Fundamental Heat Transfer Physics of Rotating Heat Exchangers and Practical Realization of Nonvapor Compression Refrigeration

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Lead Performer: Sandia National Laboratories – Albuquerque, NM
DOE Total Funding: $1,350,000
Project Term: October 1, 2018 – September 30, 2021
Funding Type: Lab Call

Project Objective

Rotating heat exchanger (RHX) technology holds great potential for many building technology applications, including solid-state lighting, cooling, solar PV inverter thermal management, and nonvapor compression refrigeration heat exchangers. Conventional air-cooled heat sinks have been the subject of extensive optimization and technology maturation; interestingly, although RHX technology already exceeds the state-of-the-art, the project team hypothesizes that there are significant further gains to be unlocked through understanding the fundamental heat transfer mechanisms.

Sandia National Laboratory will conduct a combined experimental (de-rotated infrared thermography boundary layer imaging) and computational (hybrid LES-DNS approach to accurately simulate the relevant boundary layer physics) campaign to gain a deep fundamental understanding of the enhanced heat transfer in RHX technology. Based on this understanding, the project team will develop optimized RHX designs and a systematic framework for applying RHX technology to practical applications.

Finally, the team will use the high-performance RHX designs developed to demonstrate a high-impact application: high-COP, cost-effective thermoelectric refrigeration, which eliminates high-GWP refrigerants without any efficiency compromise. This demonstration will culminate in a TRL4 prototype suitable for productization by refrigerator manufacturers, with the intent to stimulate further R&D in the area of nonvapor compression heat pump technology.

Project Impact

Rotating Heat Exchanger (RHX) technology has been shown to achieve a significant performance advantage beyond current state-of-the-art air-cooled heat exchangers. By developing a fundamental physical understanding of the groundbreaking heat transfer in RHXs, this project can optimize the technology platform to yield energy savings in many different building technologies and demonstrate a high-COP, cost-effective, residential nonvapor compression refrigerator. Given the ubiquitous need for higher performance heat exchangers, improvements in RHX technology hold great promise in many building technology applications, including nonvapor compression refrigeration, solid-state lighting cooling, appliance thermal management, and rooftop solar PV inverter thermal management.


DOE Technology Manager: Antonio Bouza
Lead Performer: Wayne L. Staats, Sandia National Laboratory

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