Qatar’s ‘Dr Cool’ keeps World Cup stadiums chilly with solar-powered AC

Saturday, May 21, 2022

DOHA: Qatar has become almost a byword for scorching heat, but some fans will still take a sweater to World Cup stadiums because of state-of-the-art air conditioning that its mastermind says will become the norm for mega sports events.

Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, nicknamed “Dr Cool”, worked for 13 years on the solar-powered cooling system that he says will keep the players and turf healthy and even eliminate body odour in a packed stadium.

The mercury can hit 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) during the Gulf state’s blistering summers, which is why this year’s World Cup was moved to the winter.

But even with maximum temperatures down to around 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) for the tournament in November and December, cool air will still be pumped out onto the players and watching fans.

Stadium cooling is nothing new. The Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints American football team, has 9,000 tonnes of air conditioning equipment.

“Dr Cool”, a professor of engineering at Qatar University who also helped develop cooling for the Ford Mondeo car, has however developed a system that World Cup organisers say is 40 percent more “sustainable” than existing techniques.

Seven of the eight stadiums are air-conditioned at a World Cup that organisers insist will be carbon-neutral.

At the 40,000-capacity Al Janoub Stadium, which will hold seven games including holders France’s first match, Saud said a two-metre-high “completely isolated bubble” of cool air will envelop the pitch and stands.

Inside the bubble, players and fans will be kept at 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) by jets blasting air at the pitchside and under spectators’ seats.

Sensors around the stadium keep the temperature constant and even adjust air flows for seats in the shade or sun.

The rising air is sucked back into the stadium cooling system, cleaned by water kept at a brisk 7 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) and pumped out again by the jets.

“The players will have the best experience of their lives,” said Saud, highlighting how the chilled air would prevent injuries and illness suffered in extreme heat.

The power for the system comes from a giant solar farm in the desert outside the capital Doha, he added. The same technology is being used in greenhouses where Qatar grows increasing amounts of its own food.