluid. However, in further embodiments, the wicking layer 28 may be constructed out of any other material, or combination of materials, now known or later developed - such as cloth, cotton, paper wadding, cellulose fiber, or superabsorbent polymers for example - so long as said materials are capable of allowing the wicking layer 28 to substantially carry out the functionality described herein. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the wicking layer 28 is permanently affixed to the inner surface 24 of the housing 22 using an appropriate adhesive or bonding agent - dependent, in part, on the materials of which the wicking layer 28 and housing 22 are each constructed. However, in further embodiments, any other method, material, or combination of materials - now known or later developed - capable of permanently affixing the wicking layer 28 to the inner surface 24 of the housing 22 may be substituted. In still further embodiments, the wicking layer 28 is removably engaged with the inner surface 24 of the housing 22, thereby allowing the wicking layer 28 to be selectively replaced as needed. As mentioned above, the wicking layer 28 is formed immediately adjacent to at least a portion of the inner surface 24 of the housing 22. In at least one embodiment, the entire inner surface 24 of the housing 22 is covered by the wicking layer 28, which provides a wicking surface for the thermal layer 30, as discussed further below. In at least one such embodiment, shown best in Fig. 2, the wicking layer 28 is recessed proximal the first and second ends 44 and 46 of the air passage 26, immediately adjacent the duct connector segments 50, so as to minimize fluid leakage into the connecting air ducts 48.

[0031] In at least one embodiment, the thermal layer 30 is constructed of a gypsum-ceramic casting. In a bit more detail, in one such embodiment, the gypsum-ceramic casting consists of two parts gypsum to one part ceramic material formed from heated and expanded sand, providing a material of optimal weight and efficiency for casting. The resulting ceramic matrix is a lightweight castable material, providing strength as well as weight savings. This same optimal mixture ratio also provides a casting material that can sufficiently bond to the wicking layer 28. Thus, with the wicking layer 28 positioned against the inner surface 24 of the housing 22, the gypsum-ceramic casting may be formed in situ to closely conform to the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, the inner surface 24 of the housing 22, thereby overlying the wicking layer 28. Additionally, this gypsum-ceramic casting provides an internal structure that permits a faster migration of fluid through the thermal layer 30, as well as the capability to retain more fluid when fully saturated, the importance of which is discussed further below. In an enclosed environment, the gypsum-ceramic casting allows the thermal layer to absorb humidity from the air to essentially create the effect of a humidifier. Thus, depending on the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be used, the apparatus 20 is capable of cooling, heating, humidifying and dehumidifying the surrounding environment. In at least one such embodiment, an internal structure of the casting contains foamed ceramic. In further embodiments, the thermal layer 30 may be constructed out of any other material, or combination of materials, now known or later developed - such as other types of hydrophilic gypsum-based materials, terracotta, or ceramic for example - so long as said materials are capable of allowing the thermal layer 30 to substantially carry out the functionality described herein.

[0032] In at least one embodiment, the thermal layer 30 includes anti-microbial material for better preventing mold, bacteria or viruses from developing. In one such embodiment, the antimicrobial material comprises zinc powder. In another such embodiment, the anti-microbial material comprises silver. In still further embodiments, the anti-microbial material may comprise any other material or combination of materials, now known or later developed, having such antimicrobial properties. In an at least one further embodiment, as shown best in Fig. 2, the thermal layer 30 provides an at least one anti-microbial plate 52 - constructed of zinc metal or the like - positioned within the thermal layer 30 proximal a terminal end 54 of the at least one fluid line 36 such that the fluid passes over the anti-microbial plate 52 as it exits the fluid line 36. In at least one such embodiment, the anti-microbial plate 52 is configured for being selectively removable so as to be replaced as it erodes over time. In a still further such embodiment, where the thermal layer 30 is constructed of a gypsum-ceramic casting, the anti-microbial material is mixed into the gypsum-ceramic casting. In at least one alternate embodiment, the fluid itself contains anti-microbial additives. In still further embodiments, the fluid may contain scented oils or other types of scented fluids for adding a pleasant scent to the air as it passes through the air passage 26. In still further embodiments, the fluid may contain alcohol - or any other fluid or combinations of fluids having similar properties - for increasing the cooling effect as the fluid comes into contact with the air in the air passage 26.

[0033] In at least one alternate embodiment, the thermal layer 30 is constructed of a non- permeable material having sufficient thermal conductivity. In such alternate embodiments, fluid collected by the wicking layer 28 simply contacts the thermal layer 30 and, in turn, affects the temperature of the thermal layer 30. Accordingly, the temperature of air passing through the air passage 26 and over the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 is also affected - thereby providing a radiant heating or cooling rather than an evaporative heating or cooling. In other words, providing relatively cold fluid to the wicking layer 28 will operate to cool the thermal layer 30, such that air passing over the thermal layer 30 will also be cooled. Similarly, providing relatively hot fluid to the wicking layer 28 will operate to heat the thermal layer 30, such that air passing over the thermal layer 30 will also be heated. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the second surface 39 of the thermal layer 30 is permanently affixed to the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28 using an appropriate adhesive or bonding agent - dependent, in part, on the materials of which the thermal layer 30 and wicking layer 28 are each constructed. However, in further embodiments, any other method, material, or combination of materials - now known or later developed - capable of permanently affixing the second surface 39 of the thermal layer 30 to the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28 may be substituted. In still further embodiments, the second surface 39 of the thermal layer 30 is removably engaged with the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28, thereby allowing the thermal layer 30 to be selectively replaced as needed. [0034] In at least one embodiment, as illustrated best in Figs. 2 and 4, the first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28 is completely covered by the thermal layer 30 to ensure the formation of a dependable liquid pathway into the thermal layer 30 which forms the means for introducing sufficient liquid into the housing 22 in an appropriate manner to effectuate the efficient nano- evaporative heating or cooling of the thermal layer 30 and, in turn, the air flowing through the air passage 26. Additionally, in such an embodiment, the wicking layer 28 assists in the even application of fluid to the thermal layer 30.

