American small businesses received a $22 million boost from the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. As part of this announcement, EERE's Building Technologies Office (BTO) will fund 12 awards under five subtopics (listed below) that have demonstrated enough technical feasibility to suggest the possibility of significant innovations in the first phase of  research.

Next-Generation Residential Air Handlers

  • Advanced Low Cost Air Handling Units (AHU) for Buildings – (Altex Technologies Corporation; Sunnyvale, California)
    This project seeks to develop an advanced AHU that consists of a high-efficiency blower that’s tightly integrated with a novel, compact and low-pressure drop heat exchanger that uses an air-side porous fin to improve its heat transfer by 43%. These innovations, if successfully demonstrated, could reduce the energy use of today’s state-of-the-art compact HVAC evaporators by another 25%, at least.
  • Compact, High-Efficiency Air Handling Unit (CHE-AHU) for Residential HVAC Systems – (Upstate Parts & Supply Inc.; East Syracuse, New York)
    This project seeks to develop a novel, CHE-AHU that synergistically integrates its fan and heat exchanger. This innovation, if successful, could produce an air handler that, compared to conventional ones, is 30% smaller and uses 35% less energy – all while improving the overall performance of its parent HVAC system by at least 7%.
  • Improving AHU Performance by Minimizing Approach Temperature, Reducing Air Maldistribution, and Efficiently Handling Sensible and Latent Loads – (Optimized Thermal Systems Inc.; Beltsville, Maryland)
    This project seeks to develop an AHU prototype that, by improving its overall performance, will reduce energy consumption while improving the building’s ventilation and ability to provide occupants with more thermal comfort. To realize these goals, the research team will design, model, and analyze an AHU that improves the heat exchanger’s design, improves its dehumidification capability, and establishes a proper air distribution system.

Novel Materials and Processes for Solid-State Lighting

An FY19 SBIR award-winner uses the characteristics of moth eyes to improve the energy efficiency of OLEDs.

An FY19 SBIR award-winner uses the characteristics of moth eyes to improve the energy efficiency of OLEDs.

Photo: Glint Photonics
  • Antireflective Materials for High-Efficiency Lighting – (Glint Photonics Inc.; Burlingame, California)
    Using biomimicry, this project seeks to develop novel, antireflective materials for lighting products that are inspired by the antireflective properties of moth eyes. This innovation alone, if successful, could increase the energy efficiency of today’s lighting products by 8% to 12%.
  • Scalable Ultrahigh Conductive Transparent Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Films for High-Efficiency Organic LED (OLED) Lighting – (Atom Inc.; Inglewood, California)
    This project seeks to develop carbon-based nanotube films for OLEDs that, if successful, could streamline and reduce the fabrication costs of OLEDs and reduce the lighting industry’s dependence on rare earth metals and other environmentally unsustainable materials.
  • Novel Blue Phosphorescent Emitter Materials for OLED Lighting – (R-Display & Lighting LLC; Rochester, New York)
    This project seeks to develop and demonstrate a stable, longer-lasting, and efficient blue phosphorescent emitter material for OLED lighting – a feature that has long eluded the solid-state lighting community and impeded the advancement of OLED technology.
  • Novel Materials for Flexible Solid-State Lighting – (InnoSys Inc.; Salt Lake City, Utah)
    This project seeks to develop a novel, hybrid LED-OLED lighting device that combines efficient, blue LEDs with efficient, OLED green and red emitters. If successful, this novel combination could produce solid-state lighting devices that achieve higher performance gains themselves without relying so heavily on individual LED/OLED technological breakthroughs to realize improvements.

Automated Point Mapping for Commercial Buildings

  • Automated Classification and Validation System for Building Data – (Onboard Data Inc.; Cambridge, Massachusetts)
    This project seeks to address the lack of commercial building data standardization, which has historically limited the adoption of building analytics and controls software that, when installed could save considerable sums of energy. This project will use machine learning to develop FacilityHUB, a novel classification system and data platform that could enable real estate managers to deploy advanced software with speed, scale, and integrity.

Research & Development to Augment Building Energy Modeling

  • Cross-Platform Application for High-Resolution Thermal Comfort Mapping from Energy Models – (Ladybug Tools LLC; Fairfax, Virginia)
    Building designs that neglect energy-saving strategies like shading, better-insulated windows, and lower glazing ratios can create large temperature variations across indoor spaces that increase the risk of occupant discomfort. This project seeks to prevent this by developing a freely available, high-resolution indoor thermal comfort mapping building application for building energy models that would allow users to evaluate various spatial thermal comfort regimes across various designs that are under consideration.
  • Scalable, Data-Driven, and High-Resolution Building Models for Control Optimization – (eCurv Inc.; Watertown, Massachusetts)
    New developments in computing power have created an opportunity to improve the sustainability of our buildings and infrastructure using artificial intelligence. This project seeks to discover the algorithms that new companies can use to grow model predictive controls that dramatically reduce carbon emissions from buildings across the country.

Data Fusion for Building Technology Projects

  • In-Building Fusion of Deep Data from Digital-Twins and their Concomitant Control Schemes – (PassiveLogic Inc., Holladay, Utah)
    This project seeks to improve the integrated and intelligent control buildings need to optimize their systems and relationship with the grid that, together, can enable new opportunities to save energy. This project, if successful, could provide this intelligence for less money and less effort than existing market solutions do today by changing the way building energy data is managed and used to inform building energy models.
  • Integration of Real-Time Building Data into Economic Dispatch of Dynamically Electrified Building Steam Systems – (Medley Thermal; Somerville, Massachusetts)
    Generating steam for commercial building and industrial use costs American businesses more than $10 billion annually. This project seeks to develop techniques to incorporate building data into optimization that selectively switches between fossil-fuel boilers and electric boilers based on electricity market conditions in order to reduce the cost of producing steam.

Small businesses play a major role in spurring innovation and creating jobs in the U.S. economy. The SBIR and STTR programs were created to leverage small business investment to advance innovation at federal agencies. Information on the DOE SBIR and STTR programs is available on the Office of Science SBIR website.