ROCKLEDGE, FL – March 25, 2010 – Mainstream Engineering Corporation, a leading research and development company in advanced thermal control and energy conversion, has been awarded a contract from the Department of Energy to develop an environmentally friendly working fluid for organic Rankine cycles. In addition, Mainstream will design a waste heat recovery system that will utilize the new working fluid.
Power generation equipment and industrial processes often produce waste heat as a by-product. High-temperature, or high-grade, waste heat can be used for heating as in conventional cogeneration plants to produce steam for industrial power processes or additional electrical power in a combined cycle. In the last decade, a new breed of power generation equipment, targeted at smaller, commercial-size energy users, has emerged. These systems, which include microturbines, PEM fuel cells, and traditional internal combustion engine driven generators, produce waste heat at temperatures too low to be used by conventional combined cycle, thermally activated generators. New systems must be developed to make use of low-temperature, or low-grade, waste heat. The new systems must be highly efficient, low cost, highly reliable, compact, and have minimal environmental impact to be beneficial and commercially viable.
Organic Rankine cycle (ORC) systems, which capture low-grade waste heat and convert it to electrical power, have begun to emerge. However, the existing ORC working fluid, HFC-245fa, has high global warming potential (GWP), is not environmentally sustainable, and is being phased out in Europe and Japan. To address this problem, Mainstream is using cheminformatics to develop an environmentally sustainable replacement working fluid for ORC waste heat recovery systems and to demonstrate the use of this novel working fluid in an improved efficiency system. Cheminformatics is the use of information resources to transform data into information, and information into knowledge, for the intended purpose of making better decisions faster in the arena of chemical compound identification and optimization. Mainstream has successfully used cheminformatics to develop new refrigerants, fire suppressants, and most recently a chemical solvent for cleaning line sets when replacing R-22 split-type air conditioners with R-410A systems.