The power plant of the future could be smaller, highly efficient and even portable, and researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology could play a key role in making this transformation happen.

Missouri S&T recently received a $1.45 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop more efficient heat exchangers for energy production. Heat exchangers are devices used to transfer heat between two or more fluids and are commonly used in systems such as chemical plants, petroleum refineries, and refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

 

Researchers at S&T will use advanced manufacturing processes to construct compact heat exchangers from ceramic materials that can operate in the extreme environments of next generation power cycles.

 

“Operation of a heat exchanger under these extreme conditions has never before been attempted,” says Dr. David W. Lipke, assistant professor of ceramic engineering at Missouri S&T and principal investigator on the project. “Missouri S&T is uniquely poised to overcome longstanding materials challenges because of our expertise in ceramic additive manufacturing and joining methods and our unique facilities to test materials in extreme environments.”

 

Future power plants will be designed to operate at extremely high temperatures and pressures. Lipke says the high temperatures will maximize thermal efficiency, thereby reducing emissions and water consumption, while high pressures will increase power density and dramatically reduce the size of turbomachinery components.

 

The researchers will use the ARPA-E grant funding to build recuperative heat exchangers that operate at higher temperatures from current levels of 700 degrees Celsius (1292 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 1100 degrees C (2012 degrees F) by replacing high strength metallic superalloys with ultra-high-temperature ceramics.

 

Working with Lipke on the project are Dr. Gregory E. Hilmas, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of ceramic engineering and chair of materials science and engineering; Dr. William G. Fahrenholtz, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of ceramic engineering and director of Missouri S&T’s Materials Research Center; Dr. Ming C. Leu, Keith and Pat Bailey Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of Missouri S&T’s Intelligent Systems Center; and Dr. Jeremy Watts, research assistant professor of materials science and engineering. The Missouri S&T team will work with researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Echogen Power Systems to develop marketable technologies based on the outcomes of this project.

 

Missouri S&T received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s High Intensity Thermal Exchange through Materials and Manufacturing Processes (HITEMMP) program. The program seeks to develop new approaches and technologies for the design and manufacture of high-temperature, high-pressure, and highly compact heat exchangers and components.