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Efficiency

United Technologies Research Center

Design of Ulra-Efficient, Manufacturable, and Low-Cost Thermal Fluid Components for Energy Systems

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop design tools and software for new thermofluidc components that can lead to 50% efficiency improvements in heat exchangers and other related energy systems. Modern heat exchangers and flow headers used in energy systems such as thermal power plants are not optimally designed due to a lack of advanced design tools that can optimize performance given manufacturing and cost limitations. UTRC's design framework will focus on topology exploration and optimization - the mathematical method of optimizing material layouts within a given design space for a given set of loads, conditions, and constraints. The design space will be redefined by emerging advancements in materials such as multi-material composites and custom microstructures. Constraints are imposed by manufacturing limitations and the application of new technologies such as 3D weaving and 3D printing. The requirements of next-generation systems will also be considered, for example, the high temperature and pressure requirements of advanced steam turbines. The design framework will assess the design space, constraints, and requirements using two key innovations. First, topology exploration methods developed for heat exchangers will harness emerging advancements in data sciences to produce new concept designs for the heat exchanger core, headers, and their assemblies. Second, a projection-based topology optimization method will optimize designs for specific manufacturing processes and costs. The new design framework may lead to greater than 50% improvements for heat exchangers by providing new ways to integrate advanced materials and manufacturing techniques.

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

PEOPLE: Platform to Estimate Occupancy and Presence for Low Energy Buildings

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop a low-cost occupancy solution that combines radar sensing technology with an infrared focal plane array (IR-FPA) to determine occupancy in buildings. The solution will also be deployed as a radar-only residential sensor for true human presence sensing. The radar will detect respiration or heartbeat of non-moving occupants by measuring the radar signal reflections caused by chest movement. The system's machine learning algorithms will allow it to distinguish humans from pets in residential settings and to reduce under-counting errors in commercial deployments. The radar will enable through-wall presence sensing in multiple rooms by a single sensor, reducing the sensor hardware and installation cost on a per square foot basis. The solution aims to address the high cost and failure rate of current presence sensors that are preventing large-scale adoption of occupancy based control of HVAC, lighting, and plug loads.

United Technologies Research Center

Ultra Dense Power Converters for Advanced Electrical Systems

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) and its project team will develop an extremely efficient power converter capable of handling kilowatts of electricity at ultra-high power densities. The team will leverage the superior performance of silicon carbide (SiC) or gallium nitride (GaN) devices to achieve its efficiency and power density goals. In the aerospace industry, electrical power distribution can begin to displace pneumatic power distribution using this technology. Efficient power conversion in aircraft will be needed as hydraulic systems, including landing gear systems, are replaced with electric actuation. Electric engine start, electric air-conditioning and cabin pressurization are also key advances in this area. One of the major objectives of the team is to halve converter loss, facilitating a transition from present liquid cooling thermal management to air cooling only. These improvements can help reduce the weight of airline electrical components, critical for the advancement of more electric aircraft. If successful, the team expects that aerospace is a good first adopter of their technology as the industry can more easily accommodate the costs and adoption of new technology better than other industrial applications.

United Technologies Research Center

CO2 Capture with Enzyme Synthetic Analogue

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing a process for capturing the CO2 emitted by coal-fired power plants. Conventional carbon capture methods use high temperatures or chemical solvents to separate CO2 from the exhaust gas, which are energy intensive and expensive processes. UTRC is developing membranes that separate the CO2 out of the exhaust gas using a synthetic version of a naturally occurring enzyme used to manage CO2. This enzyme is used by all air-breathing organisms on Earth to regulate CO2 levels. The enzyme would not survive within the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants in its natural form, so UTRC is developing a synthetic version designed to withstand these harsh conditions. UTRC's technology does not require heat during processing, which could allow up to a 30% reduction in the cost of carbon capture.

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 Alabama

Quantification of HVAC Energy Savings for Occupancy Sensing in Buildings Through an Innovative Testing Methodology

The University of Alabama and their partners will develop a new testing and validation protocol for advanced occupancy sensor technologies. A barrier to wide adoption of new occupancy sensors is the lack of rigorous and widely accepted methodologies for evaluating the energy savings and reliability of these systems. To address this need, the Alabama team will develop a testing protocol and simulation suite for these advanced sensors. The protocol and simulation suite will take into account eight levels of diversity: 1) occupant profile, 2) building type and floor plan, 3) sensor type, 4) HVAC controls and modes (e.g., temperature and/or ventilation setback), 5) functional testing diversity, 6) deployment diversity (e.g., sensor location), 7) software diversity (e.g., computation at local vs. hub), and 8) diagnostic diversity (e.g., interpret missing data). The regime's simulation tools will take advantage of data analytics with built-in machine learning algorithms to accurately determine energy savings. Technical results from the testing and validation work will support technology to market efforts, including codes and standards updates.

