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PNNL receives $2.54 million toward buildings energy efficiency research

New project will improve air conditioner that doesn't run on electricity

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July 12, 2010 Share This!

  • Researchers at PNNL will look for ways to improve alternative air conditioning technology, called adsorption chilling, that uses waste heat instead of electricity to cool commercial buildings.

  • Metal Organic Heat Carriers (MOHC's) with trapped refrigerants could help researchers improve alternative air conditioning technology, called adsorption chilling, that uses low grade solar thermal or waste heat instead of electricity to cool commercial buildings. PNNL was awarded $2.54 million to lead this research from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency or DOE-ARPA-E.

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RICHLAND, Washington — The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has received $2.54 million to improve the efficiency and test new refrigerants in a type of air conditioning unit that runs on waste heat.  The funding was announced earlier today by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy — otherwise known as ARPA-E — and is part of the agency's Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices, or BEET-IT program.

PNNL will lead the research effort with companies Power Partners Inc., of Athens, Ga., and Arkema, of Philadelphia over the next three years.  Together they will design, assemble and test an adsorption chiller that takes advantage of PNNL's metal-organic heat carrier technology and new types of refrigerants. 

Researchers expect to achieve high efficiency in commercial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.  The adsorption chiller is a type of air conditioner that is powered by waste heat or by heat from solar collectors, has few moving parts and uses almost no electricity to operate.  The units are commercially available but PNNL's advanced materials have the potential to make them smaller, more efficient and affordable enough to be used more frequently in commercial buildings.

"More efficient methods of cooling represent a great opportunity to reduce energy consumption in buildings and in doing so greenhouse gas emissions as well," said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail, who is leading the research project.  "The ARPA-E program represents a unique opportunity to move a recent laboratory discovery to the mainstream HVAC and commercial buildings marketplace in just a few years," he said.

Buildings account for 40% of energy use in the United States and for approximately 40% of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions.  Cooling is one of the primary uses of energy in buildings, yet the basic approaches for cooling have not changed in decades. 

"Improving building energy efficiency may well be our fastest and lowest-cost method of meeting increasing demand for energy.  PNNL is pleased to be a recipient of ARPA-E funding for this work, as well as participating in two additional and related ARPA-E projects," said Mike Davis, PNNL's associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment.

PNNL was also a sub-recipient of two awards announced today.  PNNL will work with Hudson, Ohio-based ADMA and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M University to develop a cooling system that uses an advanced dehumidification process that could enable higher efficiencies and significant cost savings in cooling technology. 

PNNL also will work the University of Maryland and GE Global Research of Niskayuna, N.Y., to demonstrate a way to design a more efficient solid state air conditioning system that promises much higher efficiency and zero global warming emissions than does the conventional vapor compression technology used in many homes. 

Click here for a full list of today's ARPA-E funding recipients and dollar amounts.

Tags: Energy, Environment, Energy Efficiency, Emissions, Green Energy

PNNL LogoPacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on signature capabilities in chemistry, earth sciences, and data analytics to advance scientific discovery and create solutions to the nation's toughest challenges in energy resiliency and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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