[0035] It should be noted that, in at least one alternate embodiment, the thermal layer 30 may be omitted altogether such that nano-evaporation of the fluid occurs across the exposed first surface 32 of the wicking layer 28 and affects the temperature of the air passing through the air passage 26. Furthermore, in at least one other alternate embodiment, the wicking layer 28 may be omitted altogether such that the fluid line 36 is in fluid communication with the thermal layer 30. [0036] In at least one embodiment, the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 is convoluted so as to maximize the surface area of the thermal layer 30. The greater the surface area of the thermal layer 30, over which air is able to pass, the greater effect the thermal layer 30 has on the temperature of the air passing through the air passage 26. The convoluted first surface 38 also facilitates in the rapid tumbling of the air that passes through the air passage 26, thereby assisting to provide an even distribution of air temperature by the thermal layer 30. In one such embodiment, as illustrated best in Fig. 2, the first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 provides a plurality of finger-like protrusions 56 extending inwardly within the air passage 26. However, it should be noted that the particular configuration of the first surface 38 shown in the accompanying drawing figures is merely exemplary and should not be read as limiting in any way. Accordingly, in further embodiments, the first surface 38 may take on any other size, shape, dimensions, or configurations now known or later conceived, so long as the thermal layer 30 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein.

[0037] In at least one embodiment, it is desirable that the fluid not "flood" or over-saturate the wicking layer 28. Accordingly, in at least one such embodiment as shown best in Figs. 1 and 2, the apparatus 20 provides a fluid injector 58 interconnected with the fluid line 36 for regulating the amount of fluid travelling to the wicking layer 28. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, an at least one fluid reservoir 59 (Fig. 8) is provided as part of the fluid injector 58, with a float regulator (not shown) utilized to obtain additional fluid from the fluid line 36 as needed to maintain a desired fluid level in the fluid reservoir 59 and fluid injector 58. It should be noted that while the fluid injector 58 is shown in the drawings as being positioned at the terminal end 54 of the fluid line 36, proximal the housing 22, in further embodiments, the fluid injector 58 may be interconnected with the fluid line 36 at any point along the fluid line 36, so long as the apparatus 20 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein.

[0038] In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 further provides a timer (not shown) and a variable control valve (also not shown) interconnected with the fluid line 36. As such, in much the same manner as drip irrigation provides controlled amounts of water to plants, so too, the timer and variable control valve supply fluid to the wicking layer 28 on a measured basis over time, eliminating the requirement to maintain a standing fluid reservoir 59.

[0039] In at least one embodiment, as illustrated best in Figs. 5 and 6, the housing 22 further provides more than one fluid inlet aperture 34 such that a separate fluid line 36 extends through each fluid inlet aperture 34 so as to be in fluid communication with the wicking layer 28. Accordingly, depending on the size of the housing 22 and the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized, the number of fluid inlet apertures 34 and corresponding fluid lines 36 may vary in order to provide an appropriate amount of fluid to the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, the thermal layer 30. In other words, the larger the housing 22, the more fluid inlet apertures 34 and corresponding fluid lines 36 that will likely be required.

[0040] In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 further provides an at least one blower 60 in fluid communication with the air passage 26 and configured for moving air through the air passage 26. As such, depending at least in part on the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized, the blower 60 may be positioned upstream from the air passage 26 (for pushing air through the air passage 26) or downstream from the air passage 26 (for pulling air through the air passage 26). In a still further embodiment, a first blower 60 is positioned upstream from the air passage 26, while a further blower 60 is positioned downstream from the air passage 26. The blower 60 may comprise any type of fan or other blowing device, now known or later developed, capable of moving a sufficient amount of air through the air passage 26. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 provides a power supply 62 and a length of electrical wiring 64 interconnecting the power supply 62 and the blower 60 for selectively powering the blower 60. In still further embodiments, the power supply 62 is electrically connected to any other components of the apparatus 20 that require electrical power.

[0041] In at least one embodiment, the at least one blower 60 is configured for moving a supply of ambient, unconditioned air through the air passage 26. However, in at least one further embodiment, as shown in Fig. 1 , the apparatus 20 provides an at least one booster unit 66 in fluid communication with the air passage 26 of the housing 22 and configured for appropriately modifying the temperature of the air before it enters the air passage 26. Where the apparatus 20 is intended to produce relatively cold air, the at least one booster unit 66 is configured for generating relatively cold air, thereby effectively pre-cooling the air before it is moved through the air passage 26 so that the apparatus 20 may produce even colder air. In one such embodiment, the booster unit 66 is an air-conditioner. However, in further such embodiments, the booster unit 66 may comprise any other device or combination of devices, now known or later developed, capable of generating an appropriate amount of relatively cold air. Similarly, where the apparatus 20 is intended to produce relatively hot air, the at least one booster unit 66 is configured for generating relatively hot air, thereby effectively pre-heating the air before it is moved through the air passage 26 so that the apparatus 20 may produce even hotter air. In one such embodiment, the booster unit 66 is a heater. However, in further such embodiments, the booster unit 66 may comprise any other device or combination of devices, now known or later developed, capable of generating an appropriate amount of relatively hot air. Thus, in at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 is capable of functioning as a hybrid heating or cooling system, utilizing both nano-evaporation as well as traditional air-conditioning or heating. [0042] Thus, again, in at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 is designed to allow an efficient amount of air into the air passage 26 where it passes over the convoluted thermal layer 30 to achieve a desired degree of air heating or cooling (depending on the context in which the apparatus 20 is utilized) in the shortest air passage 26 possible. Decreasing the size of the housing 22 (and, thus, the air passage 26) as well as minimizing the overall weight of the apparatus 20 promotes ease of installation while still achieving a desired degree of heating or cooling.

