Critical Need: Development of an inexpensive and high performance heat-powered cooling system greatly expands utilization of solar-thermal energy and low-grade waste heat for cooling buildings and process fluids and improves the economics of energy efficient combined cooling, heat, and power (CCHP) systems. Two-thirds of the fuel used in the world is wasted in the form of heat. Solar energy is harnessed with only close to 20% efficiency and the rest becomes waste heat. Thus, efficient utilization of low quality heat has a revolutionary impact on our future energy economy and carbon emission.
Project Innovations + Advantages: Absorption refrigeration systems (ARS) are fundamentally attractive for our future energy economy because they can convert low quality heat energy to cooling at the highest efficiency compare to other technologies.
A typical ARS consists of large heat exchangers that constitute most of the system size and cost. The transport processes within the heat exchangers are responsible for their bulkiness. In this work, nanoengineered membranes are implemented to greatly enhance the transport processes. The membrane-based heat exchangers are integrated together into new configurations with significantly higher surface area per volume compare to the existing technology. The new system configuration along with the advance material and manufacturing technologies that the new generation ARS benefits from promise an inexpensive, reliable, and low maintenance ARS.
The latest experimental data on laboratory-scale system elements suggest that the heat exchangers of a high performance ARS can be made at an order of magnitude smaller size and cost compare to the existing systems. Also, the volume of the Li-Br solution in the new generation system is an order of magnitude less than that of the existing systems.