ARA Researchers Awarded Patent for Power Plant Cooling Technology

ACTIVE reduces dependence on water

Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) was recently awarded a patent for transformative new technology that improves thermoelectric power plant cooling.

The critical technology is emerging as concerns grow that a combination of environmental concerns, increased water demand due to population growth, and the impacts of climate change begin to constrain the amount of water that can be used for power plant cooling. 

About 41% of the United States’ fresh water resources is withdrawn for cooling power systems, roughly the same amount used to irrigate crops. Most is lost to evaporation, and the rest is returned to its source. However, handling and managing water is expensive.

In response to those concerns, power plant operators are increasingly encouraged to reduce or eliminate cooling water. Current dry cooling technology is highly favorable to using water, but it doesn’t perform as well when ambient temperatures are high.

ARA’s new technology, called ACTIVE, or Active Cooling Thermally Induced Vapor-polymerization Effect, tackles that major challenge.

ARA’s SMART- Energy (SMART-E) group developed ACTIVE. The patented technology will be demonstrated soon, and commercial sales are expected to begin in the next few years.

“ACTIVE was reduced to practice only in two years. We started with a concept and ended up with a pilot unit that will be demonstrated next to a cooling tower at a local electric generating plant,” said Aly Shaaban, SMART-E group leader. “During laboratory testing the energy team defined other ACTIVE technology applications which included efficient air conditioning, directed energy thermal management, gas turbine inlet air cooling, and waste heat recovery.”

The ACTIVE technology is highly efficient during hot ambient conditions, with zero water consumption or loss.

When integrated into power plants, ACTIVE will:

  • Render thermoelectric power plants independent from the nation’s water supply sources
  • Improve energy efficiency
  • Conserve water resources for other important uses
  • Avoid the loss of turbine output

“The SMART Energy team has successfully developed an efficient technology that has several derivatives providing the ACTIVE technology a wide range of markets to thrive,” Shaaban said.

NO OTHER TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE TODAY ACHIEVES THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S PERFORMANCE AND COST TARGETS SUPPORTING REDUCED WATER CONSUMPTION BY ELECTRIC UTILITY SYSTEMS.

In 2015, ARA won a three-year, $2.7M grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop and demonstrate ACTIVE.

ARA’S SMART Energy group is dedicated to developing sustainable and scalable energy technologies, continually pushing beyond the boundaries of typical research and development to provide real-world, energy-saving solutions for ARA clients. To read more about ARA’s energy and environment work, click here.

ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees like ARA are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy.

About ARA

Applied Research Associates, Inc. (ARA) was founded in 1979, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to offer science and engineering research to solve problems of national importance. ARA delivers leading-edge products and solutions for national defense, energy, homeland security, aerospace, healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing. With over 1,500 employee-owners at locations in the U.S. and Canada, ARA offers a broad range of technical expertise in defense technologies, civil engineering, computer software and simulation, systems analysis, biomedical engineering, environmental technologies, and blast testing and measurement.

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