[0043] Additionally, in at least one embodiment where the apparatus 20 provides at least one booster unit 66, since the apparatus 20 in such an embodiment effectively leverages the air source of the booster unit 66, the apparatus 20 is capable of dramatically reducing the overall cost of cooling or heating in at least two ways. First, each cooling or heating cycle performed by the booster unit 66 results in a portion of the emitted cold or hot air being absorbed by the thermal layer 30 as the air moves through the air passage 26. As such, once the booster unit 66 shuts off, the apparatus 20 is able to continue producing cold or hot air for a period of time by virtue of the thermal layer 30 retaining the cold or heat so as to continue affecting the temperature of air that moves through the air passage 26. Thus, the necessary run-time of the booster unit 66 is reduced, which reduces the overall energy consumption and extends the life of the booster unit 66. Second, in at least one embodiment where the booster unit 66 provides relatively cold air, the heat sink-like thermodynamics employed by the thermal layer 30 function in such a way as to result in more cold air being emitted by the apparatus 20 than what is actually being generated by the booster unit 66. As such, in at least one embodiment, the output of the apparatus 20 can be three to four times greater than the input, for example. Thus, where the booster unit 66 is a six-amp, 1 10-volt air-conditioner, for example, the booster unit 66 is able to produce three to four times more chilling effect - with the assistance of the at least one housing 22 - than its nominal rating would indicate. With the addition of low amperage fans, the apparatus 20 can result in energy savings as high as seventy-five percent (75%). Furthermore, unlike traditional refrigerated air-conditioning systems, the apparatus 20 - in at least one embodiment that incorporates at least one booster unit 66 providing relatively cold air - is capable of using less than twenty-five percent (25%) of the energy required by traditional air-conditioning systems to produce an equivalent amount of cooling due to its "hybrid" construction. In at least one embodiment, the various components of the apparatus 20 require less than seven amps of energy, which is roughly equivalent to the energy requirements of a consumer-grade vacuum cleaner. In at least one further embodiment, where the apparatus 20 does not incorporate the booster unit 66, the apparatus 20 requires less than one amp of energy, which is roughly equivalent to the energy requirements of a 75-watt light bulb. Additionally, while traditional evaporative coolers typically raise the surrounding humidity level by sixty percent (60%), the apparatus 20 - in at least one embodiment - only raises the surrounding humidity level by roughly eighteen percent (18%), and only uses an average of .013 gallons of water per hour during continuous operation.

[0044] In at least one embodiment, as shown in Fig. 7, where the apparatus 20 provides at least one booster unit 66, the booster unit 66 has an at least one coil 68 that is exposed to air such that condensation 70 is allowed to form on the coil 68. A moisture collection unit 72 is positioned substantially underneath the coil 68 for catching the condensation 70 as it drips from the coil 68. In at least one such embodiment, the moisture collection unit 72 comprises a container 74 configured for holding a volume of collected condensation 68. The moisture collection unit 72 further provides a pump 76 interconnected between the container 74 and the fluid line 36 such that the pump 76 is capable of recycling the condensation 70 by delivering it to the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, the thermal layer 30. In at least one embodiment, the moisture collection unit 72 further comprises an at least one water filter 78 positioned and configured for filtering the condensation 70 before it passes into the container 74. It should be noted that while the water filter 78 is shown in the drawings as being positioned between the coil 68 and the container 74, in further embodiments, the water filter 78 may be positioned at any point between the coil 68 and the fluid line 36, so long as the apparatus 20 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein. Accordingly, in at least one such embodiment, the filtered condensation 70 held in the container can serve as a source of potable water. Thus, the more humid the environment in which the apparatus 20 is located, the more condensation 70 (and, in turn, potable water) that is generated and collected. [0045] In at least one embodiment, as shown in Fig. 8, the apparatus 20 further provides an at least one air purifier 86 in fluid communication with the air passage 26 and configured for removing unwanted particulates and odors from the air as it moves through the apparatus 20. In at least one such embodiment, the at least one air purifier 86 is a bi-polar ionization air purifier such as described in at least U.S. Patent Nos. 8,747,754 and 8,922,971 , the contents of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference. In at least one alternate embodiment, the at least one air purifier 86 is a HEPA filter. In still further alternate embodiments, the at least one air purifier 86 may be any other type of device (or combination of devices) - now known or later developed - capable of allowing the system 20 to substantially carry out the functionality described herein. In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 further provides an at least one air filter 88 positioned and configured for assisting in removing unwanted particulates from the air as it enters the apparatus 20.

