SU Research Team Presents Energy Saving Research at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington D.C.

 Professor H. Ezzat Khalifa

March 12, 2018

New technology developed by mechanical and aerospace engineering Professor H. Ezzat Khalifa and his research team was one of the featured projects at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency –Energy (ARPA-E) Energy Innovation Summit in Washington D.C. from March 13th though the 15th.

The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit is one of the most notable showcases for future energy technologies. More than 2000 industry, higher education and government representatives attended the conference. Khalifa and his team were one of only six teams selected to demonstrate to a wide audience. They showed their Micro-Environmental Control System – a personalized cooling system for office workers designed to fit under a desk.

“Existing air-conditioning systems for office buildings are designed to cool an entire room, zone or even the entire building while the occupied space is only a small fraction of that. This results in a considerable waste of energy. Our innovative system is designed to cool only one person, leaving the rest of the space at a warmer, less energy-consuming temperature. Our system provides individually customizable environments,” said Khalifa.

The prototype uses a substance called a phase change material (PCM), that freezes at around 64°F and can store up to 10 hours of cooling power discreetly near a worker’s desk. It can recharge at night when workers go home, so daytime operation is virtually silent, with just a small fan delivering perfectly cooled air to the occupant. It also has an optional heater for colder indoor temperatures.

ARPA-E’s analyses demonstrate that a potential annual savings of at least 15% of total HVAC energy consumption is feasible by using localized thermal management technologies and widening the overall temperature settings of a building by 4 °F.

“Our system is the first-of-its-kind that can provide efficient comfort cooling for an office worker for a full workday, without connecting to the building air-conditioning ducts or needing access to a window or an opening in an exterior wall,” said Khalifa. “It uses less than 2 watts of electricity during the day and less than 12 watts of electricity during the night when the building is not occupied. This is in contrast with even a small room air-conditioner that consumes 500-600 watts of electricity to condition the entire room.”

The Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE) was a key partner on the project. SyracuseCoE’s Associate Director for Research, Dr. Chetna Chianese, and other SyracuseCoE personnel have been helping in the development and management of the project for the past three years. Lab spaces on the 4th and 5th floors of the SyracuseCoE building were used to assemble and test the prototype systems.

In addition to SyracuseCoE, Khalifa credited partnerships with other Syracuse University faculty members, United Technologies Research Center, Air Innovations, Bush Technical and Cornell University as essential to the success of the project.

The team was awarded $3.2 million from ARPA-E, plus substantial cash and in-kind contributions from Syracuse University, the partners, ESD (Empire State Development) and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority).

“We are very proud of this honor. It is a testimony to the importance of collaboration in complex cross-disciplinary projects,” said Khalifa.