Buildings currently account for 72% of the nation's electricity use and 40% of our carbon dioxide emissions each year, 5% of which comes directly from air conditioning. Current building cooling systems run on electricity and use synthetic fluids, leading to large energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Thermally driven absorption heat pumps—which transfer heat energy from one location to another in a cooling and heating system—offer independence from electricity supply constraints because these technologies can be powered from the combustion of natural gas and solar and waste heat. In addition to providing efficient space cooling and heating, these heat pumps can heat water. However, the use of these technologies in residential buildings has been hindered by the lack of efficient and economical heat and mass exchangers.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Georgia Tech Research Corporation is using innovative components and system design to develop a new type of absorption heat pump. Georgia Tech's new heat pumps are energy efficient, use refrigerants that do not emit greenhouse gases, and can run on energy from combustion, waste heat, or solar energy. Georgia Tech is leveraging enhancements to heat and mass transfer technology possible in micro-scale passages and removing hurdles to the use of heat-activated heat pumps that have existed for more than a century. Use of micro-scale passages allows for miniaturization of systems that can be packed as monolithic full-system packages or discrete, distributed components enabling integration into a variety of residential and commercial buildings. Compared to conventional heat pumps, Georgia Tech's design innovations will create an absorption heat pump that is much smaller, has higher energy efficiency, and can also be mass produced at a lower cost and assembly time. Georgia Tech received a separate award of up to $2,315,845 from the Department of the Navy to help decrease military fuel use.
If successful, Georgia Tech’s absorption heat pump would reduce energy use in air conditioning by up to 50% compared to conventional systems.
Waste-heat or solar-heat-based air conditioning could reduce demand for fossil-fuel-based electricity and help strengthen U.S. energy security.
Finding efficient and cost-effective ways to incorporate waste heat into cooling systems in addition to sources like solar and natural gas could decrease fossil-fuel-based electricity use and harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants.
Widespread use of this technology could save consumers money on their energy bills by reducing the amount of energy required to cool homes and businesses.