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Last week, four buildings projects supported by BTO or BTO key staff won R&D 100 Awards in recognition of their significant advances in science and technology at the annual R&D 100 Conference. The awards, known as the “Oscars of Invention,” honor innovative breakthroughs in materials science, biomedicine, consumer products, and more from academia, industry, and government-sponsored research agencies.

Presented annually by R&D Magazine, the R&D 100 Awards recognize 100 of the brightest and boldest technologies and services of the year across nine categories. Selected by an independent panel of more than 70 judges, past winners include the automated teller machine (1973), the fax machine (1975), halogen lamps (1974), the liquid crystal display (1980), and HDTV (1998). Since 1962, when the annual competition began, the Energy Department’s National Laboratories have received more than 800 R&D 100 awards.

Roof Savings Calculator

The Roof Savings Calculator Suite was developed by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Jacksonville State University and White Box Technologies. This web-based tool simulates energy flow and loss in businesses and homes, predicting the cost-effectiveness of cool roofing and attic technologies based on building type and location.

The suite integrates the AtticSim engine with the DOE-2.1E whole-building engine to create hour-by-hour annual simulations of building heating and cooling loads and estimate the impact of cool roofing products on energy and cost savings. It is more accurate and customizable than the current DOE and EPA energy calculators and is designed to educate builders and consumers about the money saving potential of roofing upgrades.

HVAC Load Reduction Technology for Commercial Buildings

HVAC Load Reduction Technology for Commercial Buildings was developed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in partnership with enVerid Systems to create unique multifunctional sorbents that can capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and volatile organic compounds at ambient temperatures and which regenerate below 60 degrees Celsius.

With these new sorbents, enVerid was able to develop an HVAC load reduction (HLR) technology, which uses a module integrated into existing HVAC systems to scrub the air of dangerous indoor air contaminants. This technology helps to reduce energy use and lower costs by recirculating the already-cooled inside air. enVerid is currently working with BTO to install and operate this technology in multiple and diverse buildings to demonstrate the energy savings and verify IEQ/IAQ for carbon dioxide and other contaminants of concern.

Cool Roof Time Machine

Cool roofs can help keep buildings cool, thus lowering the building’s energy use, while also mitigating the urban heat island effect by reflecting sunlight away from buildings and cities. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), in collaboration with an international research team, developed a method to simulate soiling and weathering processes in the lab, reproducing in only a few days the solar reflectance of roofing products naturally aged for three years. This method involves putting a piece of the roof material in a commercial weathering apparatus, which exposes the material to cycles of heat, moisture, and ultraviolet light, for one day and “conditions” the material before soiling. Then a soiling apparatus developed at Berkeley Lab sprays a calibrated aqueous soiling mixture of dust, soot, particulate organic matter, and salts for about 10 seconds. After it dries, it goes back in the weathering apparatus for one more day, to simulate the cleaning effects of dew and rain. This cool roof time machine will speed the introduction of high-performance cool roofs not only in the United States, but around the world.

This method was applied to 25 different roof products, including single-ply membranes, coatings, tiles, and asphalt shingles, and reproduced—in less than three days—the CRRC’s three-year aged values of solar reflectance. This protocol was approved by ASTM International, a widely referenced standards body, as a standard practice for the industry, and published as ASTM D7897-15. Because the ASTM standard has been endorsed by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), it is in turn accepted as part of California’s building code, specifically California’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. Research is underway to adapt the method for use in China, India, and Europe.

EcoSnap-AC Heat Pump

The EcoSnap-AC Heat Pump system defines a revolutionary new class of residential air conditioners that addresses all the major drawbacks of room air conditioners while maintaining the affordability that is so important for people. It was devised by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as an alternative to window-mounted air conditioning units. The device installs anywhere on an exterior wall, so that people can be comfortable without losing the view from their window. It is also quieter, more energy efficient, heats and cools, doesn't jeopardize home security, is easy for a homeowner to install in just a few minutes, and can be left in place year-round. The approach divides the heat pump into two separate yet tightly integrated parts, with one external to the home and the other on the interior.

This technology benefited from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lab-Corps program, which aims to better train national lab researchers to successfully transition their discoveries into the private sector.