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Honeywell refrigerant helps convert waste to heat for cheap electricity

A non-ozone-depleting refrigerant made by Honeywell is being used in a process to convert waste heat to power at the Southern Methodist University in Texas, USA.

The refrigerant, called Genetron R-245fa, is reported to be energy-efficient, non-flammable, and low in toxicity.

The refrigerant is being used as the heat-transfer fluid in an organic rankine cycle (ORC) called the ElectraTherm Green Machine.

The ORC uses waste heat as low as 200 degrees Fahrenheit to boil the R-245fa. The resulting vapour is used to drive a patented Twin Screw Expander that generates usable electricity.

Electricity generated by the ElectraTherm Green Machine costs less than approximately two cents per kilowatt hour after its capital payback period of less than two years, says Honeywell.

By comparison, according to the US Department of Energy, average commercial electricity costs surpassed 13 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008, the company reported.

ElectraTherm’s line of generators is designed to make energy-efficient, fuel-free, emissions-free electricity from waste and geothermal heat or pressure instead of fossil fuels, thus offsetting carbon emissions.

“Our ORC can help universities, manufacturers and other building owners save significant energy costs and increase efficiency,” said ElectraTherm CEO, Richard Langson.

“And having a low-toxicity refrigerant is a key part of the technology to make that happen.”

Honeywell says its R-245fa is ideal for use in ORCs because of the refrigerant’s heat transfer properties, including its low boiling point, which is 15.3 C, allowing the ORC to take even low-temperature waste heat sources and convert them to grid-friendly electricity that can be used to offset the power needs of the source company.

The waste heat can come from a variety of sources, including common boilers and chillers in office buildings.

“This is another example of how Honeywell technology is making alternative, cleaner energy sources more viable,” said Honeywell Fluorine Products business director of new product innovation, Bjorn Hofman.

“We’re helping our customers provide safe, energy-efficient solutions.”

Honeywell’s Specialty Materials business responsible for refrigerant used in the ElectraTherm is a $7.2 billion global provider of high-performance specialty materials, including fluorine products; specialty films and additives; advanced fibres and composites; intermediates; specialty chemicals; electronic materials and chemicals; and technologies and materials for petroleum refining.

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