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Building Efficiency

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.  

Delivering Efficient Local Thermal Amenities

The projects in ARPA-E's DELTA Program, short for "Delivering Efficient Local Thermal Amenities," aim to reduce the costs for heating and cooling buildings by developing Localized Thermal Management Systems (LTMS). LTMS modify the physical space around the human body rather than the entire building, with significant energy savings for both new and old buildings. Such technologies range from on-body wearable devices to off-body installed systems and provide more options for maintaining occupant comfort within buildings. ARPA-E's DELTA projects include a broad range of LTMS approaches that potentially enable energy savings of upwards of 2% of the total domestic energy supply and similar reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science

The IDEAS program - short for Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science - provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards, which are restricted to maximums of one year in duration and $500,000 in funding, are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs. IDEAS awards may also support proof-of-concept research to develop a unique technology concept, either in an area not currently supported by the agency or as a potential enhancement to an ongoing focused technology program. This program identifies potentially disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies that challenge the status quo and represent a leap beyond today's technology. That said, an innovative concept alone is not enough. IDEAS projects must also represent a fundamentally new paradigm in energy technology and have the potential to significantly impact ARPA-E's mission areas.

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2009, ARPA-E issued an open call for the most revolutionary energy technologies to form the agency's inaugural program. The first open solicitation was open to ideas from all energy areas and focused on funding projects already equipped with strong research and development plans for their potentially high-impact technologies. The projects chosen received a level of financial support that could accelerate technical progress and catalyze additional investment from the private sector. After only 2 months, ARPA-E's investment in these projects catalyzed an additional $33 million in investments. In response to ARPA-E's first open solicitation, more than 3,700 concept papers flooded into the new agency, which were thoroughly reviewed by a team of 500 scientists and engineers in just 6 months. In the end, 36 projects were selected as ARPA-E's first award recipients, receiving $176 million in federal funding.

 For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2012, ARPA-E issued its second open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 4,000 concept papers for OPEN 2012, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 66 projects for its OPEN 2012 program, awarding them a total of $130 million in federal funding. OPEN 2012 projects cut across 11 technology areas: advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, stationary power generation, water, as well as stationary, thermal, and transportation energy storage.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2015, ARPA-E issued its third open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 2,000 concept papers for OPEN 2015, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 41 projects for its OPEN 2015 program, awarding them a total of $125 million in federal funding. OPEN 2015 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, industrial processes and waste heat, data management and communication, wind, solar, tidal and distributed generation, grid scale storage, power electronics, power grid system performance, vehicle efficiency, storage for electric vehicles, and alternative fuels and bio-energy.

For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.

Single-Pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs

The SHIELD Program, short for Single-Pane Highly Insulating Efficient Lucid Designs, aims to develop innovative materials that will improve the energy efficiency of existing single-pane windows in commercial and residential buildings. Technologies created through the SHIELD program seek to cut in half the amount of heat lost through single-pane windows in cold weather. These materials would improve insulation, reduce cold weather condensation, and enhance occupant comfort. The technologies could also produce secondary benefits, such as improved soundproofing, that will make retrofits more desirable to building occupants and owners. The program will focus on three technical categories: products that can be applied onto existing windowpanes; manufactured windowpanes that can be installed into the existing window sash that holds the windowpane in place; and other early-stage, highly innovative technologies that can enable products in the first two technical categories.

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.

Architectural Applications

Innovative Building-Integrated Enthalpy Recovery

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.

Argonne National Laboratory

Self-Assembled Nanocellular Composites with Super Thermal Insulation and Soundproof for Single-Pane Windows

Argonne National Laboratory with its partners will develop a transparent nanofoam polymer that can be incorporated into a window film/coating for single-pane windows. The transparent polymer-nanoparticle composite will be applied to glass, and will improve the thermal insulation and the soundproofing of a window. Key to this technology is the generation of small and hollow nanometer-sized particles with thin shells. These will be embedded in a polymer with a carefully controlled structure and uniform dispersal of nanoshells in the polymer matrix. Competing approaches such as those used for silica aerogels have limited ability to fine tune the material's structure, resulting in materials with weaker mechanical strength, difficulties with transparency, and high processing costs. Argonne will develop materials fabricated with self-assembly and a level of precision that allows careful prediction of how light and heat transmit through the material. The team also plans to introduce ultrasound-enhanced continuous processing techniques to manufacture the nanofoam at low cost and with high transparency without undesired haze and enhanced sound isolation capabilities. Argonne predicts that the technology will enable an inexpensive window film that can be installed by the homeowner to upgrade a single-glazed window to double-glazed performance at about 25% of the cost.

