Ohio Patent of the Month – October 2022
Heat pumps are versatile and efficient cooling and heating systems. They often use electricity to move heat from one place to another. In a conventional heat pump cycle, the working fluid is compressed from low to high temperatures and pressure states to control this thermal transfer. The most limiting component of the heat pump is the transfer of heat from the working fluid to the heat transfer source (HTR). Echogen Power Systems, LLC has designed a split expansion heat pump cycle that improves this heat transfer.
Echogen is a leading producer of large-scale heat-to-power systems. Their technology captures heat energy-which would normally be lost- and converts into higher value, usable power. Their improved heat pump works to improve this efficiency as well.
In a traditional heat pump cycle, the working fluid flow rate decreases relative to the HTR flow rate until an intersection point is eventually reached. At this point, any further decrease in fluid flow rate will no longer impact the working fluid exit temperature. This is because the heat transfer process simply cannot proceed any faster since there is a near-zero temperature difference between the two fluids. This intersection point is referred to as a “pinch” and typically occurs in the middle of the heat exchanger.
Echogen’s split expansion design addresses this pinch by more accurately matching the rate of change in temperature. This is achieved by separating the high temperature heat exchange into two stages – hence a split expansion. A portion of the working fluid that was cooled in the first stage is further cooled by expansion before being mixed with a heated working fluid. Echogen’s solution effectively controls this flow rate, removing the instance of pinching and improving efficiency in heat transfer.
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