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Building Efficiency

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Low Cost, Multilayer, Highly Transparent and Thermally Insulating Hybrid Silica-Polymer Film

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and its partners are creating a highly transparent, multilayer window film that can be applied onto single-pane windows to improve thermal insulation, soundproofing, and condensation resistance. The ORNL film combines four layers. Low-cost, nanoporous silica will be used to improve thermal insulation. A layer of a sound-absorbing polymer, which is commonly applied to windows for soundproofing, will be added between the silica sheets to reduce outside noise infiltration. A final outside superhydrophobic coating layer will minimize the condensation. A low-emissivity film will be added to minimize heat transfer out from the conditioned interior.

Otherlab, Inc.

Passive Thermo-Adaptive Textiles with Laminated Polymer Bimorphs

Otherlab will develop thermally adaptive materials that change their thickness in response to temperature changes, allowing the creation of garments that passively respond to variations in temperature. In contrast to existing garments that have a constant insulation value whether conditions are hot or cold, thermally adaptive materials change shape as temperature changes, leading to a change in insulation. The material change is a physical response, passively operating and requiring no input from the wearer or any control system. Garments made from thermally adaptive fabrics will enable the wearing of fewer layers of clothing for comfort over a broader temperature range, effectively lowering the heating and cooling requirements for buildings. Beyond apparel, this advanced insulation may find applications in drapery and bedding.

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.

Palo Alto Research Center

Scalable Transparent Thermal Barriers Fof Single-Pane Window Retrofits

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its partners are developing a low-cost, transparent thermal barrier, consisting of a polymer aerogel, to improve insulation in single-pane windows. The proposed high-performance thermal barrier is anticipated to achieve ultra-low thermal conductivity, while offering mechanical robustness and the visual appearance of clear glass. Additionally, the thermal barrier's synthesis is scalable and thus amenable to high volume manufacturing. The envisioned replacement windowpane is a tri-layer stack consisting of the aerogel, glass, and a low-emissivity coating - an architecture designed to improve the window's energy efficiency, condensation resistance, user comfort, and soundproofing. In this project, PARC will optimize the transparent polymer aerogel synthesis process; Blueshift will scale up fabrication to a 12-inch roll-to-roll pilot process; and Pilkington will evaluate the windowpane performance and durability. At the completion of the project, the aerogel will be integrated in a 12" x 12" windowpane prototype with commercial-off-the-shelf float glass, adhesives, and coatings. The final product will be a windowpane of similar weight and thickness to existing single panes. Based on current raw material and manufacturing costs, PARC foresees that this integrated windowpane can be manufactured at a low cost of $9/ft2.

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.

Purdue University

Building- Integrated Microscale Sensors for CO2 Level Monitoring

Purdue University will develop a new class of small-scale sensing systems that use mass and electrochemical sensors to detect the presence of CO2. CO2 concentration is a data point that can help enable the use of variable speed ventilation fans in commercial buildings, thus saving a significant amount of energy. There is also a pressing need for enhanced CO2 sensing to improve the comfort and productivity of people in commercial buildings, including academic spaces. The research team will develop a sensing system that leverages on-chip integrated organic field effect transistors (FET) and resonant mass sensors. Field effect transistors are chemical sensors that can transform chemical energy into electrical energy. The unique design allows the system to measure two distinct quantities as it absorbs CO2 from the environment - electrical impedance using the FET and added mass using the resonant mass sensors. The design will use low-cost circuit boards and off-the-shelf devices like commercial solar panels and batteries to reduce the cost of the system and enable easy deployment. By combining two unique sensing technologies into a single package, the team hopes to implement a solution for monitoring CO2 levels that could yield a nearly 30% reduction in building energy use.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Reflected Light Field Sensing for Precision Occupancy and Location Detection

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will develop a method for counting occupants in a commercial space using time-of-flight (TOF) sensors, which measure the distance from objects using the speed of light to create a 3D map of human positions. This TOF system could be installed in the ceiling or built into lighting fixtures for easy deployment. Several sensors distributed across a space will enable precise mapping, while preserving privacy by using low-resolution images. The technology is being designed around low power infrared LEDs and a patented plenoptic detector technology together with TOF information, which can enable unique combinations of spatial resolution, field of view and privacy. The sensor network will maintain an accurate count of the number of people in the space, and uses a simple program to track people who may be temporarily lost between sensor "blind spots", thus reducing the number of sensors needed. Occupancy data is then sent to the building control system to manage the heating, cooling and air flow in order to maximize building energy efficiency and provide optimal human comfort. Energy costs of heating and cooling can be reduced by up to 30% by training the building management system to deliver the right temperature air when and where it is needed.