[0046] As mentioned above, in at least one alternate embodiment, each of the housing 22, wicking layer 28 and thermal layer 30 may take on any size, shape, dimensions or configuration - now known or later developed - dependent, at least in part, on the particular context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized. Thus, the present invention should not be read as being limited to only those embodiments shown and described. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the housing 22 may be omitted altogether. In at least one such alternate embodiment, as shown in Figs. 9 and 10, rather than the at least one wicking layer 28 and thermal layer 30 forming a substantially tubular-shaped thermal core 84, they instead form a substantially planar-shaped thermal core 84. In a bit more detail, in at least one such embodiment, rather than the wicking layer 28 being sandwiched between the thermal layer 30 and the inner surface 24 of the housing 22, the wicking layer 28 is instead sandwiched between an opposing pair of thermal layers 30, with each of the thermal layers 30 and wicking layer 28 being substantially planar. Additionally, the exposed first surface 38 of each of the thermal layers 30 is convoluted so as to maximize the surface area of each thermal layer 30. In at least one such embodiment, the first surface 38 of each thermal layer 30 provides a plurality of finger-like protrusions 56 extending outwardly in a direction substantially away from the wicking layer 28. However, again, it should be noted that the particular configuration of the first surface 38 shown in the accompanying drawing figures is merely exemplary and should not be read as limiting in any way. Accordingly, in further embodiments, the first surface 38 may take on any other size, shape, dimensions, or configurations now known or later conceived, so long as the at least one thermal layer 30 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein. With the wicking layer 28 and opposing pair of thermal layers 30 so configured, fluid that is delivered to the wicking layer 28 via the at least one fluid line 36 is able to permeate both thermal layers 30 and evaporate into the air located immediately adjacent the respective exposed first surfaces 38, thereby changing the temperature of the air passing over the opposing thermal layers 30. In other words, in at least one embodiment, this substantially planar-shaped thermal core 84 essentially doubles the exposed surface area of the at least one thermal layer 30 over which air may pass. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 1 1 , depending on the dimensions of the space in which the thermal core 84 is to be positioned, a plurality of thermal cores 84 may be positioned in a spaced-apart arrangement (vertically and/or horizontally), such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores 84 (i.e., forming multiple air passages 26), for further increasing the exposed surface area of the at least one thermal layer 30 over which air may pass. In a still further alternate embodiment, the thermal layer 30 may be substantially spherical in shape (or a cube, pyramid, dodecahedron, octahedron, or any other three-dimensional shape), with the wicking layer 28 positioned within the three-dimensional thermal layer 30, substantially encompassed by the thermal layer 30.

[0047] As discussed in detail below, the apparatus 20 may be utilized in a variety of contexts. In each such context, as mentioned above, depending on the operational requirements of the apparatus 20 in a given context, the apparatus 20 may incorporate multiple blowers 60, multiple booster units 66, multiple fluid lines 36, and even multiple housings 22 (and air passages 26) in fluid communication with one another. [0048] In at least one embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 1 , the apparatus 20 is installed within an existing HVAC duct system of a building, with the housing 22 positioned proximal a room of the building to be heated or cooled. As such, the relatively hot or cold air produced by the housing 22 is discharged through an existing air register or diffuser 80. As noted above, the particular size, shape and dimensions of each of the components of the apparatus 20 are dependent in part on the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized. By way of example and not limitation, in at least one embodiment where the apparatus 20 is to be installed within an existing HVAC duct system of a building, the housing 22 is ten inches in diameter and twenty-four inches in length. With the at least one blower 60 capable of producing airflow in the four hundred to seven hundred cubic feet per minute ("cfm") range, the housing 22 so dimensioned is capable of cooling (or heating) and maintaining a working space of plus-or- minus one thousand cubic feet. By way of further example and not limitation, in such an embodiment where the apparatus 20 incorporates a fluid injector 58 having a fluid reservoir 59, the fluid reservoir 59 having dimensions of seven inches by four inches can provide an adequate amount of fluid for efficient operation of a housing 22 so dimensioned. By way of still further example and not limitation, in at least one embodiment, the fluid line 36 may be a low- flow water tube of the type typically used to supply water to consumer refrigerators. The resulting duct-located apparatus 20 provides a much more efficient way to regulate the temperature of a room, by further heating or cooling the incoming heated or cooled air, than is able to occur using a typical unassisted heating or air-conditioning system. In at least one further embodiment, the housing 22 (and air passage 26) may be interconnected with multiple ducts, each having a separate air register or diffuser 80 or, alternatively, each directing air through a single air register or diffuser 80.

[0049] In another embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 7, the apparatus 20 incorporates a plurality of housings 22 (and air passages 26) in fluid communication with one another that may be arranged in parallel or in series. When the housings 22 are arranged in series with one another, the blower 60 can be positioned at an intake end and used in tandem with a direction airflow nozzle 82 positioned at a discharge end to produce an enhanced cooling or heating outflow of air. Alternatively, when the housings 22 are arranged in parallel with one another, the apparatus 20 can provide a "bundle" of enhanced cooling or heating ducts that are capable of directing multiple streams of cooled or heated air to a desired location. In an alternate such embodiment, a single housing 22 may be large enough to provide multiple air passages 26 formed therewithin, each air passage 26 having a corresponding wicking layer 28 and thermal layer 30 as described above, with one or more of said multiple air passages 26 being in fluid communication with one another.

