Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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In 2009, GE entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to test the new, more energy efficient water heater called the GeoSprings Hybrid Water Heater. The GeoSpring water heater combines energy-saving heat-pump technology with traditional electric elements using a fraction of the energy. The integrated compressor and evaporator use a fan to draw in ambient heat from surrounding air to heat refrigerant. Then the heated refrigerant runs through coils that wrap the tank all the way to the bottom, transferring heat into the water tank. Test results have shown that the GeoSpring water heater uses less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon tank water heater and can last at least 10 years.
The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater creates the same amount of hot water as a traditional electric water heater, while reducing heating expenses up to 62%. The Department of Energy estimates that if 10 percent of the nation's 4.8 million annual electric water heater shipments were heat pump water heaters meeting Energy Star standards, as does the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, the 480,000 units would reduce power consumption by nearly 1.3 billion kilowatt hours and save consumers $130 million in energy costs annually. The benefits of the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater also include the addition of U.S. jobs. In 2011, GE Energy opened up a manufacturing plant in Louisville, Kentucky, creating around 400 new jobs.
Today, GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heaters are sold throughout the world.
LED North America (LEDNA), founded in 2008, is a company located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that produces LED alternatives for commercial lighting for applications such as roadways, parking lots, parking garages, and indoor high bay applications. The company is located in Oak Ridge at an incubator facility for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. LEDNA licensed an innovative graphite foam developed at ORNL by James Klett, and now LED North America provides advanced light fixtures that illuminate a brighter, more efficient light. The porous material is very light weight and extremely thermally conductive. This gives it the ability to conduct heat away from particular areas, which is important in increasing the longevity of an LED bulb. Every 10 degrees Celsius decreased from an LED bulb’s temperature doubles its lifetime.
The benefits of this new choice for lighting are numerous. The efficiency of the design means that those who implement LEDNA’s products will see a savings in energy consumption. This means lower costs. LEDNA’s products are also very low maintenance, adding again to the decrease in the cost of lighting. In fact, in some cases, LEDNA has shown to generate a positive cash flow through savings of almost five times the original investment. LED North America also shows great promise for growth. Around 21 percent of the commercial sector’s electricity consumption comes from lighting. Many companies are switching to LED lighting in order to cut costs and improve efficiency. The LED market is expected to pass $1 billion in 2013 and grow 40% annually through 2016. LEDNA is sure to be a major player in this market. In the future, Andrew Wilhelm, the president of LED North America, hopes to develop the technology in LEDNA’s products to be able to replace 1000-watt bulbs in arenas, further increasing their applications.
Today, LEDNA has products on the market for a number of applications including commercial high bays, street lights, and area lights. The company recently completed a parking garage demonstration project that achieved payback of installation investment in 13 months.
In some parts of the developing world, people may live in homes without electricity or toilets or running water but yet they own cell phones. To charge those phones, they may have to walk for miles to reach a town charging station—and possibly even have to leave their phones overnight. Now a startup company spun off technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has created a simple, inexpensive way to provide electricity to the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t get it reliably.Point Source Power’s innovative device is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood or other types of biomass—even cow dung—the types of fuel that many in the developing world use for cooking. The fuel cell sits in the fire and is attached to circuitry in a handle that is charged as the fuel cell heats up to temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.
According to the DOE, doubling the efficiency of single-pane windows can save roughly the amount of energy needed to power 32 million U.S. homes for a year. The associated investments in energy efficient window films could return about $12 billion/year to energy consumers. Yet this would require breakthrough thermal management materials that are low-cost and easy to apply.
The Materials Science Center and Physical, Chemical and Nano Science Center at Sandia National Laboratories are working with IR Dynamics (IRD) on thermochromic materials. Together, they’re developing nanoparticles that are tunable and triggered by the environment. These nanomaterials transition to let the heat through when it’s cold outside and reflect heat when it’s warm. The technology can be incorporated into a variety of products where controlling solar heat gain and infrared reflectivity is a significant advantage.
IRD brings industry experience to the partnership, particularly with energy efficient products for the building industry. Sandia brings experience in materials science and the physics of optical materials. The company is now licensing two technologies from Sandia and has developed joint intellectual property with the Labs.
After working with Sandia under two NMSBA projects to test the feasibility of creating products based on thermally dynamic materials invented at the Labs, work continues under a CRADA to further develop these materials for applications including window films, architectural membranes, and performance clothing.
For windows, this new technology may double the energy efficiency of single pane glass. The new window film contains technologies developed at Sandia, including thermochromic pigments which reject >50% of infrared radiation above 85°F.
IRD was awarded $1.95 million from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2016 to fund further development of the window film application of the nanomaterial technology. Currently the company is raising $2 million in A-round funding and building out new offices and laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.
Madico, one of the largest providers of window films worldwide, is working with IRD to develop window film products and laminated ETFE structural film (an architectural membrane). The company also has a joint development agreement with HeiQ, a fabric finishing company that provides modified performance materials to major apparel brands.
This partnership between Sandia and IRD can help improve the performance of products in industries from apparel to aerospace, and increase energy efficiency in structures from greenhouses to skyscrapers by bringing new technology to market.