Floor Sensors for Occupancy Counting in Commercial Buildings

Scanalytics will develop pressure-sensitive flooring underlayers capable of sensing large areas of commercial buildings with a high-resolution and fast response time. This technology will enable the precise counting of people in commercial environments like stores, offices, and convention centers. The floor sensors will consist of a material which changes electrical resistance when compressed. Conductive elements above and below the material will measure the resistance at a grid of points within the floor mat, and electronics will control the switching between sensors, cache the results for transmission, and transmit the readings to a local gateway for analysis. The team's system and data processing algorithms will be developed to resolve multiple people in close proximity, as well as account for non-typical travel methods such as wheelchairs and crutches. This occupancy information may be passed directly to HVAC control, or combined with occupancy information from other sensors to manage the heating, cooling and air flow in order to maximize building energy efficiency and provide optimal human comfort. Energy costs of heating and cooling can be reduced by up to 30% by training the building management system to deliver the right temperature air when and where it is needed.

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.

Signetron Inc.

Using a Smart-Phone for Fast, Automated Energy Audit of Buildings

Signetron is developing a technology that will enable fast, cost effective, and accurate energy audits without the need for expensive, skilled labor to collect data manually. Signetron's innovation integrates low-cost visible and infrared optical cameras into a handheld scanner with depth sensing. This enables the operator to capture indoor 3D maps of building geometry and energy-relevant features as they traverse a building. Captured data is uploaded to the cloud where it is analyzed by Signetron software to generate an energy model and provide actionable energy audit information. If successful, this technology will reduce the time and cost associated with today's energy audits by a factor of 5 and 10 respectively, while offering actionable energy-saving recommendations. This technology could lower the cost barrier for building energy audits, thereby enabling property owners and facility managers to better understand the sources of energy loss in their buildings and where to optimally target retrofits to improve energy savings.

Soraa, Inc.

High-Pressure Ammonothermal Process for Bulk Gallium Nitride Crystal Growth for Energy Efficient Commercially Competitive Lighting

Soraa's new GaN crystal growth method is adapted from that used to grow quartz crystals, which are very inexpensive and represent the second-largest market for single crystals for electronic applications (after silicon). More extreme conditions are required to grow GaN crystals and therefore a new type of chemical growth chamber was invented that is suitable for large-scale manufacturing. A new process was developed that grows GaN crystals at a rate that is more than double that of current processes. The new technology will enable GaN substrates with best-in-world quality at lowest-in-world prices, which in turn will enable new generations of white LEDs, lasers for full-color displays, and high-performance power electronics.

SRI International

Window Retrofit Applique Using Phonon Engineering (WRAP)

SRI International, in collaboration with its partners will develop a transparent, adhesive film that can be easily applied to single-pane windows to reduce heat loss from warm rooms during cold weather. The team proposes an entirely new approach to thermal barriers and will develop a new class of non-porous materials that use nanoparticles to reflect heat and provide superior thermal insulation. Moreover, the transparent film does not block visible light, meaning that the coating allows light to transmit through the window and brighten the interior. The film could also improve the soundproofing of the window.

SRI International

Wearable Electroactive Textile for Physiology-based Thermoregulation

SRI International will develop a highly efficient, wearable thermal regulation system that leverages the human body's natural thermal regulation areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of feet, and upper facial area. This innovative "active textile" technology is enabled by a novel combination of low-cost electroactive and passive polymer materials and structures to efficiently manage heat transfer while being quiet and comfortable. SRI's electronically controllable active textile technology is versatile - allowing the wearer to continue to use their existing wardrobe. We believe that these features will allow for products that augment wearable technologies and thus achieve the widespread adoption needed to save energy on a large scale.

Stanford University

Large-Scale Energy Reductions through Sensors, Feedback, and Information Technology

A team of researchers from more than 10 departments at Stanford University is collaborating to transform the way Americans interact with our energy-use data. The team built a web-based platform that collects historical electricity data, which it uses to perform a variety of experiments to learn what triggers people to respond. Experiments include new financial incentives, a calculator to understand the potential savings of efficient appliances, new Facebook interface designs, communication studies using Twitter, and educational programs with the Girl Scouts. Economic modeling is underway to better understand how results from the San Francisco Bay Area can be broadened to other parts of the country.

