NREL, the only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, selected Synapse to develop functional 1/10th and full scale proof of concept prototypes to demonstrate physically what theoretical modeling and simulations have shown. The NREL DEvap Air Conditioning concept uses desiccant materials which remove moisture from the air by using heat and advanced evaporative technologies. The result is a cooling unit that uses 90% less electricity and up to 80% less total energy than traditional air conditioning.
With a goal of revolutionizing air-conditioning, NREL’s engineers saw an opportunity to combine membranes, evaporative coolers and desiccants (AKA salt solutions) into a single device. NREL’s DEVap relies on the desiccants’’ capacity to create dry air using heat and evaporative coolers’ capacity to take dry air and make cold air.
The DEVap replaces the refrigeration cycle with a thermally activated absorption cycle and is capable of being powered by natural gas and solar energy. In addition to superior energy efficiency, the use of salt solutions means none of the harmful carbons associated with refrigerants are being released into the air. Furthermore, using far less electricity leads to a lower monthly energy cost.
Desiccant-based cooling systems have long faced challenges associated with the desiccant—a syrupy salt solution—potentially leaking from the unit. In buildings with metal ductwork, for example, the salty liquid would lead to corrosion and, ultimately, a string of problems throughout the building. Synapse worked with entirely plastic materials and ensured that the overall design of the unit was consistent in keeping the desiccant contained throughout the air-conditioning process.
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Synapse was able to build a workable prototype that proved what NREL’s theoretical modeling had shown. As a result, NREL could begin physically demonstrating the breakthrough technology to its clients.
Approximately 250 million Americans live and work in areas that are swelteringly hot and/or humid for 3 to 12 months a year. In those climates, air-conditioning is ubiquitous, a process that uses valuable resources and drives up monthly energy costs. To address this expensive and unsustainable problem, NREL invented a new air-conditioning process with the potential of using 90-percent less energy than today’s units.
NREL selected Synapse for its mechanical engineering and electrical engineering capabilities to develop functional 1/10th and full-scale proof-of-concept prototypes to demonstrate physically what their theoretical modeling and simulations had shown.