University of Alabama

Rare-Earth-Free Permanent Magnets for Electric Vehicle Motors and Wind Turbine Generators: Hexagonal Symmetry Based Materials Systems Mn-Bi and M-type Hexaferrite

The University of Alabama is developing new iron- and manganese-based composite materials for use in the electric motors of EVs and renewable power generators that will demonstrate magnetic properties superior to today's best rare-earth-based magnets. Rare earths are difficult and expensive to refine. EVs and renewable power generators typically use rare earths to make their electric motors smaller and more powerful. The University of Alabama has the potential to improve upon the performance of current state-of-the-art rare-earth-based magnets using low-cost and more abundant materials such as manganese and iron. The ultimate goal of this project is to demonstrate improved performance in a full-size prototype magnet at reduced cost.

University of Arkansas

Reliable, High Power Density Inverters for Heavy Equipment Applications

The University of Arkansas and its project team will develop a power inverter system for use in the electrification of construction equipment. Heavy equipment providers are increasingly investing in electrification capability to perform work in harsh environments. As with all electrified systems, size, weight and power considerations must be met by these systems. The team's approach is to utilize the advantages of wide bandgap semiconductors not only in the converter elements themselves, but also in the converter's gate driver as well. This innovation of having the low-voltage circuitry built from the same materials as the power devices enables higher reliability, longer life, and a more compact system packages. Their multi-objective optimization method will provide the best outcome and trade the efficiency and power density goals against circuit complexity, device ratings, thermal management, and reliability constraints. If successful, the team will achieve an improvement of four times the power density and reduce converter cost by 50% compared to today's technology. The proposed design methods and technological advances can also be applied to many applications such as electric vehicles, smart grid power electronics, and data centers.

University of California - Irvine

Thermocomfort Cloth Inspired by Squid Skin

The University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) will develop a dynamically adjustable thermoregulatory fabric. This fabric leverages established heat-managing capabilities of space blankets and color-changing polymers inspired by squid skin that will provide wearers with the unique ability to adaptively harness their own individual radiant heat production. This technology holds the potential to establish an entirely new line of personal apparel and localized thermal management products that could significantly reduce the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

University of California, Berkeley

Extreme Efficiency 240 Vac to Load Data Center Power Delivery Topologies and Control

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and its project team will develop an extremely efficient AC-to-DC converter based on gallium nitride (GaN) devices for use in datacenters. Datacenters are the backbones of modern information technology and their physical size and power consumption is rapidly growing. Converters for datacenters need to be power dense and efficient to maximize the computing power per unit volume and to reduce operating costs and environmental impact. This project team seeks to develop a prototype device that converts power from a universal grid input (110-240 V at 50-60 Hz) to 48 V DC, the standard for datacenter and telecom supply. The team hopes that this GaN-based converter will enable a complete redesign of the power delivery network for future datacenters; while achieving a three-fold reduction in energy loss and 10 times improvement in power density over traditional conversion circuits. If successful, project developments will greatly reduce the amount of energy lost powering datacenters while significantly improving power capability over current converters.

University of California, Berkeley

IceNet for FireBox

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will develop a new datacenter network topology that will leverage the energy efficiency and bandwidth density through the integration of silicon photonics into micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) switches. Today's datacenter architectures use server nodes (with processor and memory) connected via a hierarchical network. In order to access a remote memory in these architectures, a processor must access the network to get to a particular server node, gaining access to the local memory of that server. This requires the remote server processor to be awake at all times in order to service the remote request. The processor-to-memory network has many stages and long latency, which results in significant energy waste in processor and memory idling on both sides of the network. The IceNet network is designed to achieve ultra-low latency connectivity between processor nodes and memory, drastically reducing energy wasted during system idling. A key component to the team's design is their LightSpark active laser power-management system. In addition to guiding the laser power where it is needed, the LightSpark module enables both wavelength and laser redundancy, increasing the robustness of the system. In total, the IceNet network will enable dramatic improvements in datacenter system efficiency, allowing for fine-grain power control of processors, links, and memory and storage components.

University of California, Berkeley

Developing Metal-Organic Frameworks as Adsorbents for Industrial Carbon Capture Applications

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is developing a method for identifying the best metal organic frameworks for use in capturing CO2 from the flue gas of coal-fired power plants. Metal organic frameworks are porous, crystalline compounds that, based on their chemical structure, vary considerably in terms of their capacity to grab hold of passing CO2 molecules and their ability to withstand the harsh conditions found in the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. Owing primarily to their high tunability, metal organic frameworks can have an incredibly wide range of different chemical and physical properties, so identifying the best to use for CO2 capture and storage can be a difficult task. UC Berkeley uses high-throughput instrumentation to analyze nearly 100 materials at a time, screening them for the characteristics that optimize their ability to selectively adsorb CO2 from coal exhaust. Their work will identify the most promising frameworks and accelerate their large-scale commercial development to benefit further research into reducing the cost of CO2 capture and storage.

