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BLUFFDALE - The code name, Space Beast, was one they came up with in the wee hours of the night.
Tyler Lyon, Daniel Winegar and Chad Thornley were overtired and giddy as they tackled a science fair project. Their idea: Eliminate the use of Freon in automobile air-conditioning systems by relying on the Peltier effect - of course.
Today, the young inventors say, U.S. drivers use about 7.9 billion gallons of fuel each year to run their air-conditioners, which draw power from the engine. By adopting their contraption - which taps into the electrical system, using fans to blow hot air through five Peltier chips and then releasing cold air - they say the country stands to save 3.9 billion gallons of fuel annually, or about $10 billion based on current gas prices.
Furthermore, the product would free drivers from Freon - which despite improvements, remains an ozone-depleting chemical in current air-conditioners. The Peltier chips, which they purchased on eBay for $9.99 each, have a life span of 20 to 30 years and an unfaltering cooling capacity. And like every component in the Space Beast, which can be minimized in size to about 2 inches in width, the chips are recyclable.