Development of improved sorbents revives a long-neglected heat-pump concept.
Improved complex-compound sorption pumps are undergoing development for use as prime movers in heat-pump systems for cooling and dehumidification of habitats for humans on the Moon and for residential and commercial cooling on Earth. Among the advantages of sorption heat-pump systems are that they contain no moving parts except for check valves and they can be driven by heat from diverse sources: examples include waste heat from generation of electric power, solar heat, or heat from combustion of natural gas.
The use of complex compound sorbents in cooling cycles is not new in itself: Marketing of residential refrigerators using SrCl2 was attempted in the 1920s and ‘30s and was abandoned because heat- and mass-transfer rates of the sorbents were too low. Addressing the issue that gave rise to the prior abandonment of complex compound sorption heat pumps, the primary accomplishment of the present development program thus far has been the characterization of many candidate sorption media, leading to large increases in achievable heat- and mass-transfer rates. In particular, two complex compounds (called “CC260-1260” and “CC260-2000”) were found to be capable of functioning over the temperature range of interest for the lunar-habitat application and to offer heat- and masstransfer rates and a temperature-lift capability adequate for that application. Regarding the temperature range: A heat pump based on either of these compounds is capable of providing a 95-K lift from a habitable temperature to a heat-rejection (radiator) temperature when driven by waste heat at an input temperature ≥500 K. Regarding the heat- and mass-transfer rates or, more precisely, the power densities made possible by these rates: Power densities observed in tests were 0.3 kilowatt of cooling per kilogram of sorbent and 2 kilowatts of heating per kilogram of sorbent. A prototype 1-kilowatt heat pump based on CC260-2000 has been built and demonstrated to function successfully.
This work was done by Uwe Rockefeller, Lance Kirol, and Kaveh Khalili of Rocky Research for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the Johnson Commercial Technology Office at (281)483-3809.