Notre Dame Energy Center receives $2.8-million energy research grant

by William G. Gilroy

Notre Dame Energy Center

The University of Notre Dame Energy Center has been awarded a $2.8-million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) stimulus grant for a research project aimed at dramatically improving how the country uses and produces energy.

DOE is awarding a total of $92 million from the American Recovery and Investment Act to 43 cutting-edge projects that focus on accelerating innovation in green technology while increasing America’s competitiveness in grid scale energy storage, power electronics and energy-efficient cooling systems.

The Notre Dame DOE-funded research, titled “Mechanical Vapor Compression: Compact, Efficient Air Conditioning with Ionic Liquid Based Refrigerants,” is aimed at developing more efficient ways of using carbon dioxide as a refrigerant in cooling systems. DOE notes that the global warming potential (GWP) of current refrigerants is more than 1,000 times the GWP of carbon dioxide (CO2), making CO2 very attractive as refrigerants. However, CO2-based refrigeration systems require approximately 100 times higher pressure than atmospheric pressure for operation.

The Notre Dame Energy Center research proposes to demonstrate an operating vapor compression HAVC cycle based on CO2-ionic liquids co-fluid systems facilitating lower pressure operation with a much higher efficiency than is currently possible with existing systems.

Principal investigators for the projects are : Joan Brennecke, Keating-Crawford Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; William Schneider, professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Mihir Sen, professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Edward Maginn, professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Mark McCready, professor and department chair, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Mark Stadtherr, Keating-Crawford Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Steven Schmid, associate professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; and Patrick Murphy, managing director, Notre Dame Energy Center.

Housed in the College of Engineering, the Notre Dame Energy Center is addressing the challenge of developing abundant, inexpensive energy sources which, when is use, do not harm the environment. The center conducts state-of-the-art research and education programs in energy efficiency, safe nuclear waste storage, clean coal utilization, CO2 separation, storage, sequestration and use, solar and other renewable energy and the social, political and ethical aspects of energy policy and use.