Energy Systems Division
Energy Conversion Research
Our Energy Conversion research offers advanced technical solutions to achieve reduced fossil fuel use in residential and commercial building energy applications. The focus of our work is on biofuel end use, combustion efficiency and emissions, and new system concepts. We seek to continuously improve the capabilities of relevant research tools being applied in collaborative initiatives to achieving these goals.
Our staff has capabilities to conduct research in a number of energy-related areas. These include applications of biofuels and alternative fuels, efficiency in heating/cooling equipment, advanced oil burner development and particulate emissions for wood boilers. A state-of-the-art testing laboratory is available on site for evaluating heating and cooling equipment performance and emissions.
Equipment Efficiency and Next-Generation Systems
Our research has long been focused on how to increase the efficiency of oil-fired and gas-fired heating systems, and particularly the issue of idle loss; the energy these systems use when they are inactive. We have developed performance maps for many different systems and matched them with building energy-use profiles for different cities to look at the effect of steady-state efficiency and the effect of idle loss, among other things, on annual fuel use. We created a web tool people can use to estimate the potential savings for their buildings.
Our staff have been involved with advanced oil burner development and will be studying the next generation of HVAC equipment with efficiency levels far higher than those achieved in current systems. The goal is to understand the real performance of the current generation of equipment and the next, including micro CHP systems (heating systems that also make electricity) and a wide variety of heat pumps. They are currently studying fuel-fired heat pumps - absorption heat pumps which offer the potential to go to efficiency levels in the range of 160 percent.
Biofuels and Alternative Fuels
Our staff study the applications of biofuels and alternative fuels -- how we use them and the limitations of their use including material compatibility, combustion characteristics, storage stability, and corrosion, all issues associated with a wide range of fuels including biodiesel from soy, canola, palm, jatropha and algae; pyrolysis oils; hydrolysis product fuels; and levulinates. They also work with coal to liquid (CTL) and gas to liquid (GTL) fuels.
Particulate Emissions of Wood Combustion Systems
Our studies include wood boilers and air-pollutant emissions from advanced wood combustion. Wood is becoming an increasingly critical issue in the northeast and is becoming a dominant source of particulates for the region. Work on particulate emissions aims to ensure that the growth of direct use of wood and solid biomass fuel occurs in as environmentally positive a manner as possible. With NYSERDA and the U.S. EPA, our staff have been working on efficiency test methods for wood boilers.