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ORNL to collaborate on energy efficiency and refrigerants

USA: The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is to collaborate with five US companies in an effort to improve the energy performance of HVAC systems and investigate climate-friendly alternative refrigerants.

Through collaborative research and development agreements, or CRADAs, scientists at the US Department of Energy’s only designated national user facility for buildings research – the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center at ORNL – will conduct research and development with the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), Taylor Commercial Foodservice, Emerson Climate Technologies, Enginuity Power Systems and Baltimore Aircoil Company.

“CRADAs are among the US Department of Energy’s chief instruments to connect the ingenuity of our national labs with industry’s leading companies to produce innovations at the scale we need to make a difference,” said David Nemtzow, building technologies office director, DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings and equipment is seen as a priority because the 127 million buildings in the US consume nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy at a cost of $415bn annually, accounting for 36% of carbon emissions.

The goal is to create marketable technologies and design approaches that address energy consumption in existing and new buildings to reduce the average energy use in all US buildings by 30% by 2030.

ORNL and leading building equipment industries signed collaboration agreements to improve the energy performance of HVAC systems and investigate alternative refrigerants. Seated from left, Eric Dell, executive vice president, National Automatic Merchandising Association; Stephen Wadle, senior project engineer, Taylor Commercial Foodservice; Hung Pham, integrated technologies director, Emerson Climate Technologies; and Jacques Beaudry-Losique, president, Enginuity Power Systems. Standing from left, Ron Ott, building technologies program manager, ORNL; Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director, ORNL; Xin Sun, energy transportation science division director, ORNL; Karma Sawyer, building technologies office program manager, DOE; and Tony Bouza, building technologies office technology manager, DOE. 

“These collaborations are just the beginning of what we anticipate being a record number of industry partnerships over the next year to develop breakthroughs for energy-efficient buildings and a more secure, resilient power grid,” said Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL.

ORNL’s BTRIC facility, established in 1993, has 40,000ft2 of laboratory space dedicated to early-stage research and development in building technologies, with the goal of improving the energy efficiency and environmental compatibility of residential and commercial buildings by focusing on building envelopes, equipment, building systems integration, energy storage and grid-interactive efficient buildings, sensors, transactive controls, and data modelling and simulation.

Refrigerant evaluation

ORNL will be working with both the National Automatic Merchandising Association and catering equipment manufacturer Taylor Commercial Foodservice on future refrigerants. With NAMA it is looking to evaluate environmentally-friendly refrigerants for vending machines, mitigating leak risks and assessing potential hazards including flammability. Taylor Commercial Foodservice is investigating climate-friendly refrigerants for food processing and dispensing machines in quick service restaurants and food retail.

Emerson Climate Technologies is working with ORNL to accelerate the development of next-generation HVAC equipment coupled with energy storage and integrated water heating.

“By collaborating with ORNL on advanced technologies for HVAC systems, we’re developing a modular system with energy storage for grid-responsive capabilities,” said Hung Pham, director of integrated technologies, Emerson Climate Technologies. “We’ll be able to accomplish our objectives on an accelerated timeframe by working with the only user facility in the nation that has the technology and resources capable of developing this type of equipment.”

Enginuity Power Systems id developing a prototype of a commercially ready micro combined heat and power device with an internal combustion engine fuelled by natural gas.

Baltimore Aircoil is looking to advance next-generation heat exchanger technology that can be deployed in an evaporative cooling system. “This collaboration will help us expedite the production of a novel heat exchanger technology that can operate in wet and dry or hybrid conditions,” said Michael Tenbrock, global technology R&D director, Baltimore Aircoil.

Collaborations with the five industries are anticipated to conclude within two or three years of each project’s implementation.

Funding for buildings research is supported by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Building Technologies Office.

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