Lab revolutionizing commercial refrigerators, clothes dryers

Lab revolutionizing commercial refrigerators, clothes dryers

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory highlighted its cutting-edge innovations in building technologies, many in partnership with industry, that promise to revolutionize how efficiently people will refrigerate food, dry clothes and heat and cool their homes during a recent visit by David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Danielson toured ORNL’s Building Technologies Research and Integration Center (BTRIC) and received briefings on the lab’s research and development of technologies for home and supermarket refrigeration, clothes dryer equipment and residential and commercial building insulation applications that will result in energy and cost savings and lower global warming emissions.

GE Appliances will work with ORNL through a memorandum of understanding to evaluate the potential for innovative products before making significant multimillion-dollar investments. GE’s FirstBuild business model takes advantage of open innovation and advanced technologies and manufacturing techniques to define new products, perform rapid prototyping, produce in low volumes, and validate new product concepts through low-volume sales. Danielson attended a MOU signing ceremony to recognize the collaboration during the visit.

Success at these volumes will enable GE Appliances to better justify the significant investment needed to move graduates of the FirstBuild process to full production. The arrangement will tap ORNL’s BTRIC and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

Applying ORNL’s strengths in additive manufacturing (3-D printing) and high-performance computing allows research teams to assist industry in bringing new concepts to the marketplace in a matter of months instead of years.

“We’re looking at challenges of large communities from the single-unit level. Our research in building technologies provides solutions on a small scale, which will translate to a significant reduction in energy use and an increase in cost savings when ramped up to a national, and even global, level,” said Martin Keller, assistant laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences, who hosted Danielson, Roland Risser, DOE’s Building Technologies Office director, and other DOE and industry representatives.

Research projects showcased include:

  • First new home refrigeration technology in 100 years with GE using magnetocaloric cooling that could use 25 percent less energy
  • Revolutionary ultrasonic clothes dryer technology with GE that mechanically extracts water from fabric using high-frequency vibration instead of traditional tumble drying, reducing energy consumption and drying time significantly
  • With NanoPore and Firestone Building Products, next-generation insulation panels made by using an alternative manufacturing process that could cost 50 percent less than traditional insulation panels
  • Innovative spray-on insulation with Dow Chemical and self-adhesive insulation sheets with 3M that more efficiently reduce the amount of air and water that pass through walls
  • Environmentally friendly supermarket refrigeration technologies, such as the first hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC)-free CO2 system with 25 percent energy savings and 75 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, with Hillphoenix, and a new refrigerant with Honeywell that is 67 percent less harmful to the environment and improves refrigeration systems’ efficiency by 10 percent
  • A new ORNL initiative focused on connecting vehicle, building, manufacturing, and grid technologies to provide innovative, reliable energy solutions

These projects are supported by the Buildings Technologies Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and make use of the BTRIC user facility at ORNL, including resources at the Maximum Building Energy Efficiency Research Laboratory (MAXLAB).

Researchers also demonstrated a new visualization and control laboratory for buildings and grid analysis and discovery, which houses a high-resolution powerwall (5760 x 3240 pixels) to display “big data” integrated analysis from ongoing research and technology deployment in ORNL’s research homes and buildings.


Topics: Automation and Controls, Energy Audit / Energy Management, Energy Saving Products, Government Buildings - Federal / State / Local, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Moisture and Vapor Management, Wall Systems / Curtain Walls, Water and Moisture Management - Waterproofing

Companies: U.S. Department of Energy


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