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BEETIT

Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices

The projects that comprise ARPA-E's BEETIT program, short for "Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices," are developing new approaches and technologies for building cooling equipment and air conditioners. These projects aim to drastically improve building energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) at a cost comparable to current technologies.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

ADMA Products, Inc.

High-Efficiency, On-Line Membrane Air Dehumidifier Enabling Sensible Cooling for Warm and Humid Climates

ADMA Products is developing a foil-like membrane for air conditioners that efficiently removes moisture from humid air. ADMA Products' metal foil-like membrane consists of a paper-thin, porous metal sheet coated with a layer of water-loving molecules. This new membrane allows water vapor to permeate across the membrane at high fluxes, at the same time blocking air penetration and resulting in high selectivity. The high selectivity of the membrane translates to less energy use, while the high permeation fluxes result in a more compact device. The new materials and the flat foil-like nature of the membrane facilitate the mass production of a low-cost compact dehumidification device. ADMA received a separate award of up to $466,176 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

American Superconductor

Stirling Air Conditioner for Compact Cooling

American Superconductor (AMSC) 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. ITC's freezer uses helium gas as its refrigerant, representing a safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly approach to cooling. ITC's improvements to the Stirling cycle system could enable the cost-effective mass production of high-efficiency freezers without the use of polluting refrigerants. ITC received a separate award of up to $1,766,702 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Architectural Applications

Innovative Building-Integrated Enthalpy Recovery

Architectural Applications (A2) is developing a building moisture and heat exchange technology that leverages a new material and design to create healthy buildings with lower energy use. Commercial building owners/operators are demanding buildings with greater energy efficiency and healthier indoor environments. A2 is developing a membrane-based heat and moisture exchanger that controls humidity by transferring the water vapor in the incoming fresh air to the drier air leaving the building. Unlike conventional systems, A2 locates the heat and moisture exchanger within the depths of the building's wall to slow down the air flow and increase the surface area that captures humidity, but with less fan power. The system's integration into the wall reduces the size and demand on the air conditioning equipment and increases liable floor area flexibility.

Astronautics Corporation of America

An Efficient, Green Compact Cooling System Using Magnetic Refrigeration

Astronautics Corporation of America is developing an air conditioning system that relies on magnetic fields. Typical air conditioners use vapor compression to cool air. Vapor compression uses a liquid refrigerant to circulate within the air conditioner, absorb the heat, and pump the heat out into the external environment. Astronautics' design uses a novel property of certain materials, called "magnetocaloric materials", to achieve the same result as liquid refrigerants. These magnetocaloric materials essentially heat up when placed within a magnetic field and cool down when removed, effectively pumping heat out from a cooler to warmer environment. In addition, magnetic refrigeration uses no ozone-depleting gases and is safer to use than conventional air conditioners, which are prone to leaks.

Battelle Memorial Institute

Cascade Reverse Osmosis and the Absorption Osmosis Cycle

Battelle Memorial Institute is developing a new air conditioning system that uses a cascade reverse osmosis-based absorption cycle. Analyses show that this new cycle can be as much as 60% more efficient than vapor compression, which is used in 90% of air conditioners. Traditional vapor-compression systems use polluting liquids for a cooling effect. Absorption cycles use benign refrigerants such as water, which is absorbed in a salt solution and pumped as liquid--replacing compression of vapor. The refrigerant is subsequently separated from absorbing salt using heat for re-use in the cooling cycle. Battelle is replacing thermal separation of refrigerant with a more efficient reverse osmosis process. Research has shown that the cycle is possible, but further investment will be needed to reduce the number of cascade reverse osmosis stages and therefore cost.

Dais Analytic Corporation

Nanotechnology Membrane-Based Dehumidifier

Dais Analytic Corporation is developing a product called NanoAir which dehumidifies the air entering a building to make air conditioning more energy efficient. The system uses a polymer membrane that allows moisture but not air to pass through it. A vacuum behind the membrane pulls water vapor from the air, and a second set of membranes releases the water vapor outside. The membrane's high selectivity translates into reduced energy consumption for dehumidification. Dais' design goals for NanoAir are the use of proprietary materials and processes and industry-standard installation techniques. NanoAir is also complementary to many other energy saving strategies, including energy recovery. Dais received a separate award of up to $800,000 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Modular Thermal Hub for Building Heating, Cooling, and Water Heating

