Car.pngYour car’s AC gets a whole lot more efficient when you push this button. What if your office building could do the same? The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has found a way — and it’s going to mean lower costs and much cleaner indoor air.

Constantly replacing the air in large buildings protects workers’ health by preventing the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That’s the good news. The less-than-good news is that current cooling systems pull in fresh outside air up to ten times a day. It takes a lot of energy — and dollars — to cool that air in the summer or warm it in the winter.

What if the already-conditioned air inside the building could be recirculated longer, so that less outside air needs to be pulled in? That would certainly save energy, but what about the buildup of CO2 and VOCs?

Dr. Ranjani Siriwardane, a senior scientist at the NETL, has a solution for that problem. For many years, Siriwardane has worked on developing sorbents to remove CO2 and other contaminants from the flue gas of coal-fired power plants.

“Traditionally, we’ve developed sorbents for CO2 and other contaminant removal in power plants,” Siriwardane said. “But sorbent technologies can work anywhere there’s a need for CO2 and contaminant removal, including a building’s HVAC system.”

NETL has decades of experience in sorbent technology development, so we partnered with an HVAC company called enVerid Systems to create unique multi-functional sorbents that can capture CO2 and VOCs at ambient temperatures and then be easily regenerated.

With these new sorbents, enVerid was able to develop their new HVAC Load Reduction technology, which uses a module integrated into existing HVAC systems to scrub the air of dangerous indoor air contaminants. This module is now commercially available and has been used in several large buildings to reduce energy use as well as CO2 and VOC levels.

The technology is receiving a lot of attention. It was recently selected as a finalist for a 2016 R&D 100 Award. These awards, known to industry as the “Oscars of Invention,” recognize the 100 brightest and boldest technologies to enter the marketplace in a given year.

“It’s exciting how this technology has applications beyond power plants,” said Siriwardane. “I’m proud that we can impact workers’ daily lives, their comfort, and their health.”

This is just one example of how research at NETL can benefit more than just one industry, providing a tremendous return on America’s investment in fossil energy research.

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, one of the Department of Energy’s 17 National Laboratories. You can learn more about the future of air conditioning by listening to our podcast episode, “The Future of Cool.”