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Design of Ultra-Efficient Thermal-Fluid Components

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC)
ARPA-E Award: 
East Hartford, CT
Project Term: 
04/01/2017 to 03/31/2018
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Advanced power generation systems aim to achieve high efficiency by harnessing higher temperatures and pressures. Heat exchangers, which transfer heat away from the power generation system to sustain operation, are critical components for maintaining the high efficiency for these systems. However, performance and cost shortcomings of conventional heat exchanger design approaches limit the efficiency and operating range of advanced power generation systems. Significant improvements in the performance of heat exchangers will require new design approaches - most likely ones that leverage advancements in manufacturing and materials. For instance, new developments in 3D weaving and 3D printing can enable geometries with higher performance (eg. lower pressure drop, better flow distribution, and higher heat transfer) by enabling new design features. New tools and methodologies for thermofluidic component design that incorporate the expanded design space, as well as the unique constraints, associated with the emerging manufacturing techniques and material classes could lead to significantly improved heat exchangers for more efficient power generation.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

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.

Potential Impact: 
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Michael Ohadi
Project Contact: 
Dr. Ram Ranjan
Johns Hopkins University
Release Date: