SBIR Phase I: Compact Torus-Shaped Organic Ranking Cycle for Distributed Solar Thermal Power Generation

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Air Squared, Inc.
510 Burbank St. Array
Broomfield, CO 80020
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project addresses the current need to develop a small scale organic rankine cycle (ORC). While ORCs have been used extensively in industry for waste heat recovery for larger systems (10kW and above), there has been little advancement in the private sector for smaller ORCs used for distributed solar power, biomass or diesel waste heat recovery for smaller portable/compact applications. While smaller systems are known to work through various demonstrations at research institutions, it has yet been proven whether they can be manufactured and sold at a competitive cost to replace current distributed power systems for remote applications. The proposed design packages all components in a way to optimize system efficiency, reduce complexity and increase manufacturability. The research effort will consist of assessing the feasibility of designing a working compact ORC that can be competitive in the areas of life cycle cost, reliability, efficiency and performance. This will be accomplished through design, fabrication and testing of a portion of the system. This project will seek to develop a smaller and novel organic ranking cycle system for commercial use that is practical and highly competitive. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project can be narrowed down to two main markets. The first includes use for distributed solar power generation. ORCs offer a cheaper alternative to solar photovoltaic (PV) for distributed solar power generation in that thermal energy can be easily stored on site without the use of large expensive batteries as in solar PV. With reduction in cost in both generation and storage, ORC solar power generation can potentially be available to markets where the costly PV is not an option. This includes markets in underdeveloped countries where solar energy is plentiful, yet the infrastructure to support grid energy storage doesn?t exist; as well as remote markets where an electrical grid doesn?t exist and energy storage is required. An additional market includes distributed biomass power generation for small independent farms, currently expensive anaerobic digesters or large steam driven biomass plants are used for biomass energy production from farm waste. The low power density of farm waste makes it impractical to transport long distances to these facilities. With the use of a affordable compact ORC, energy from biomass can be generated on-site at an affordable cost.