Partnering with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are working with the Department Of Defense, the Navy, PPI and Oregon State University on a project that could help save the lives of our troops serving overseas.

The goal is to develop an air conditioning system that operates more efficiently than what’s currently in place at bases overseas in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. PNNL Lab Fellow Pete McGrail says the current method of providing electricity is through diesel fuel, which is expensive and dangerous for the military personnel making the deliveries.

So PNNL, PPI and other partners are working on a next-generation adsorption chiller that is specially designed to be smaller, lighter, more efficient and operate under the extreme temperatures typically experienced at bases on the front lines.

The chiller will use a specially created powder, called a metal organic framework, or MOF. The powder is made of metal clusters connected to organic molecules, or linkers. Together, the clusters and linkers assemble into porous 3D structures that absorb water easier than how it is done in regular air conditioning systems.

This helps make PNNL’s test adsorption chiller system much smaller and lighter. Further improvements for this project will include breakthroughs in micro channel heat exchanger technology and improvements in the MOF’s thermal properties. Both advances will help reduce the size and weight of the chiller further and squeeze out more cooling efficiency.

PPI is playing a key role in this project by providing the engineering talent and development for the controls to optimize performance and system functionality.  PPI will also conduct extensive testing and operational prove-out of the chiller on its world -class test cell.   There will be close coordination between PNNL scientists, PPI engineers and its operations throughout the project.

“This will be the most advanced adsorption cooling system ever developed, and these advances are needed to meet very demanding military requirements,” McGrail said. “We really need to succeed on this so we can have an impact on the safety of the troops that are protecting us on the front lines.”

PNNL first contacted PPI in 2010 to partner on a proposal to the Department of Energy’s newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy to produce a smaller, lighter and less expensive air conditioning unit that could transform the existing chiller market for commercial buildings.  PNNL learned about PPI just a short time after the company began manufacturing ECO-MAX adsorption chillers.

“I was very pleased to find an American company that was actively engaged in producing adsorption chillers,” said McGrail.  “When I visited PPI for the first time, I was stunned to learn about their dedicated chiller test facility, which was the perfect match for testing the new sorbents and chiller designs we set out to develop on the project.  PPI adds critical value to the project by bringing over fifty years of heavy manufacturing experience and green cooling solutions implemented around the world.”

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