Georgia Tech Research Corporation is using innovative components and system design to develop a new type of absorption heat pump. Georgia Tech's new heat pumps are energy efficient, use refrigerants that do not emit greenhouse gases, and can run on energy from combustion, waste heat, or solar energy. Georgia Tech is leveraging enhancements to heat and mass transfer technology possible in micro-scale passages and removing hurdles to the use of heat-activated heat pumps that have existed for more than a century. Use of micro-scale passages allows for miniaturization of systems that can be packed as monolithic full-system packages or discrete, distributed components enabling integration into a variety of residential and commercial buildings. Compared to conventional heat pumps, Georgia Tech's design innovations will create an absorption heat pump that is much smaller, has higher energy efficiency, and can also be mass produced at a lower cost and assembly time. Georgia Tech received a separate award of up to $2,315,845 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Material Methods, LLC

Phononic Heat Pump

Material Methods is developing a heat pump technology that substitutes the use of sound waves and an environmentally benign refrigerant for synthetic refrigerants found in conventional heat pumps. Called a thermoacoustic heat pump, the technology is based on the fact that the pressure oscillations in a sound wave result in temperature changes. Areas of higher pressure raise temperatures and areas of low pressure decrease temperatures. By carefully arranging a series of heat exchangers in a sound field, the heat pump is able to isolate the hot and cold regions of the sound waves. This technology is environmentally safe, and the simplicity of the mechanical system creates efficiencies that make the system cost competitive with traditional refrigerant-based systems.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

High Efficiency Adsorption Cooling Using Metal Organic Heat Carriers

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is designing more efficient adsorption chillers by incorporating significant improvements in materials that adsorb liquids or gases. An adsorption chiller is a type of air conditioner that is powered by heat, solar or waste heat, or combustion of natural gas. Unlike typical chillers, an adsorption chiller has few moving parts and uses almost no electricity to operate. PNNL is designing adsorbent materials at the molecular level that have at least 3 times higher refrigerant capacity and up to 20 times faster kinetics than adsorbents used in current chillers. By using the new adsorbent, PNNL is able to create a chiller that is significantly smaller, has twice the energy efficiency, and lower material and assembly costs compared to conventional adsorption chillers. PNNL received a separate award of up to $2,190,343 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.

Pennsylvania State University

One-Ton Thermoacoustic Air Conditioner

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is designing a freezer that substitutes the use of sound waves and environmentally benign refrigerant for synthetic refrigerants found in conventional freezers. Called a thermoacoustic chiller, the technology is based on the fact that the pressure oscillations in a sound wave result in temperature changes. Areas of higher pressure raise temperatures and areas of low pressure decrease temperatures. By carefully arranging a series of heat exchangers in a sound field, the chiller is able to isolate the hot and cold regions of the sound waves. Penn State's chiller uses helium gas to replace synthetic refrigerants. Because helium does not burn, explode or combine with other chemicals, it is an environmentally-friendly alternative to other polluting refrigerants. Penn State is working to apply this technology on a large scale.

Sheetak, Inc.

Non-Equilibrium Asymmetic Thermoelectric (NEAT) Devices

Sheetak is developing a thermoelectric-based solid state cooling system that is more efficient, more reliable, and more affordable than today's best systems. Many air conditioners are based on vapor compression, in which a liquid refrigerant circulates within the air conditioner, absorbs heat, and then pumps it out into the external environment. Sheetak's system, by contrast, relies on an electrical current passing through the junction of two different conducting materials to change temperature. Sheetak's design uses proprietary thermoelectric materials to achieve significant energy efficiency and, unlike vapor compression systems, contains no noisy moving parts or polluting refrigerants. Additionally, Sheetak's air conditioner would be made with some of the same manufacturing processes used to produce semiconductor chips, which could lead to less material use and facilitate more affordable production.

United Technologies Research Center

Nano-Engineered Porous Hollow Fiber Membrane-Based Air Conditioning System

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing an air conditioning system that is optimized for use in warm and humid climates. UTRC's air conditioning system integrates a liquid drying agent or desiccant and a traditional vapor compression system found in 90% of air conditioners. The drying agent reduces the humidity in the air before it is cooled, using less energy. The technology uses a membrane as a barrier between the air and the liquid salt stream allowing only water vapor to pass through and not the salt molecules. This solves an inherent problem with traditional liquid desiccant systems--carryover of the liquid drying agent into the conditioned air stream--which eliminates corrosion and health issues.

United Technologies Research Center

Water-Based HVAC System

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing an efficient air conditioning compressor that will use water as the refrigerant. Most conventional air conditioning systems use hydrofluorocarbons to cool the air, which are highly potent GHGs. Because water is natural and non-toxic, it is an attractive refrigerant. However, low vapor density of water requires higher compression ratios, typically resulting in large and inefficient multi-stage compression. UTRC's design utilizes a novel type of supersonic compression that enables high-compression ratios in a single stage, thus enabling more compact and cost-effective technology than existing designs. UTRC's water-based air conditioner system could reduce the use of synthetic refrigerants while also increasing energy efficiency.