University of California, Berkeley

Enabling Ultra-Compact, Lightweight, Efficient, and Reliable 6.6 kW On-Board Bi-Directional Electric Vehicle Charger with Advanced Topology and Control

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and its project team will develop an on-board electric vehicle charger using a gallium nitride (GaN) based converter to improve power density and conversion efficiency. Conventional power converter topologies which primarily use magnetics (i.e. inductors and transformers) for energy transfer suffer from a tradeoff between efficiency and size. In this project, the team proposes a shift in traditional charger design to develop a bidirectional converter dominated by capacitor-based energy transfer. The team will leverage recent advances in GaN devices and new control techniques to produce a 6.6 kW converter with 15 times the power density and higher efficiency than currently achievable. The bidirectional flow means that the device can act to charge the electric vehicle or operate in a vehicle-to-grid manner to use the vehicle as short term energy storage. If successful, project developments could help reduce the size and complexity of electric vehicle power systems.

University of California, Berkeley

Rapid Building Energy Modeler - RAPMOD

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and Indoor Reality are developing a portable scanning system and the associated software to rapidly generate indoor thermal and physical building maps. This will allow for cost-effective identification of building inefficiencies and recommendation of energy-saving measures. The scanning system is contained in a backpack which an operator would wear while walking through a building along with a handheld scanner. The backpack features sensors that collect building data such as room size and shape along with associated thermal characteristics. These data can then be automatically processed to detect building elements, such as windows and lighting, and then generate 2D floor plans and 3D maps of the building geometry and thermal features. The backpack technology enables rapid data collection and export to existing computer models to guide strategies that could reduce building energy usage. Because the skills required to operate this technology are less than required for a traditional energy audit and the process is significantly faster, the overall cost of the audit can be reduced and the accuracy of the collected data is improved. This reduced cost should incentivize more building managers to conduct energy audits and implement energy saving measures.

University of California, Berkeley

Heating and Cooling the Human Body with Wirelessly Powered Devices

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will team with WiTricity to develop and integrate highly resonant wireless power transfer technology to deliver efficient local thermal amenities to the feet, hands, face, and trunk of occupants in workstations. Until now, local comfort devices have had little market traction because they had to be tethered by a cord to a power source. The team will leverage on-going developments in wireless charging systems for consumer electronics to integrate high-efficiency power transmitting devices with local comfort devices such as heated shoe insoles and cooled and heated office chairs. The team will develop four types of local comfort devices to deliver heating and cooling most effectively. The devices will draw very little electrical power and enable potential HVAC energy savings of at least 30%.

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 California, Los Angeles

CUSB: A Platform Technology for the Renewable Production of Commodity Chemicals

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) seeks to develop a platform technology, Catalytic Units for Synthetic Biochemistry (CUSB) that will use enzymes in solution (i.e. in vitro) to convert carbohydrates into a wide variety of useful carbon compounds in extremely high yield. The use of enzymes in solution has advantages over whole-cell microorganisms. Enzymes can be concentrated much further than whole-cells which improves volumetric productivity. Additionally enzymes may be less sensitive to the production of compounds of interest that are typically toxic to whole-cells even at low concentrations. Yet most importantly, the use of specific enzymes provides a high degree of precision to direct carbon and energy efficiently from the feedstock to the final product. The team envisions catalytic breakdown modules that will reduce the carbohydrates to simpler compounds. Breakdown energy is released during this chemical process and can be stored in other high-energy chemicals. Additional catalytic modules will be added to utilize the carbon and energy from the breakdown module to build useful chemicals that can replace petroleum products. This process can potentially generate new markets by producing complex chemicals more economically and with higher energy efficiency than current methods. The team predicts that their technology can reduce the non-renewable energy input required for chemical production by more than 2.5 fold. The system can also provide large-scale production of chemicals that are too costly or too environmentally damaging to produce by current methods. During a prior ARPA-E IDEAS award, the team developed this platform technology. Now, as an addition to the ARPA-E REMOTE program, the UCLA team will further its research and demonstrate CUSB by building a prototype system that can produce isobutanol and terpene, at a much higher yield and productivity than has been previously achieved. The successful development of CUSB will represent a paradigm shift in the way high-volume commodity chemicals can be produced from renewable resources.

University of California, Los Angeles

THermally INsulating TraNsparEnt BarrieR (THINNER) Coatings for Single-Pane Windows

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will harness advances in nanotechnology to produce thermally insulating transparent barrier (THINNER) coatings to reduce heat losses through single panes of glass. The porous coatings consist of multiple layers of silica/titania films that can simultaneously control the transmission of heat, light and thermal radiation. The internal structure of the coatings is determined by a polymer lattice that is later removed. This leaves a robust porous oxide layer that is transparent and thermally insulating. In addition to reducing heat loss, the coatings will reduce water condensation on the inner window surface and block harmful ultraviolet light. The project will also develop a scalable, high-temperature spray-on process to inexpensively deposit the coating onto glass at the factory.

University of California, San Diego

Adaptive Textiles Technology with Active Cooling & Heating (ATTACH)

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) will develop smart responsive garments that enable building occupants to adjust their personal temperature settings and promote thermal comfort to reduce or eliminate the need for building-level air conditioning. The essence of building energy savings in UC San Diego's approach is based on the significant energy consumption reduction from the traditional global cooling/heating of the whole room space. This is done via localized cooling and heating only in the wearable structure in the very limited space near a person's skin. This smart textile will thermally regulate the garment's heat transport through changes in thickness and pore architecture by shrinking the textile when hot and expanding it when cold.

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