[0050] In yet another embodiment, as best illustrated in Fig. 8, the apparatus 20 may be sized for being portable or as a standalone personal heater or cooler for providing spot cooling or heating over a relatively smaller area. In such an embodiment, the apparatus 20 is relatively small and lightweight, with the various components of the apparatus 20 contained within an enclosure 90; thereby permitting a single person to transport the apparatus 20 to where it is needed for temporary cooling or heating, or for placement in a more permanent installation. Furthermore, because such an embodiment only requires water and enough electricity to power a small fan, the apparatus 20 can easily be powered by solar- or wind-generated electricity, or even by a relatively small generator. Such minimal requirements enable the apparatus 20 to be located off the grid, which can be very significant in third world countries where electricity distribution is limited and electricity production is erratic. Another benefit of at least one such embodiment is that the apparatus 20 requires no external venting for purposes of heat exhaust. In other words, in at least one embodiment where the apparatus 20 is used as an air cooler, no hot air is expelled from the apparatus 20. This is because the apparatus 20 provides the at least one fluid reservoir 59 positioned within the enclosure 90, the fluid reservoir 59 being in fluid communication with the at least one fluid line 36 and configured for supplying the fluid that is delivered to the at least one wicking layer 28 of the at least one thermal core 84. Accordingly, any heat that is generated by the various components of the apparatus 20 as a byproduct of the cooling process is naturally stored in the fluid that is contained in the fluid reservoir 59, given that fluid - particularly, water - tends to absorb and store heat better than air does. Furthermore, while the heat raises the temperature of the fluid in the fluid reservoir 59, that temperature is ultimately reduced as the fluid moves through the at least one thermal core 84 and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30. Thus, the apparatus 20 is capable of maintaining a balanced temperature within the enclosure 90 without any need for externally venting any generated heat.

[0051] In yet another embodiment, as illustrated in Figs. 12-14, the apparatus 20 may be sized and configured for being incorporated into an air conditioning system 98 of a vehicle 100 for increasing the performance of the vehicle air conditioning system 98 and/or allowing the vehicle 100 to incorporate a relatively smaller air conditioning system 98 without sacrificing the necessary cooling performance. In at least one such embodiment, the housing 22 of the apparatus 20 defines a frame within which a plurality of substantially planar-shaped thermal cores 84 are vertically oriented and positioned in a horizontally spaced-apart arrangement, such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores 84 (i.e., forming multiple air passages 26), for further increasing the exposed surface area of the at least one thermal layer 30 over which air may pass. In at least one alternate embodiment (not shown), the thermal cores 84 are horizontally oriented and positioned in a vertically spaced-apart arrangement within the housing 22. In at least one embodiment, the housing 22 is positioned substantially in front of a vehicle evaporator 102 of the air conditioning system 98, with the vehicle evaporator 102 positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower 104 of the air conditioning system 98. Thus, as the vehicle blower 104 moves air through/across the vehicle evaporator 102, the cooled air subsequently moves through the housing 22 and over the at least one thermal layer 30 of the spaced-apart thermal cores 84 which, in turn, further cools the air before it enters a cabin area (not shown) of the vehicle 100.

[0052] In at least one such embodiment, as illustrated in the cross-sectional view of Fig. 13, each of the thermal cores 84 is positioned within the housing 22 such that the exposed first surface 38 of each of the opposing thermal layers 30 faces outwardly away from the housing 22. In at least one alternate embodiment, as illustrated in the cross sectional view of Fig. 14, each of the thermal cores 84 is positioned within the housing 22 such that the exposed first surface 38 of each of the opposing thermal layers 30 faces the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 of the adjacently positioned thermal core 84. In at least one still further alternate embodiment (not shown), each of the spaced-apart thermal cores 84 provides a thermal layer 30 that circumferential ly encapsulates the wicking layer 28, such that the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 both faces outwardly away from the housing 22 and faces the exposed first surface 38 of the thermal layer 30 of the adjacently positioned thermal core 84. In at least one embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 14 and discussed in detail above, the exposed first surface 38 of each of the thermal layers 30 is convoluted so as to maximize the surface area of each thermal layer 30. However, again, it should be noted that the particular configuration of the first surface 38 shown in the accompanying drawing figures is merely exemplary and should not be read as limiting in any way. Accordingly, in further embodiments, the first surface 38 may take on any other size, shape, dimensions, or configurations now known or later conceived, so long as the at least one thermal layer 30 is capable of substantially carrying out the functionality described herein. For example, in at least one such further embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 13, the exposed first surface 38 of each of the thermal layers 30 may be uniformly rounded.

