ARPA-E Projects

By on Apr 23, 2021 in Energy

Buildings account for 72% of the United States’ electricity use and 40% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions each year. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which carries out R&D for the U.S Department of Energy, sponsors initiatives by businesses and academic institutions to improve buildings’ energy efficiency.

Here’s a summary of some active ARPA-E projects.

Promoting a healthy cold

According to ARPA-E, 5% of CO2 emissions come directly from air conditioning, which uses refrigerants that are greenhouse gases. American Superconductor of Ayer, Mass., is developing a freezer that doesn’t rely on harmful refrigerants and would operate more energy-efficiently than conventional systems.

American Superconductor proposes to use helium gas as the cooler’s refrigerant, superseding liquid refrigerants that are eventually pumped out to the external environment. The eventual goal is the cost-effective mass production of high-efficiency freezers that do their job without pollution-generating refrigerants.

Efficiency in motion

A team at Boston University is developing an occupancy sensing system designed to estimate the number of people in commercial spaces and monitor how that number changes over time.

The proposed system would generate occupancy estimates using advanced detection algorithms that interpret data streams from sensors and cameras. The occupancy data would enable the building control system to manage the heating, cooling and air flow to maximize building energy efficiency and optimize comfort.

The project could “dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to effectively heat, cool and ventilate buildings without sacrificing occupant comfort,” ARPA-E says.

New pane, new gain

Single-pane windows that are present in many buildings don’t insulate as well as double-pane units. Unfortunately, replacing them with newer, more efficient windows isn’t always feasible because of costs, changes in appearance and other concerns.

As a possible remedy, Arizona State University is leading a team in developing a new pane that can be installed into existing window sashes that hold the pane in place. The key ingredient of this retrofit project is a thermal barrier of silicon dioxide nanoparticles deposited on glass by supersonic aerosol spraying. This layer would minimize heat loses substantially less expensively than single-pane windows currently in use. A second aerosol-sprayed layer is designed to reflect thermal radiation.

Designed to last at least 20 years, the coating would resist damage from scratching, peeling or freezing, improve soundproofing. The solution could potentially save enough electricity to power 32 million homes annually.

Sensors amplify footsteps

Milwaukee-based utilization and occupancy analytics software provider Scanalytics Inc. is developing pressure-sensitive floor sensors capable of measuring the number of people in stores, offices, and convention centers and other commercial environments.

The sensors would measure foot traffic while other elements of the system will transmit the readings to a local gateway for analysis. The occupancy information may be passed directly to HVAC control or combined with occupancy information from other sensors to optimize heating, cooling and air flow for maximum efficiency and comfort.

Yardi is a leading supplier of software that helps property owners meet ENERGY STAR® standards and reduce energy consumption and expenses without sacrificing occupant comfort.