USA: A leading US university has received a $1.25m grant from the US Department of Energy to develop a novel electrochemical heat pump technology.

According to the team led by Purdue University’s Center for High Performance Buildings (CHPB), the NO Vapour-compression, Electrochemical Looping Heat Pump (NOVEL HP) has the potential to outperform conventional vapour compression systems.

Initial development of the concept was funded through a grant from the CHPB, culminating in proof-of-concept experimental work and simulation assessments. It is said that the three-year DOE grant will enable further development and a more comprehensive assessment that will move the technology closer to commercialisation.

The technology employs a chemical reaction to alternate a working fluid between more and less volatiles states. This allows the main compression to take place in the liquid phase and enables the utilisation of a range of different working fluids that would not be appropriate for vapour compression technology.

The current work investigates the scalability of a chemical looping heat pump system by means of a detailed thermodynamic model coupled with a 2D-discretised electrochemical cell model.

Studies on the cell size as well as flow rate of working fluids, like isopropyl alcohol and acetone, will be used to identify cooling capacity requirements for residential and commercial buildings.

The Purdue team maintains that the technology can enable an improvement in energy efficiency of more than 20% compared to conventional vapour compression systems, while helping to transition to new refrigerants with low global warming potential.