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New Air Chiller Helps Keep Navy Cool

March 2015
Creating Algal Biofuels Out of Thin Air
PNNL’s Pete McGrail with the adsorption chiller
prototype at ARPA-E’s 2015 Energy Innovation Summit.
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Who doesn't want to stay cool in the heat? A new air chilling system designed by researchers at PNNL might make staying cool a whole lot easier – especially for Navy troops at sea. Pete McGrail, a scientist in the Hydrocarbon Processing group, demonstrated the first high-efficiency air chiller at the February 2015 ARPA-E summit in Washington DC.

Developed with funding from ARPA-E's Building Energy Efficiency through Innovative Thermodevices program, the device – referred to as an adsorption chiller – serves as an alternative to heat pumps and air conditioners. Until now, the use of adsorption chillers has been limited by their size. This is no longer an issue with the new PNNL-developed sorbent, which is three times more absorbent than traditional silica gel, and therefore minimizes the volume needed.

Not only is the new chiller smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient – it could also save a lot of money. Cost savings at Navy forward operations bases is estimated to be $22 million annually. The PNNL research team is exploring retrofitting naval vessels with the adsorption chiller. McGrail estimated the cooling device could save $2 million on a 30-day deployment and only use half the diesel that current cooling systems use on the navy front lines.

"This is the most advanced adsorption cooling system every developed, with the size, weight, durability and performance properties required for demanding military environments," said McGrail. "The substantial gains in efficiency also have the potential to open up residential, commercial and industrial markets for next-generation adsorption chillers."

To learn more about the adsorption chiller, listen to coverage by Northwest Public Radio here.

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