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Department of Energy Announces Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) Funding Awards

The Building Technologies Office (BTO) announced it is investing up to $15.8 million in 13 projects that will drive innovation in early-stage research and development for advanced building technologies and systems that will serve as a foundation for future technological developments and reductions in building energy consumption. The outcomes and advancements of these selected technologies will ultimately result in improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings and will help American consumers and businesses save energy and money on their utility bills.

“Technological innovations enable energy efficiency advances in the buildings sector, providing a tremendous opportunity to reduce energy waste and costs – boosting the competitiveness of U.S. companies and easing energy bills for American families,” said David Nemtzow, director of the Building Technologies Office. “As buildings account for 40% of the energy consumption in the United States, these efficiency innovations allow us to further improve upon past progress.”

The BENEFIT FOA awards this year span the building technology innovation spectrum, from novel materials exploration that will lead to more efficient insulation and windows, as well as more accurate sensors, to exploration and validation of both electric- and fuel-driven hybrid vapor compression technologies for more efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R), as well as advanced control algorithms, modeling, and analytics for reducing the power consumption of miscellaneous electric loads (MELs). 

The six heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) projects selected:

  • Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. (Johnson City, Tennessee) will validate and analyze a gas-fired absorption heat pump that uses an ammonia-water absorption cycle.
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland) will develop the next-generation reduced charge air-to-refrigerant heat exchangers using non-round tubes.
  • Arkema Inc. (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) will develop formulations and additive materials that can mitigate the flammability of A2L refrigerant blends.
  • Xergy (Harrington, Delaware) will investigate electrochemical compression technology combined with ionic liquid desiccant technology to improve latent and sensible heat loads in air-conditioning systems.
  • United Technologies Research Center (East Hartford, Connecticut) will develop and validate a high-efficiency compressor based roof-top air-conditioning system that uses a sustainable, nontoxic, nonflammable, and high-efficiency refrigerant.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) will investigate a novel dehumidification process to avoid the excessive energy utilized by conventional approaches, through high frequency mechanical vibration of ultrasonic transducers to “eject” adsorbed water.

The five sensors, controls, data, and modeling projects:

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (Golden, Colorado) will characterize DC miscellaneous electric loads and distribution equipment, DC network configurations, and savings opportunities by extending DOE’s state-of-the-art open-source whole-building energy modeling tool-chain EnergyPlus and OpenStudio with power distribution modeling capabilities, enabling evaluation of energy and economic benefits of AC, DC, and hybrid distribution systems.
  • University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, California) will integrate AC plug-through meters to measure real, reactive, and apparent power with load monitoring based on extracting high-fidelity electrical waveform features to capture power profiles and automatically identify and categorize miscellaneous electric loads in a scalable manner to improve understanding of their energy consumption.
  • University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia) will explore innovations in RF integrated circuits, optimal operation and coordination of multiple radios and miscellaneous electric load modes, and energy efficient antennae to develop ultra-low power radios to reduce power consumption of wireless appliances.
  • University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia) will develop a technique to automatically construct new contextual information for sensing and control points, allowing integration and connectivity from building analytics engines to commercial building control systems with minimal or no manual point mapping.
  • PARC Xerox (Palo Alto, California) will investigate reversible physisorption by measuring the heat generated by the absorption of CO2 into a sorbent for occupancy detection to enable demand control ventilation (DCV) on a per-room basis.

The two windows and envelope projects:

  • Fraunhofer CSE (Boston, Massachusetts) will develop a novel polyisocyanurate-based aerogel insulation through novel freeze drying processing.
  • Stanford University (Stanford, California) will explore reversible electroplating of metal and low resistance transparent conductors with micro copper grids to develop low-cost dynamic windows with faster switching speeds.

These projects have been selected for award negotiations. DOE does not constitute a commitment to issue awards until negotiations are successfully completed.

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