The Solution to Sydney Opera House’s Air Conditioning System

The Sydney Opera House is an iconic venue in Sydney, Australia. Despite the stunning design and its profound craftsmanship, there is a problem with its air conditioning system.

The Sydney Opera House is surrounded by the harbor sea waters which effectively uses sea water to cool its air conditioning motors. Unfortunately, there is a major problem when using salty sea water to cool motors and that is corrosion.

Corrosion is where two or more molecules would react together to eat away one or the other, this is also known as rust. The internals of the Sydney Opera House air conditioning system use various metals to react with the sea water. For example, copper and steel are used to separate the sea water molecules and give off hydrogen gas. However, steel reacts when it is met with sea water and this causes it to rust, this can be very unsafe for operation of the air conditioner as it can cause severe damage. Copper on the other hand is far less reactive than steel and therefore it doesn’t rust.

To fix this issue we must first find out why steel rusts and copper doesn’t. Thankfully, the issue has been fixed with a simple solution and all it requires is a block of metal which is going to act as a sacrificial element. They could use gold as it is far less reactive than copper or steel but it is very expensive so they use zinc. Zinc is cheap and in this case is the sacrificial element. Zinc is more reactive than steel is when met with the salty sea water and therefore steel does not rust.

  • The zinc block in the opera house is approximately 15x15x3cm block which is renewed every twelve months as the sea water corrodes it.

In conclusion, to fix metals from corrosion in the Sydney Opera House’s air conditioning system is to use a sacrificial element which in this case is zinc as it helps prevent steel from rusting therefore, zinc is used for corrosion.

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