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Teaser, summary, work performed and final results

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ONDINE (Development of the first Water-based industrial chiller cooled by ambient air)


Most industrial production processes require cooling to ensure appropriate temperature for effective operations. Data centers, manufacturing facilities, petrochemical plants, processing plants, refineries, steel mills, etc. need cooling system at precise temperature to work...


Most industrial production processes require cooling to ensure appropriate temperature for effective operations. Data centers, manufacturing facilities, petrochemical plants, processing plants, refineries, steel mills, etc. need cooling system at precise temperature to work properly. Cooling systems (i.e. chillers) control temperatures and pressures by transferring heat from hot process fluids to cooling fluids (i.e. refrigerants) piped throughout chillers and carrying the heat away.
These refrigerants often contain fluorinated gases which have many interesting properties (e.g. high density, low boiling point) but whose Global Warming Potential and Ozone Depletion Potential pose a threat to the environment: contribution of fluorinated gases is up to 23,000 times higher than Carbon Dioxide. Therefore, fluorinated gases CFCs and HCFCs have progressively been banned by the 1985 Montreal Protocol, while the 2016 Kigali amendment will gradually cap and reduce the use of fluorinated gases HFCs. The latter is already being phased out in accordance to the Regulation n°517/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16th April 2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases. Chemical industry is promoting a next generation of fluorinated gases called HFOs with lower global warming potential than HFCs. However, HFOs remain highly polluting and pose operational risks due to their highly flammable properties.
For most operators, this problem of unsustainability is very expensive. When a new regulation is made on cooling systems, operators must shut down their facilities to proceed to the weighty and costly work needed to comply with new regulations. After having to change twice their installations in a period of 30 years, operators of such facilities are now being wary of new fluorinated solutions such as HFO. In addition to that, the current monopoly around HFO makes this solution very expensive. As society’s demand is leaning toward more and more environmental friendly solutions, regulations are promoting more and more clean, natural and sustainable solutions.

In this context, Alan CHAUVIN and Karino KANG created Leviathan Dynamics to develop the first water-based refrigeration system cooled by air. Water as a refrigerant offers various advantages. This basic fluid ordinarily is plentiful and inexpensive in most industrialized regions of the world. Water has exceptional thermodynamics properties for all positive temperature applications. However, compared to other refrigerants, Water is complex to operate. Leviathan Dynamics is working to lift these complexities by using the most advanced technologies and with the vision that for all positive temperature applications, water will replace all other polluting and/or hazardous refrigerant.

Work performed

The work performed during the H2020 SME instrument Phase 1 program is a feasibility study consisting of 3 main tasks:
- Task 1: Technical feasibility
As initially planned, we have developed a numerical model that can allow us to predict the refrigeration system performances based on the process that has been previously patented. It has been proven numerically that greater energy efficiency can be achieved.
The main issue with using water as refrigerant is that it requires specific compressors that can achieve high volume flow rate and high compression ratio in a compact size. Thus, the core of the technology is the refrigeration compressor.
In this regard, we have worked on the aerodynamic optimization of the compressor and we now possess a highly efficient compressor design which will later lead to the production of a new prototype.
We have also worked on the process-material couple that will be used for the compressor parts. Indeed, we are operating in a very competitive market and we have investigated the compatibility of common and affordable materials such as steel and aluminium with our process. Now, for each part of the compressor, we know which the most relevant material is to be used.

- Task 2: Business feasibility
For the business feasibility part, we have investigated the possibility to penetrate the market by studying the market segment of chillers for cooling laser sources and chillers for electrical cabinet.
These market segments were of interest because the temperature and power requirement fit to our short-term capacity.
Our approach was to directly discuss end-users to have some feedbacks on the technology and to check whether how this technology was welcomed. This approach was made from different channel including direct contact and showcasing at the refrigeration fair.
Conclusion is that for these market segments, is that though the technology is very welcomed and appreciated by all player in the industry, the fact that we are dealing with small power requisition, that we cannot guarantee reliability yet and, on top of all, that we have a high initial acquisition price makes it very hard to penetrate these market segments directly.
These market segments are not impossible to reach for such an early stage product as ours, but a different approach should be made.

- Task 3: Legal feasibility
We had two innovations that we wanted to patent. One concerned an innovative design of heat exchanger and the other concerned the refrigeration compressor configuration.
Prior art search revealed that, while our innovations are relevant, they are not novelties. Heat exchangers and compressors are studied thoroughly by industrial companies and a huge number of patents has been applied concerning these two subjects.
While we could not apply the intended patent, the prior art search also revealed that existing companies can manufacture the heat exchanger and that the compressor configuration, while not being a novelty, is not patented. This prior art search ensures our freedom-to-operate.

Final results

The feasibility study has demonstrated that using water is relevant for chiller applications. It has proven that with our patented process and with the technology used, the high energy efficiency promised is achievable.
While we mainly focus on industrial application, the technology can have huge societal impact since it can be further improved to meet heat pump and air conditioning requirements. Then, our technology will allow the reduction of energy consumption for these applications while reducing environmental impacts and risks for the users inherent to other refrigerants.

Website & more info

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