University of California, Los Angeles

Compact MEMS Electrocaloric Cooling Module

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is developing a novel solid state cooling technology to translate a recent scientific discovery of the so-called giant electrocaloric effect into commercially viable compact cooling systems. Traditional air conditioners use noisy, vapor compression systems that include a polluting liquid refrigerant to circulate within the air conditioner, absorb heat, and pump the heat out into the environment. Electrocaloric materials achieve the same result by heating up when placed within an electric field and cooling down when removed--effectively pumping heat out from a cooler to warmer environment. This electrocaloric-based solid state cooling system is quiet and does not use liquid refrigerants. The innovation includes developing nano-structured materials and reliable interfaces for heat exchange. With these innovations and advances in micro/nano-scale manufacturing technologies pioneered by semiconductor companies, UCLA is aiming to extend the performance/reliability of the cooling module.

University of Florida

A New Generation Solar and Waste Heat Power Absorption Chiller

The University of Florida is improving a refrigeration system that uses low-quality heat to provide the energy needed to drive cooling. This system, known as absorption refrigeration system (ARS), typically consists of large coils that transfer heat. Unfortunately, these large heat exchanger coils are responsible for bulkiness and high cost of ARS. The University of Florida is using new materials as well as system design innovations to develop nanoengineered membranes to allow for enhanced heat exchange that reduces bulkiness. This design allows for compact, cheaper, and more reliable use of ARS that use solar or waste heat.

University of Maryland

Thermoelastic Cooling

The University of Maryland (UMD) is developing an energy-efficient cooling system that eliminates the need for synthetic refrigerants that harm the environment. More than 90% of the cooling and refrigeration systems in the U.S. today use vapor compression systems which rely on liquid to vapor phase transformation of synthetic refrigerants to absorb or release heat. Thermoelastic cooling systems, however, use a solid-state material--an elastic shape memory metal alloy--as a refrigerant and a solid to solid phase transformation to absorb or release heat. UMD is developing and testing shape memory alloys and a cooling device that alternately absorbs or creates heat in much the same way as a vapor compression system, but with significantly less energy and a smaller operational footprint.

University of Notre Dame

Compact, Efficient Air Conditioning with Ionic Liquid-Based Refrigerants

The University of Notre Dame is developing an air-conditioning system with a new ionic liquid and CO2 as the working fluid. Synthetic refrigerants used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems are potent GHGs and can trap 1,000 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 alone--making CO2 an attractive alternative for synthetic refrigerants in cooling systems. However, operating cooling systems with pure CO2 requires prohibitively high pressures and expensive hardware. Notre Dame is creating a new fluid made of CO2 and ionic liquid that enables the use of CO2 at low pressures and requires minimal changes to existing hardware and production lines. This new fluid also produces no harmful emissions and can improve the efficiency of air conditioning systems--enabling new use of CO2 as a refrigerant in cooling systems.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world—accounting for 1% of U.S. energy consumption. Given this impressive demand, the department actively pursues energy technologies to make the way it trains, moves and sustains U.S. forces more energy efficient and resilient. Because ARPA-E funds innovative new energy technologies, DoD can be a natural hand-off partner for ARPA-E teams seeking to further their technology. Featuring remarks from ARPA-E’s Dr. Ryan Umstattd, this video highlights two ARPA-E projects that have formed strategic partnerships with the military to improve mission readiness and enhance operational capability. Texas A&M University is partnering with the Navy to develop a membrane technology to dehumidify cargo spaces in ships where moisture can cause damage. Nexceris is collaborating with the Navy to develop an off-gas sensor for lithium-ion batteries that can detect and warn of an impending battery failure, keeping equipment and personnel onboard Naval vessels safe.

The U.S. military has a vested interest in advancing microgrid technologies that can power forward operating bases. These technologies could not only help the military significantly reduce its energy demand both at home and abroad, but also they could reduce the number of fuel-supply convoys required on the battlefield and the number of troops killed in fuel-supply convoy attacks. This video highlights two ARPA-E projects that have formed strategic partnerships with the military to enable these microgrids at forward operating bases. Georgia Tech is developing an innovative absorption heat pump that utilizes exhaust heat to provide heating and cooling, which could cut the amount of energy used to heat and cool forward operating bases by 50%. Primus Power is developing a low-cost, energy-dense storage system that could store enough energy to operate a base for several days in the event of a disruption.

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