During the summer months, air-conditioning (cooling) is the single largest use of electricity in both residential and commercial buildings with the major impact on peak electric demand. Improved air-conditioning technology has by far the greatest potential impact on the electric industry compared to any other technology that uses electricity. Thermally activated absorption air-conditioning (absorption chillers) can provide overall peak load reduction and electric grid relief for summer peak demand. This paper describes an innovative absorption technology based on integrated rotating heat exchangers to enhance heat and mass transfer resulting in a potential reduction of size, cost, and weight of the “next generation” absorption units. This absorption chiller (RAC) is a 4.5 kW (1.3 refrigeration tons or RT) air-cooled lithium bromide (LiBr)/water unit powered by hot water generated using the solar energy and/or waste heat. Typically LiBr/water absorption chillers are water-cooled units which use a cooling tower to reject heat. Cooling towers require a large amount of space and increase start-up and maintenance costs. However, RAC is an air-cooled absorption chiller which requires no cooling tower. The purpose of this evaluation is to verify RAC performance by comparing the Coefficient of Performance (COP or ratio of cooling capacity to thermal energy input) and the cooling capacity results with those of the manufacturer. The performance of the RAC was tested at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in a controlled environment at various hot and chilled water flow rates, air handler flow rates, and ambient temperatures. Temperature probes, mass flow meters, rotational speed measuring device, pressure transducers, and a web camera mounted inside the unit were used to monitor the RAC via a web control-based data acquisition system using Automated Logic Controller (ALC). Results showed a COP and cooling capacity of approximately 0.58 and 3.7 kW respectively at 35°C (95°F) design condition for ambient temperature with 40°C (104°F) cooling water temperature. This is in close agreement with the manufacturer data of 0.60 for COP and 3.9 kW for cooling capacity. Future work will use these performance results to evaluate the potential benefits of rotating heat exchangers in making the “next-generation” absorption chillers more compact and cost effective without any significant degradation in the performance. Future studies will also evaluate the feasibility of using rotating heat exchangers in other applications.

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