New and more efficient cooling methods are needed to reduce building energy consumption and environmental impact. Residential and commercial buildings currently account for 72% of the nation’s electricity use and 40% of its CO2 emissions each year, 5% of which comes directly from air conditioning. The refrigerants used in air conditioners are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) that may contribute to global climate change. Because the majority of cooling systems run on electricity and most U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired power plants that produce CO2, there is a pressing need to support improvements that increase the efficiency of these technologies and enable substantial reductions in GHG emissions.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
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.
If successful, Material Methods’ sound waves technology would enable environmentally safe, energy-efficient refrigeration and help decrease the use of conventional, polluting refrigerants.
Increased energy efficiency would decrease U.S. energy demand and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, strengthening U.S. energy security.
Refrigerants with polluting emissions could account for up to 10-20% of global warming by the year 2050. Material Methods' technology could help eliminate the use of these refrigerants.
Widespread adoption of this technology could increase energy efficiency of air conditioners and refrigerators, providing consumers with cost savings on energy bills.