Power Partners and PNNL Work on Commercial Air Conditioning

Power Partners, Inc.,is teaming with the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Arkema Inc. on a $2.54 million research program to improve the efficiency and test new refrigerants in a type of air conditioning unit that runs on waste heat or heat from solar thermal collectors.

The funding comes from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy — otherwise known as ARPA-E — and is part of the agency's Building Energy Efficiency through Innovative Thermodevices, or BEET-IT program.

Power Partners is a U.S. manufacturer and marketer of energy-efficient, environmentally friendly ECO-MAX adsorption chillers. The adsorption chiller is a type of air conditioner that is powered by waste heat or by heat from solar collectors. It has few moving parts and uses almost no electricity to operate.

During the three-year program, the team will design, assemble and test an adsorption chiller that takes advantage of PNNL’s metal-organic heat carrier technology and new types of refrigerants. The goal is to use PNNL’s advanced materials and develop adsorption chillers that are smaller, more efficient and affordable enough to be used more frequently in commercial buildings.

"More efficient methods of cooling represent a great opportunity to reduce energy consumption in buildings, and in doing so, greenhouse gas emissions as well," said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail, who is leading the research project. "The ARPA-E program represents a unique opportunity to move a recent laboratory discovery to the mainstream HVAC and commercial buildings marketplace in just a few years," he said.

“Buildings account for 40 percent of energy use in the United States,” said Mike Stonecipher, Business Segment leader at Power Partners. “Cooling is one of the primary uses of energy in buildings, yet the basic approaches for cooling have not changed in decades. We are excited about this joint effort to develop a commercially viable product that can meet the demand for energy conservation.”

Power Partners will lead engineering and testing efforts as the project advances from a bench-scale prototype to a 5-ton cooling capacity demonstration unit, utilizing its state-of-the-art test facility.

Arkema produces industrial chemicals, including acrylics, PMMA, thiochemicals, fluorochemicals, and hydrogen peroxide and of performance products like technical polymers, specialty chemical organic peroxides and additives.

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