[0053] Referring again to Fig. 12, in at least one embodiment, an at least one vehicle reservoir 106 is in fluid communication with the vehicle evaporator 102 and configured for capturing and holding a volume of collected condensation 70 that may be formed by the vehicle evaporator 102 - condensation 70 which would otherwise simply fall to the ground and/or evaporate. An at least one condensation supply line 108 interconnects the vehicle evaporator 102 and the at least one vehicle reservoir 106, thereby allowing the condensation 70 to be captured and delivered to the at least one vehicle reservoir 106. Additionally, the at least one vehicle reservoir 106 is interconnected with the housing 22 by at least one fluid line 36, which allows an appropriate volume of the collected condensation 70 to be delivered to the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, the thermal layers 30 of each of the thermal cores 84 as needed. In at least one embodiment, the fluid inlet aperture 34 of the at least one fluid line 36 is positioned within a bottom surface 110 of the housing 22, such that any excess condensation 70 within the housing 22 and thermal cores 84 is able to naturally flow back down through the at least one fluid line 36 and into the at least one vehicle reservoir 106. Additionally, in at least one embodiment, the at least one vehicle reservoir 106 is in fluid communication with at least one pump 76 configured for circulating and recycling the captured condensation 70 - i.e., drawing condensation 70 from the vehicle evaporator 102 into the at least one vehicle reservoir 106, and delivering condensation 70 from the at least one vehicle reservoir 106 to the thermal cores 84 within the housing 22. In at least one embodiment, as illustrated best in Fig. 12, the at least one vehicle reservoir 106 provides a manual fill aperture 112 positioned and configured for allowing the vehicle reservoir 106 to be manually filled with additional fluid as needed. [0054] In at least one embodiment, as illustrated best in Fig. 14, the housing 22 provides a separate fluid inlet aperture 34 for each thermal core 84 positioned within the housing 22, through which a separate fluid line 36 extends a distance into the housing 22 so as to be in fluid communication with the wicking layer 28 of the respective thermal core 84. In at least one alternate embodiment, the wicking layer 28 of each thermal core 84 positioned within the housing 22 is in fluid communication with one another, thereby eliminating the need for the wicking layer 28 of each thermal core 84 to have its own separate fluid line 36.

[0055] Relatedly, in at least one embodiment, the housing 22 may be formed of the same materials as each of the thermal layers 30, as described above. In at least one still further embodiment, the housing 22 may be formed of the same materials as each of the thermal cores 84 - such that the housing 22 itself comprises a wicking layer 28 substantially encapsulated by a thermal layer 30 - which allows the wicking layers 28 of each of the thermal cores 84 to be in fluid communication with one another via the housing 22, thereby allowing a single fluid line 36 (via a single fluid inlet aperture 34) to deliver fluid to the entire apparatus 20. Such an embodiment also allows the housing 22 itself to assist in cooling the air that passes therethrough.

[0056] It is to be understood and appreciated that custom cooling or heating configurations might incorporate one or more of the above-described embodiments and associated components, alone or in combination, depending on the context in which the apparatus 20 is to be utilized.

[0057] As mentioned above, the apparatus 20 may be utilized in a variety of contexts. In fact, the range of contexts and applications is quite broad. For example, in at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 can be used in typical heating and cooling applications for residential properties, commercial properties, retail properties, industrial properties, warehouses, factories, vehicles, etc. Additional contexts include, but are not in any way limited to, schools, churches, clinics, hospitals, industrial shops and garages, clean rooms, cold storage facilities, refrigerated trucks, agricultural warehouses, animal husbandry structures, animal shelters, produce storage, grocery store produce sections, greenhouse heating and cooling, cooling grow lamps in indoor cultivation facilities, cooling photovoltaic cells, cooling high intensity lighting, cooling wine chillers and wine cellars, cooling the internal components of an HVAC unit, cooling vehicle parts such as radiators (by positioning the ceramic matrix around the radiator to help cool the water passing therethrough, for example) and engine components, make up air for commercial kitchens and laundry facilities, various military applications, temporary structures, replacements for outdoor misting systems, etc. In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 can also be used as a replacement for conventional air-conditioning or heating systems. In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 can also be used in a "spot cooling" or "spot heating" capacity in both indoor and outdoor environments.

[0058] In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 can also be used as a "pre-cooler" for an air-conditioner or a "pre-heater" for a heater. In such a context, since many traditional air- conditioner condensers operate at peak efficiency where the outside air temperature is ninety- five degrees Fahrenheit (95 °F) or less, the apparatus 20 is able to pre-cool the air to ensure that the air temperature is within the optimal range. Additionally, as mentioned above, once the air reaches the appropriate temperature such that the condenser shuts off (with the fan continuing to operate), the apparatus 20 is able to continue producing cold air for a period of time by virtue of the thermal layer 30 retaining the cold so as to continue affecting the temperature of air that moves through the air passage 26 and, in turn, the air conditioner ductwork. Thus, the necessary run-time of the condenser is reduced, which reduces the overall energy consumption and extends the life of the air conditioner. Similarly, the apparatus 20 can be adaptable to a broad range of water cooling and freezer applications as a cost-effective "pre- chiller."

[0059] In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 may be incorporated into either a return plenum 92 or a supply plenum 94 of an existing HVAC system 96 - again, for assisting in maintaining a desired air temperature for a prolonged period of time so as to reduce the necessary run-time of the HVAC system 96. In at least one such embodiment, where the thermal core 84 is substantially planar-shaped, a plurality of such thermal cores 84 may be positioned in a spaced-apart arrangement (vertically and/or horizontally), such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores 84, for further increasing the exposed surface area of the at least one thermal layer 30 over which air may pass.

