SBIR Phase I: Refrigeration Microvalve

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0945983
Agency Tracking Number: 0945983
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2010
Solicitation Year: 2010
Solicitation Topic Code: IC
Solicitation Number: NSF 09-541
Small Business Information
1923 Big Horn Ave Unit B, Sheridan, WY, 82801
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Zachary Gray
 (307) 752-2615
Business Contact
 Zachary Gray
Title: PhD
Phone: (307) 752-2615
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 project will develop an active microvalve for control of refrigerant fluids. Intended for use in refrigerators and air conditioners, the device will meet or exceed stringent industry standards for reliability, efficiency, and cost. The transfer of a promising academic piezoelectric actuator to industry is a key objective. The intellectual merits of this project are found in two main areas: 1) the monolithic integration of a high-stroke, high-force piezoelectric actuator with a high reliability silicon microvalve substrate, and 2) the study of novel fluid flow path geometries, including venturi-like passages, intended to achieve a variable restriction with proportional control, reduced acoustic noise, and reduced susceptibility to clogging. Significant challenges are anticipated in both areas. However, the successful fusion of these efforts will result in a groundbreaking microvalve well suited for energy-efficient, active refrigerant control for all refrigeration and air conditioning applications. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes the development of an integrated, component-level microvalve designed for high-volume manufacturing. A further goal is to develop a manufacturing infrastructure on US soil, taking advantage of opportunities in rural America, particularly focused on Wyoming. Societal benefits include the obvious benefits of significant energy savings. Refrigeration energy efficiency improvements of up to 20% are possible, while improvements of at least 30% in air conditioning are anticipated. These savings rival the anticipated savings from LED light sources. In the US alone, even a 5% efficiency improvement in refrigerators translates to an annual savings of 7.8 billion kWh, or $780M at ten cents per kWh. This produces a long-term impact on reduced environmental emissions, reduced need for new power plants, and increased capital for other vital expenditures. Medical applications are anticipated in the areas of drug delivery, especially for insulin.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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