As the 2022 FIFA World Cup heats up in Qatar ahead of Sunday’s final, air conditioning systems in the stadiums are providing a cool and comfortable environment for players and fans despite daytime temperatures in Qatar’s desert climate regularly exceeding 30 degrees Celsius.
Seven of Qatar’s eight World Cup stadiums have been equipped with the air conditioning systems, the first of their kind in the world.
The system uses solar thermal energy to cool water to seven degrees Celsius, which is then used to cool air which is pumped through vents around the field. Large 10 centimeter diameter vents are pointed at the field to keep the playing surface cool, while smaller vents underneath the stands and spectator seats keep the cool air flowing for the fans.
The air conditioning system, which is turned on about two hours before kick-off, is designed to keep the ambient temperature in the stadium at around 20 to 25 degrees with cool air flowing through more than 3,000 air vents in each stadium.
“The cooling works really well. It is actually sometimes too cold in the stadium. Particularly if you are sitting near the air vents, you have to put a jacket on,” said an Australian fan named Wilfred.
“During the World Cup, I have watched four games. I think that the air conditioning system in these stadiums are great. There is no feeling of stuffiness at all. The vents are located under the seat, and airflow blow out down from our ankles. The effect is obvious, it is very cool,” said Yu Baowen, a football fan from China.
The cooling system was developed by Dr. Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering at Tar University. The designs of the seven air-conditioned stadiums are aimed at reducing the heat from the sun while allowing enough light through to keep the grass on the pitch growing while keeping cooled air trapped inside the venues.
Some stadiums are also equipped with retractable roofs, which can be adjusted to optimize the environmental conditions in the stadiums.
The system is not intended to cool an entire stadium, with each cooling system only designed to work on specific areas at specific times, Ghana says. He says the cooling systems in the stadia consume one-fifth of the energy used to run an airport departure lounge of the same size.
The use of new technologies and new materials has also helped designers and engineers deliver a comfortable environment to fans and players alike.
“We used PDFE (polytetrafluoroethylene material) roofing membrane that has a good light transmission that is needed to get sunlight inside the stadium, which is also good for grass growth. The material is also strong in heat resistance, which means more energy could be saved and temperature of the pitch can be lowered in a very short time. We also use a lot of new materials as insulation coating, such as nano-materials, the effect is still quite good,” said Wang Lei, the person in charge of the construction of Lusail Stadium, which will host Sunday’s final.
The cooling technology is being rolled out for other applications in Qatar including on farms, where the system allows for the growing of fruit and vegetables which normally would not thrive in the hot desert climate.
Similar air cooling technology has also been installed at Katara Plaza, a shopping and leisure district in Qatar’s capital city of Doha.
Qatar has not patented the cooling system, and the technology is open to the world.