[0060] In at least one embodiment, where the thermal core 84 is substantially planar-shaped, an at least one of such thermal cores 84 may be mounted in a spaced-apart fashion relative to a wall or a ceiling, substantially parallel with the wall or ceiling, such that a first one of the thermal layers 30 faces the wall or ceiling and the opposing second one of the thermal layers 30 faces away from the wall or ceiling (i.e., faces into the room in which the wall or ceiling is positioned). In at least one such embodiment, at least one blower 60 is positioned for moving air across the first one of the thermal layers 30, around an edge of the thermal core 84 and into the room in which the wall or ceiling is positioned. Additionally, in at least one such embodiment, the second one of the thermal layers 30 may have a porous, perforated or stained aesthetic design applied thereto, in order to make the thermal core 84 more visually appealing without hindering the functionality of the thermal layer 30. Additionally, in at least one such embodiment, at least one moisture collection unit 72 may be positioned substantially underneath the thermal core 84, for catching excess fluid that may drip from the thermal core 84, so that the excess fluid may be recycled by delivering it back to the wicking layer 28 and, in turn, the opposing thermal layers 30. [0061] In at least one embodiment, the apparatus 20 may be utilized in the context of cooling or heating water (or some other fluid) rather than air, essentially allowing water to pass over the first surface 38 of the at least one thermal layer 30 rather than air. In at least one still further embodiment, both air and water pass through (or across) the thermal core 84, such that the air temperature is changed by the first surface 38 of the at least one thermal layer 30 which, in turn, changes the temperature of the water.

[0062] It should be noted that the above examples are intended to be a mere subset of all possible contexts in which the apparatus 20 may be utilized and are simply being provided to illustrate the wide variety of those contexts. Ultimately, the apparatus 20 may be utilized in virtually any context where heated or cooled air or water is desired.

[0063] Aspects of the present specification may also be described as follows:

[0064] 1. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing; an at least one thermal core positioned within the housing and comprising: an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface; a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface; the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers; and an at least one fluid line in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer; whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle. [0065] 2. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiment 1 , wherein the at least one wicking layer is constructed out of an absorbent microfiber material capable of being saturated with fluid. [0066] 3. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-2, wherein each of the thermal layers is constructed of a gypsum-ceramic casting.

[0067] 4. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-3, wherein the gypsum-ceramic casting consists of two parts gypsum to one part ceramic material formed from heated and expanded sand.

[0068] 5. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-4, wherein the ceramic material is foamed ceramic. [0069] 6. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-5, wherein each of the thermal layers includes an anti-microbial material for better preventing mold, bacteria or viruses from developing.

[0070] 7. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-6, wherein the anti- microbial material comprises an at least one anti-microbial plate, constructed of zinc metal, positioned within each of the thermal layers proximal a terminal end of the at least one fluid line, such that the fluid passes over the anti-microbial plate as it exits the at least one fluid line.

[0071] 8. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-7, wherein the first surface of each of the thermal layers is convoluted so as to maximize the surface area of each of the thermal layers.

[0072] 9. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-8, wherein the first surface of each of the thermal layers provides a plurality of finger-like protrusions extending outwardly in a direction substantially away from the at least one wicking layer.

[0073] 10. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-9, further comprising a fluid injector interconnected with the at least one fluid line for regulating the amount of fluid travelling to the at least one wicking layer.

[0074] 1 1. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-10, further comprising an at least one booster unit positioned and configured for appropriately modifying the temperature of the air before it moves across the exposed first surface of the at least one thermal layer.

[0075] 12. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-11 , wherein: the booster unit has an at least one coil that is exposed to air such that condensation is allowed to form on the coil; and a moisture collection unit is positioned substantially underneath the coil for catching the condensation as it drips from the coil, the moisture collection unit comprising: a container configured for holding a volume of collected condensation; and a pump interconnected between the container and the at least one fluid line such that the pump is capable of recycling the condensation by delivering it to the at least one wicking layer and, in turn, the at least one thermal layer.

[0076] 13. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-12, wherein the moisture collection unit further comprises an at least one water filter positioned and configured for filtering the condensation before it passes into the container, whereby the filtered condensation held in the container is capable of serving as a source of potable water.

[0077] 14. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-13, further comprising an at least one air purifier positioned and configured for removing unwanted particulates and odors from the air.

[0078] 15. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-14, further comprising a plurality of thermal cores positioned within the housing in a spaced-apart arrangement, such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores.

[0079] 16. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-15, wherein the thermal cores are vertically oriented within the housing and positioned in a horizontally spaced- apart arrangement. [0080] 17. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-16, wherein the thermal cores are horizontally oriented within the housing and positioned in a vertically spaced- apart arrangement.

[0081] 18. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-17, wherein each of the thermal cores is positioned within the housing such that the exposed first surface of each of the opposing thermal layers faces outwardly away from the housing.

[0082] 19. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-18, wherein each of the thermal cores is positioned within the housing such that the exposed first surface of each of the opposing thermal layers faces the exposed first surface of the thermal layer of an adjacently positioned thermal core.

[0083] 20. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-19, further comprising an at least one vehicle reservoir configured for capturing and holding a volume of condensation that may be formed by the vehicle evaporator. [0084] 21. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-20, further comprising an at least one condensation supply line extending between the vehicle evaporator and the at least one vehicle reservoir for allowing the condensation from the vehicle evaporator to be delivered to the at least one vehicle reservoir.

[0085] 22. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-21 , wherein the at least one fluid line extends between the at least one vehicle reservoir and the at least one wicking layer. [0086] 23. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-22, wherein the housing provides an at least one fluid inlet aperture through which the at least one fluid line extends a distance into the housing so as to be in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer. [0087] 24. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-23, wherein the at least one fluid inlet aperture is positioned within a bottom surface of the housing, such that any excess condensation within the housing and thermal cores is able to naturally flow back down through the at least one fluid line and into the at least one vehicle reservoir. [0088] 25. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-24, further comprising an at least one pump configured for drawing condensation from the vehicle evaporator into the at least one vehicle reservoir, and selectively delivering condensation from the at least one vehicle reservoir to the at least one wicking layer. [0089] 26. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-25, wherein the at least one vehicle reservoir provides a manual fill aperture positioned and configured for allowing the vehicle reservoir to be manually filled with an additional volume of fluid as needed.

