14038727_sUSA: Research and development of next generation air conditioning technology is to receive nearly $8m in funding from the US Department of Energy.

United Technologies, Carrier Air Conditioning’s parent company, will receive $975,000 for work being carried out to develop a high efficiency centrifugal compressor design for small commercial rooftop systems in the 1.5-10ton range. According to UTC, these systems could provide 30% annual energy savings with less than two years payback by 2020 and, if fully commercialised, could save 2.5 quads of energy by 2030.

The United Technologies Research Centre will receive a further $1m to demonstrate an electrocaloric heat pump that, it is said, will be 50% smaller than current models, run more quietly and likely cost less to maintain because of its simple mechanical design.

Improved centrifugal compressor technology is also at the heart of a $1m funding allocation to a project being conducted by US ac manufacturer Lennox Industries and New-Jersey-based r&d company Mechanical Solutions. This project will initially focus on a small centrifugal compressor in residential hvac, which typically use 4-5 ton systems, and could eventually be scaled up to commercial systems as large as 20tons.

Dais Analytic of Odessa, Florida, will receive $1.2m to advance membrane technology that will use  nano-structured polymer materials to manipulate water molecules, allowing the system to condition air while improving energy efficiency and eliminating fluorocarbon refrigerants. It is said that the project will result in a rooftop-capable system for field testing.

Maryland Energy and Sensor Technologies (MEST) of College Park, Maryland, will receive $600,000 to develop a compact thermoelastic cooling (TEC) system with high efficiency, low environmental impact, and a small carbon footprint. TECs work by stretching and then relaxing metal rods, creating heat, but cooling rapidly when released. The alternation between the two states performs the same task as a heat pump compressor. Currently, TEC requires a large mechanical loading system, which results in high materials cost. MEST will solve this problem by reducing system size by a factor of 10.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory will receive $1.4m towards its magnetocaloric air conditioner. The concept window air conditioner produces electricity through a magnetic field and could possibly be scaled up to larger systems. It is said to have the potential for efficiency improvements of up to 25% over conventional vapour compression systems.

Xergy Inc of Seaford, Delaware, will receive $1.4m to develop electrochemical compression (ECC) technology in combination with an energy recovery module to replace a solid-state compressor for use in heat pumps. ECC uses fuel cell technology to enable heat pumps to use water as the refrigerant. Thermodynamic modelling is said to have shown efficiency improvements of 30-56% in a commercial system. The project seeks to produce a unit with a 5-year or better payback period when produced at commercial scale.