I-Corps: Study of Commercialization Aspects for nFE Technology
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Devices and systems that are employed for heat removal or heat addition are often referred to as "Thermal Management Platforms." These systems impact various applications ranging from cooling (refrigerators, air-conditioners, opto-electronic chips/ lasers, computers, etc.), to oil exploration (e.g., deep drilling), to biotechnology (e.g., rapid thermo-cyling for nucleic acids), to power generation (e.g., thermal power plants involving coal, solar, nuclear, geo-thermal power, etc.). This team has discovered that boiling and condensation of refrigerants can be enhanced by using nanoparticle coatings and using engineered surfaces with nano-scale surface roughness (this is called the "nanoFin Effect" or "nFE" technology). The proposed innovative surfaces (with engineered nano-scale roughness or nanofins) are shown to significantly enhance heat transfer during boiling as the roughness is increased. This is highly desirable as it enables miniaturization of devices involving boiling at high heat loads while also enabling the reduction in operating temperatures. The proposed activities in the I-Corps project will be utilized to gain insights about the suitable markets segments for targeting deployment of nFe Technology and the aspects of nFE Technology that needs to be strengthened in order to be more responsive to needs of customers in various market segments. Substantial market demand exists for nFE technology (the market for energy efficient devices in the US alone was $5.1 billion and is projected to grow at a rate of 8% over the next 5 years). The exponential increase in the use of air-conditioning in emerging economies adds further urgency to the need to devise energy-efficient solutions for solar heat gain. Thermal management requirements will significantly affect the growth of electronic packaging industries."nanoFin Effect (nFE)" was discovered and leveraged for developing tunable thermal-impedance networks by integrating nanoparticle coatings and additives with temperature nano-sensors. Numerical models indicate that nFE arises from the coupling of enhanced surface area of nanoparticles with the interfacial thermal impedance networks. Hence nFE Technology can be leveraged for various acute thermal management needs. The proposed study addresses an important technical bottleneck for many industries (and the Department of Defense), and has a great potential for significant commercial impact. Impregnation of the nFE technology into a variety of market segments would provide transformative solutions in: energy conservation (buildings/ HVAC), renewable energy (concentrated solar power/ CSP, photo-voltaics/ PV), traditional power generation (nuclear, coal, geothermal), transportation (aerospace, automotive, marine), civil engineering (water resources management using micro/nano-fluidics), chemical/ process industries (petro-chemicals), power management (opto-electronics, chip cooling), homeland security, and life-sciences (agriculture, biomedical, pharmaceuticals/ therapeutics, drug discovery, drug delivery). One specific marketable application of nFE with low barriers to entry - is tailoring the performance of compact heat exchangers (HX) and Heat Transfer Fluids (HTF). Wide varieties of heat exchangers can be tailored using nFE Technology for various applications ranging from energy and defense to process industry applications. Other applications include: (a) Biotechnology; (b) Homeland Security/ Bio-Safety; (c) Energy Harvesting (including oil and gas exploration, conventional/non-renewable and renewal energy technologies); and (d) Energy Efficiency/ Sustainability.