High-Efficiency Stirling Air Conditioner

Stirling Air Conditioner for Compact Cooling
Graphic of Infinia's technology
ARPA-E Award: 
Kennewick, WA
Project Term: 
09/01/2010 to 02/28/2014
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
New and more efficient cooling methods are needed to reduce building energy consumption and environmental impact. Buildings currently account for 72% of the nation's electricity use and 40% of our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year, 5% of which comes directly from air conditioning. The refrigerants typically used in freezers are greenhouse gases (GHG) that may contribute to global climate change. Because the majority of cooling systems run on electricity, and most U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired power plants which produce CO2, there is a pressing need to support improvements that increase the efficiency of these technologies and reduce the use of GHG refrigerants.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Infinia is developing a freezer that does not rely on harmful refrigerants and is more energy efficient than conventional systems. Many freezers are based on vapor compression, in which a liquid refrigerant circulates within the freezer, absorbs heat, and then pumps it out into the external environment. Unfortunately, these systems can be expensive and inefficient. Infinia's freezer uses helium gas as its refrigerant, representing a safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly approach to cooling. Infinia's improvements to the Stirling cycle system could enable the cost-effective mass production of high-efficiency freezers without the use of polluting refrigerants. Infinia received a separate award of up to $1,766,702 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Infinia would provide Stirling cycle based freezers to the market, increasing the supply of environmental friendly, energy efficient cooling technologies.
Increased energy efficiency would decrease U.S. energy demand and reduce reliance on fossil fuels--strengthening U.S. energy security.
Refrigerants with polluting emissions could account for up to 10%-20% of global warming by year 2050. Infinia's technology could eliminate the use of these refrigerants from commercial refrigeration systems.
Widespread adoption of this technology could reduce energy consumption in commercial refrigeration systems--providing commercial entities with cost savings on energy bills, which ultimately can be passed onto the consumers.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Bryan Willson
Project Contact: 
Dr. Songgang Qiu