Arizona State University

Single-Pane Windows with Insulating Sprayed Particulate Coatings

Arizona State University (ASU) and its partners will develop new windowpanes for single-pane windows to minimize heat losses and improve soundproofing without sacrificing durability or transparency. The team from ASU will produce a thermal barrier composed of silicon dioxide nanoparticles deposited on glass by supersonic aerosol spraying. The layer will minimize heat losses and be transparent at a substantially lower cost than can be done presently with silica aerogels, for example. A second layer deposited using the same method will reflect thermal radiation. The windowpanes will also incorporate layers of dense polymers to control condensation and adhesion, while improving strength. The coating is designed to last more than 20 years and be resistant to damage from scratching, peeling, or freezing of water vapor within the pores of the silica layer.

Aspen Aerogels, Inc.

Aerogel Insulated Pane as a Replacement for Panes in Single Pane Windows

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. and its partners will develop a cost-effective, silica aerogel-insulated windowpane to retrofit single-pane windows. Silica aerogels are well-known, highly porous materials that are strongly insulating, resisting the flow of heat. The team will advance their silica aerogels to have a combination of high visible light transmittance, low haze, and low thermal conductivity. The team's design consists of an aerogel sheet sandwiched between two glass panes to make a double glazed pane. This silica aerogel-insulated pane will be manufactured using an innovative supercritical drying method to significantly reduce the aerogel drying time, thereby increasing productivity and reducing cost. Aspen Aerogels' windowpane could be used to replace single panes in windows where thickness or weight preclude replacement with common double-pane units and at substantially lower cost.

Astronautics Corporation of America

An Efficient, Green Compact Cooling System Using Magnetic Refrigeration

Astronautics 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 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.

Case Western Reserve University

Data Analytics for Virtual Energy Audits and Value Capture Assessments of Buildings

Case Western Reserve University will develop a data analytics approach to building-efficiency diagnosis and prognostics. Their tool, called EDIFES (Energy Diagnostics Investigator for Efficiency Savings), will not require complex or expensive computational simulation, physical audits, or building automation systems. Instead, the tool will map a building's energy signature through a rigorous analysis of multiple datastreams. Combining knowledge of specific climatic, weather, solar insolation, and utility meter data through data assembly, the team will analyze these time-series datastreams to reveal patterns and relationships that were previously ignored or neglected. EDIFES will provide a virtual energy audit combined with a predictive energy usage calculator for efficiency solutions without setting foot in a building. The team's goal is to design EDIFES in such a way that beyond time-series, whole building utility data, only minimal information will be required from the building owner for accurate virtual energy audits that identify efficiency problems and solutions and provide continuous efficiency monitoring. EDIFES will be a resource for equipment providers and contractors to illustrate replacement equipment value, a mechanism for utilities to measure the impact of energy efficiency programs, and a tool for financiers to evaluate the potential risk and opportunity of efficiency investments. EDIFES will target the light commercial building space where minimal tools are available and a high potential for savings exists.

Colorado State University

Paintable Heat-Reflective Coatings for Low-Cost Energy Efficient Windows

Colorado State University and its partners are developing an inexpensive, polymer-based, energy-saving material that can be applied to windows as a retrofit. The team will develop a coating consisting of polymers that can rapidly self-assemble into orderly layers that will reflect infrared wavelengths but pass visible light. As such, the coating will help reduce building cooling requirements and energy use without darkening the room. The polymers can be applied as a paint, meaning that deployment could be faster, less expensive, and more widespread because homeowners can apply the window coatings themselves instead of paying for a technician. The team estimates that up to 75% of the dry film could be produced from commodity plastic, which has the potential to significantly reduce the current costs associated with manufacturing window coatings.

Cornell University

Thermoregulatory Clothing System for Building Energy Saving

Cornell University will develop thermoregulatory apparel that enables the expansion of the comfortable temperature range in buildings by more than 4°F in both heating and cooling seasons. Cornell's thermoregulatory apparel integrates advanced textile technologies and state-of-the-art wearable electronics into a functional apparel design without compromising comfort, wearability, washability, appearance, or safety. The thermoregulatory clothing system senses the wearer's skin temperature and activates a heated or cooled airflow around the individual, reducing the energy required to heat or cool the building itself by satisfying the comfort requirements of the individual.

Dais Analytic Corporation

Nanotechnology Membrane-Based Dehumidifier

Dais 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.

Eclipse Energy Systems, Inc.

Eclipse Shield

Eclipse Energy Systems, Inc. will further develop its proprietary transparent electrical conductor material (EclipseTEC) for use in low-emissivity (low-e) window films. Transparent, low-emissivity coatings improve building energy efficiency by reducing heat loss through the windows. Over the course of the project, the team will transfer their present technology for depositing EclipseTEC films to scalable manufacturing processes while preserving the desirable optical and low-e properties. Eclipse will partner with one or more companies offering thermal insulation solutions and incorporate EclipseTEC into their panes and/or applied products. The unique combined system will offer significant energy savings over traditional single-pane windows.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation

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

Georgia Tech 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.


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