Stanford University

Photonic Structure Textiles for Localized Thermal Management

Stanford University will develop transformative methods for integrating photonic, or radiant energy structures into textiles. Controlling the thermal photonic properties of textiles can significantly influence the heat dissipation rate of the human body, which loses a significant amount of heat through thermal radiation. To achieve heating, the team utilizes metallic nanowire embedded in textiles to enhance reflection of body heat. To achieve cooling, the team utilizes visibly opaque yet infrared transmissivity (IR) transparent textile. These techniques for heating and cooling have not yet been achieved to date. The team will leverage advances in photonic structures to build textiles with varying amounts of infrared transparency and reflectivity to enable a wearer to achieve comfort in a wider temperature range, and therefore generate a substantial reduction of energy consumption for both heating and cooling.

Stanford University

Photonic Structures for High-Efficiency Daytime Radiative Cooling

Stanford University is developing a device for the rooftops of buildings and cars that will reflect sunlight and emit heat, enabling passive cooling, even when the sun is shining. This device requires no electricity or fuel and would reduce the need for air conditioning, leading to energy and cost savings. Stanford's technology relies on recently developed state-of-the-art concepts and techniques to tailor the absorption and emission of light and heat in nanostructured materials. This project could enable buildings, cars, and electronics to cool without using electric power.

Stony Brook University

Electroactive Smart Air-Conditioner VEnt Registers (eSAVER) for Improved Personal Comfort and Reduced Electricity Consumption

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook will develop eSAVER, an active air conditioning vent capable of modulating airflow distribution, velocity, and temperature to promote localized thermal envelopes around building occupants. Stony Brook's smart vent modulates the airflow using an array of electro-active polymer tubes that are individually controlled to create a localized curtain of air to suit the occupant's heating or cooling needs. The eSAVER can immediately be implemented by simply replacing an existing HVAC register with the new unit or can be installed in new constructions for significant reduction in HVAC system size,construction cost,and further improvement in energy efficiency.The project team estimates this will result in upwards of 30% energy savings through directed localization of existing building heating/cooling output.

Syracuse University

Micro-Environmental Control System

Syracuse University will develop a near-range micro-environmental control system transforming the way office buildings are thermally conditioned to improve occupant comfort. The system leverages a high-performance micro-scroll compressor coupled to a phase-change material, which is a substance with a high latent heat of fusion and the capability to store and release large amounts of heat at a constant temperature. This material will store the cooling produced by the compression system at night, releasing it as a cool breeze of air to make occupants more comfortable during the day. When heating is needed, the system will operate as an efficient heat pump, drawing heat from the phase-change material and delivering warm air to the occupant. The micro-scroll compressor is smaller than any of its type, minimizing the amount of power needed. The use of this micro-environmental control system, along with expanding the set-point range could save more than 15% of the energy used for heating and cooling, while maintaining occupant comfort.

Syracuse University

Microcam: A Low Power Privacy Preserving Multi-modal Platform for Occupancy Detection and Counting

Syracuse University will develop a sensor unit to detect occupancy in residential homes called MicroCam. The MicroCam system will be equipped with a very low-resolution camera sensor, a low-resolution infrared array sensor, a microphone, and a low-power embedded processor. These tools allow the system to measure shape/texture from static images, motion from video, and audio changes from the microphone input. The combination of these modalities can reduce error, since any one modality in isolation may be prone to missed detections or high false alarm rates. Advanced algorithms will translate these multiple data streams into actionable adjustments to home heating and cooling. The algorithms will be implemented locally on the sensor unit for a stand-alone solution not reliant on external computation units or cloud computing. The MicroCam system itself will be wireless and battery-powered (operating for at least 4.5 years on 3 AA or 2 C batteries), and will be designed to be easily installed and self-commissioned.

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC

Integrated Power Chip Converter for Solid-State Lighting

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging is developing cost-effective power drivers for energy-efficient LED lights that fit on a compact chip. These power drivers are important because they transmit power throughout the LED device. Traditional LED driver components waste energy and don't last as long as the LED itself. They are also large and bulky, so they must be assembled onto a circuit board separately which increases the overall manufacturing cost of the LED light. Teledyne is shrinking the size and improving the efficiency of its LED driver components by using thin layers of an iron magnetic alloy and new gallium nitride on silicon devices. Smaller, more efficient components will enable the drivers to be integrated on a single chip, reducing costs. The new semiconductors in Teledyne's drivers can also handle higher levels of power and last longer without sacrificing efficiency. Initial applications for Teledyne's LED power drivers include refrigerated grocery display cases and retail lighting.


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