Conferences bring cool concepts to A/C, refrigeration research

July 8, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Three international conferences this month at Purdue University will focus on innovative concepts for air conditioning, refrigeration and high-performance buildings.

More than 700 people are expected to attend the 15th International Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Conference, the 22nd International Compressor Engineering Conference and the third International High Performance Buildings Conference from July 14-17.

The conferences are held every two years. Participants will present a record number of research papers - 410 - representing about a 10 percent increase over the previous record.

"It's a very active research field," said Eckhard Groll, the Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering and general conference chair.

Sessions will cover areas critical to industry, commerce, and domestic air-conditioning and refrigeration, said James Braun, the Herrick Professor of Engineering and chair of the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Conference.

Research talks will delve into designs for modifying the fundamental vapor-compression cycle that has been used since the invention of air conditioning and refrigeration. Some of the sessions will address the potential development of more environmentally friendly refrigerants and associated technologies to reduce impact on climate change.

"We are looking now at the next generation of refrigerants," Groll said.

One possibility is moving toward so-called natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, propane and other hydrocarbons.

"But they all have their own challenges," Groll said.

Carbon dioxide was the refrigerant of choice during the early 20th century, but it was later replaced with synthetic chemicals. Although carbon dioxide is a global-warming gas, conventional refrigerants, called hydrofluorocarbons, cause about 2,000 times more global warming than the same quantity of carbon dioxide.

Purdue researchers will present a paper on a concept called the liquid-flooded Ericsson power cycle. The technology is for power generation using heat from solar collectors, methane from landfills, or other processes. The technology harnesses a type of compressor called a scroll compressor. Unlike more conventional compressors, which use a piston to increase the pressure of refrigerants, a scroll compressor uses a cylindrical pump made of two scroll-shaped halves, one rotating inside its stationary counterpart, to trap and pressurize the refrigerant. The compressors are more efficient and make less noise than conventional compressors.

Braun and Groll have been working on scroll technology for about 20 years.

Additional papers will detail other concepts for generating power from low-grade heat sources; alternative heating and cooling technologies such as more efficient heat pumps for homes and commercial buildings; systems that use "heat recovery" technologies designed to harness energy ordinarily lost; solar energy systems; systems for cars and trucks; air conditioning for hybrid and electric vehicles; heat exchangers; vapor-compression-cycle enhancements; and new diagnostic systems designed to automatically detect problems in air-conditioning units

The conferences will include sessions focusing on ways to improve energy efficiency through better control of air-conditioning and refrigeration systems like those used in large stores and other commercial buildings

"A single store might have 30 of these units on the roof, so an automated system is needed to improve efficiency and performance," said Braun, who has conducted research into the automated systems. "There are so many of these units, so it isn't practical to send people to constantly monitor them to see whether they are low on refrigerant, or whether the compressor is dirty, and so on. Sensors could tell whether maintenance is needed."

Buildings are responsible for roughly 40 percent of the nation's energy use, 71 percent of electricity consumption and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

"We continue to grow the buildings conference," Braun said.

Purdue also will showcase its expanded Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, a hub of industry-oriented research in areas ranging from advanced automotive technologies to "smart" buildings. The new 68,000-square-foot building houses the Center for High Performance Buildings, where research is focused on equipment and operational technologies to make possible future buildings that are safer, more environmentally and user friendly, energy efficient, productive and comfortable.

The conferences will include a workshop and two short courses on Sunday. The workshop is on automated diagnostics for rooftop units. The short courses are on optimizing vapor-compression equipment and on experimental measuring techniques for testing compressor performance.

A keynote talk will be presented Monday by Achilles Karagiozis, director of building science at Owens Corning, who will speak about energy efficiency and the science of green buildings. The luncheon speaker on Tuesday will be Peter Ayres, director of building engineering at AECOM Technology Corp. He will speak about the challenges of designing a system to provide heating for an Antarctic research facility. Other speakers will be Roland Risser, director of the Buildings Technology Office for the U.S. Department of Energy; Jack Sauls, a compressor expert from Ingersoll Rand; and Mark McLinden from the Applied Chemicals and Materials Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

On-site registration is available during the conference. Registration will be in Purdue's Stewart Center, Room 110, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday (July 14-17). Most of the conference sessions will be in Stewart Center. The on-site registration fee is $775 and is $300 for students.

Detailed information about the conferences and technical abstracts to be presented can be found at 

The conferences are organized by faculty from Herrick Labs in cooperation with sponsoring and participating organizations. 

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709,  

Sources: Eckhard Groll, 765-494-7429, 

James Braun, 765-494-9157, 

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