Researchers Make Gains on Combined Energy Systems, Heat Exchangers

September 30, 2015 By Carl Weinschenk

oakLab Manager reports on research from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The innovative project features a 3-D printed buiding supporting a 3.2 KW solar array and a 3D-printed natural gas powered hybrid vehicle. The two entities are designed to power each other, according to the story. In essence, power uses wireless technology to flow in either direction. Thus, the vehicle can help power the 38-foot by 12-foot by 13-foot, 210-square-foot building in the absence of sunlight and the building can recharge the vehicle.

The story points out that the demonstration shows the melding of two energy systems that in most cases work independently. The heart of that capability is the energy control center, which manages and load balances the two power sources. The desire of researchers, according to the story, is to introduce options for the grid.

3D printing will prove useful for energy efficiency. Power plant cooling systems use heat exchangers to carry energy away from the heart of the electrical generation machinery, according to Phys.org. The efficiency of the heat exchangers are to some extent dependent upon their shape. 3D printing will enable shapes to be formed that were impossible before and thereby increase efficiency and reduce costs. The report focuses on research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The research is facing the challenges of 3D printing of heat exchangers: It is expensive to 3D print metal and use of polymers has technical limitations.

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