[0090] 27. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-26, wherein the housing is formed of a gypsum-ceramic casting.

[0091] 28. The evaporative HVAC apparatus according to embodiments 1-27, wherein the housing is formed of an absorbent microfiber material, capable of being saturated with fluid, substantially encapsulated by a gypsum-ceramic casting, thereby allowing the at least one wicking layer of the at least one thermal core to be in fluid communication with one another.

[0092] 29. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing; a plurality of thermal cores positioned within the housing in a spaced-apart arrangement, such that air is able to pass between the thermal cores, each of the thermal cores comprising: an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface; a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface; the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers; and an at least one fluid line in fluid communication with the at least one wicking layer; whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle.

[0093] 30. An evaporative HVAC apparatus for use in an air conditioning system of a vehicle, the air conditioning system including a vehicle evaporator positioned substantially in front of a vehicle blower for moving air through the vehicle evaporator, the apparatus comprising: a housing positioned substantially in front of the vehicle evaporator and having an inner surface that defines an air passage extending through the housing; an at least one thermal core positioned within the housing and comprising: an at least one absorbent, substantially planar wicking layer having a first surface and an opposing second surface; a pair of substantially planar thermal layers each having a first surface and an opposing second surface; the second surface of a first one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the first surface of the at least one wicking layer; and the second surface of a second one of the thermal layers formed immediately adjacent to the second surface of the at least one wicking layer, such that the at least one wicking layer is sandwiched between the pair of thermal layers; an at least one vehicle reservoir configured for capturing and holding a volume of condensation that may be formed by the vehicle evaporator; and an at least one fluid line extending between the at least one vehicle reservoir and the at least one wicking layer, thereby allowing a volume of condensation within the at least one vehicle reservoir to be selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer; whereby, as air from the vehicle blower moves through the vehicle evaporator and subsequently through the housing, a fluid is selectively delivered to the at least one wicking layer through the at least one fluid line which, in turn, permeates each of the thermal layers and evaporates into the air located immediately adjacent the exposed first surface of each of the thermal layers, thereby affecting the temperature of said air before it enters a cabin area of the vehicle. [0094] In closing, regarding the exemplary embodiments of the present invention as shown and described herein, it will be appreciated that an evaporative HVAC apparatus is disclosed. Because the principles of the invention may be practiced in a number of configurations beyond those shown and described, it is to be understood that the invention is not in any way limited by the exemplary embodiments, but is generally directed to an evaporative HVAC apparatus and is able to take numerous forms to do so without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It will also be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited to the particular geometries and materials of construction disclosed, but may instead entail other functionally comparable structures or materials, now known or later developed, without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Furthermore, the various features of each of the above-described embodiments may be combined in any logical manner and are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention.

[0095] Groupings of alternative embodiments, elements, or steps of the present invention are not to be construed as limitations. Each group member may be referred to and claimed individually or in any combination with other group members disclosed herein. It is anticipated that one or more members of a group may be included in, or deleted from, a group for reasons of convenience and/or patentability. When any such inclusion or deletion occurs, the specification is deemed to contain the group as modified thus fulfilling the written description of all Markush groups used in the appended claims.

[0096] Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing a characteristic, item, quantity, parameter, property, term, and so forth used in the present specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term "about." As used herein, the term "about" means that the characteristic, item, quantity, parameter, property, or term so qualified encompasses a range of plus or minus ten percent above and below the value of the stated characteristic, item, quantity, parameter, property, or term. Accordingly, unless indicated to the contrary, the numerical parameters set forth in the specification and attached claims are approximations that may vary. At the very least, and not as an attempt to limit the application of the doctrine of equivalents to the scope of the claims, each numerical indication should at least be construed in light of the number of reported significant digits and by applying ordinary rounding techniques. Notwithstanding that the numerical ranges and values setting forth the broad scope of the invention are approximations, the numerical ranges and values set forth in the specific examples are reported as precisely as possible. Any numerical range or value, however, inherently contains certain errors necessarily resulting from the standard deviation found in their respective testing measurements. Recitation of numerical ranges of values herein is merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate numerical value falling within the range. Unless otherwise indicated herein, each individual value of a numerical range is incorporated into the present specification as if it were individually recited herein.

[0097] The terms "a," "an," "the" and similar referents used in the context of describing the present invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., "such as") provided herein is intended merely to better illuminate the present invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention otherwise claimed. No language in the present specification should be construed as indicating any non- claimed element essential to the practice of the invention.

[0098] Specific embodiments disclosed herein may be further limited in the claims using consisting of or consisting essentially of language. When used in the claims, whether as filed or added per amendment, the transition term "consisting of" excludes any element, step, or ingredient not specified in the claims. The transition term "consisting essentially of" limits the scope of a claim to the specified materials or steps and those that do not materially affect the basic and novel characteristic(s). Embodiments of the present invention so claimed are inherently or expressly described and enabled herein.

[0099] While aspects of the invention have been described with reference to at least one exemplary embodiment, it is to be clearly understood by those skilled in the art that the invention is not limited thereto. Rather, the scope of the invention is to be interpreted only in conjunction with the appended claims and it is made clear, here, that the inventor(s) believe that the claimed subject matter is the invention.