Lead Performer: Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Oak Ridge, TN
-- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign – Champaign, IL
-- Johnson Controls Inc. – Milwaukee, WI
-- Epoly Global Cooling – La Vernia, TX
DOE Total Funding: $1,350,000
Project Term: October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2021
Funding Type: Lab Award

Project Objective

The development of low-cost, high-efficiency heat exchangers (HXs) is critical to meet national energy savings goals. This project will develop a novel polymer composite air-to-refrigerant HX that will deliver unprecedented performance (UA=400% compared with the state of the art). Currently available polymer HXs have limitations such as their relatively low thermal conductivity and the inability to introduce appropriate heat transfer enhancements.

To advance the state of the art in air-to-refrigerant HXs, the project team will resolve the difficulty of deploying appropriate enhancements by applying additive manufacturing technology to produce HX channels. Doing so will allow a freedom of design never before possible. The topology of the channels will be optimized by advanced computational fluid dynamics techniques. Furthermore, the addition of highly conductive particles and fibers into the polymer will result in order-of-magnitude higher thermal conductivity and mechanical strength.

Project Impact

This project will have a transformational impact on state-of-the-art air-to-liquid HXs. Since HXs are among the few highly energy-intensive components of any HVAC&R system, the large-scale deployment of polymer composite HXs will lead to at least 500 TBtu/year in energy saving by 2030. The proposed effort will result in a 40% more compact HX design with at least a 30% reduction in fan/pumping power. The overall cost of the technology will be at least 30% lower compared with conventional aluminum and copper tube heat HXs.

Since the technology is highly scalable, it can be implemented at both residential and commercial scales. The proposed concept will decrease the dependence on conventional materials for HX development (i.e., copper and aluminum). The reduced cost of the technology will enable U.S. manufacturers to expand into international markets. Apart from direct implications for the HVAC&R industry, the proposed concept will have potential impacts on other relevant industries, including power generation, energy harvesting, and desalination.


DOE Technology Manager: Antonio Bouza
Lead Performer: Kashif Nawaz, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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