Xergy Inc. Delivers Prototype Electrochemical Compressor to GE Appliances

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Xergy shipped the world's first electrochemical compressor (ECC) unit to GE Appliances for incorporation into a prototype hybrid water heater.

New appliance technologies are critical for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) mission. One of DOE's goals is to cut building energy use in half while reducing appliance environmental impact. Heating and cooling account for about 48% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home. Most of this energy use is due to heat pump operation.

For the past 100 years, heat pumps in air conditioners, and refrigerators have relied on vapor compression systems. Besides energy use, vapor-compression systems use conventional refrigerants that contribute to global climate change. The good news is that researchers are focusing on many new solutions, and DOE is leading this charge.

Among the innovations supported by DOE is an electrochemical compressor (ECC) for heat pumps pioneered by Xergy Inc. (Seaford, DE). This is a solid-state technology that uses an external voltage to pump a water, as a refrigerant across an ion exchange membrane. This technique has several advantages over traditional mechanical heat pumps. It is much more efficient. Also,water is an excellent refrigerant, and does not contribute to global warming. Xergy's ECC system has no moving parts and is thus noiseless and vibration free.

An initial application of this technology is in hybrid water heaters. Hybrid water heaters use heat pumps to reduce the energy needed to heat water by as much as 60%. By using an Xergy compressor in water heaters, we could reduce energy consumption in the U.S. by an amount equal to the State of Oregon’s consumption.

Xergy Inc., a small business from Delaware, is leading the development of this technology. The project reached a major milestone in August 2015, when Xergy shipped the first ECC unit to GE Appliances for incorporation into a prototype hybrid water heater.

“If you’re not in the heating and cooling technology industry, it may be hard to appreciate the significance of this milestone. Electrochemical compression has the potential to transform the market away from today’s vapor compression solutions. This prototype is the Apple I of ECC technology,” says Tony Bouza, Technology Manager for HVAC, Water Heating, and Appliances at DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO).

BTO made a commitment to Xergy’s ECC technology, investing more than $3 million through three separate projects. The technology also promises improved efficiency—Xergy estimates that its ECC water heater will be more than 25% more efficient than current state-of-the-art heat pumps with environmental benefits. As a result, the potential annual energy savings from widespread adoption of the technology in the water heating market could total 1 Quad, equal to the electricity used by 28 million homes in a year.

“It’s no longer a matter of if, but when, this technology will enter the market. We’ve proven that electrochemical compression is a viable alternative to traditional water heater technologies. Now it’s just a matter of refinement to get the package smaller and cheaper so that it can see widespread adoption in the U.S. residential market,” explained Bamdad Bahar, President of Xergy.

Once the technology has been refined, Xergy will expand ECC applications to other markets, including home and commercial air conditioners, refrigeration systems, and numerous other heating and cooling applications.

The Xergy Compressor system operates by pumping protons across an ion exchange membrane between two gas diffusion electrodes. These protons draw a water as a refrigerant with them across the membrane. When the refrigerant reaches the other side of the membrane it is released at higher pressure and fed into a refrigeration cycle (as with other compressor systems). The Xergy Compressor Technology is inherently more efficient, motor-less noise-less, modular, scalable, more reliable than traditional mechanical systems and employs non-CFC refrigerants that do not deteriorate our environment. There are many other benefits to the Xergy technology that can be realized depending on the specific application - such as in refrigerators, heat pumps, electronic cooling systems, automotive cooling systems, etc. Proton-Pumping systems are well known in biological systems as the mechanism utilized to move nutrients across cell membranes.

This technology is transformational and disruptive, and will revolutionize refrigeration systems globally, resulting in important environmental benefits. Refrigeration Systems account for over 30% of residential and commercial power requirements, and obviously any gain in system efficiencies will substantially reduce energy consumption and in turn reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In addition, over 400 million electric motors are produced for mechanical compressors worldwide, and adoption of this technology will reduce depletion of critical materials used to make electric motors. Since, this technology can operate without using CFC based refrigerants, it will also dramatically reduce ozone layer depletion caused by current refrigerants.

Xergy has developed many products from its R&D efforts related to ECC's including advanced ion exchange membranes, catalyst coated membranes, micro-humidifiers, energy recovery ventilator modules. It has also partnered with the University of Delaware to create advanced fuel cells systems and break-through desalination systems based on its membranes.

Xergy Inc. is a high-technology start-up venture based in Sussex County, Delaware with 5 issued patents and over 20 patents in process; and has entered into programs to commercialize this technology with a number of global F500 companies. Xergy Inc. was a finalist in the ARPA-E 2010 program, won the GE Ecomagination award in 2011, was a finalist in the Cleantech Award in 2012, won a DOE SBIR Phase 1 award in 2013, and Phase II award in 2014.

For more information, please visit Xergy’s website http://www.xergyinc.com or contact Bamdad Bahar, at 302 629 5768

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