STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Strategic Polymer Sciences Inc. (SPS), a developer of electroactive polymer (EAP) technology, announced that it has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II Recovery Act Program, for research and development based on recent breakthroughs in electrocaloric effect (ECE) for air conditioning and refrigeration technology.

Dr. Ailan Cheng, project leader, said, “The grant will enable SPS to optimize its proprietary ECE material and develop proof-of-concept prototypes of early-stage refrigeration devices. Should SPS be able to fully commercialize the technology, it would represent a major paradigm shift in the landscape of the refrigeration industry.”

Most conventional air conditioners and refrigerators achieve cooling through a mechanical vapor compression cycle and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. The electrocaloric effect is the change in the entropy and temperature in a dielectric material induced by an applied voltage. Dr. Q. M. Zhang, SPS co-founder and Penn State University Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering, observed that certain polymer dielectrics exhibit giant ECE. The results of these experiments were first published inSciencemagazine in August 2008. Since that time, his research team has made further development to the ECE materials that exhibit giant ECE at room temperature.

According to SPS, the SBIR/STTR grant will enable it to demonstrate the significant promise of the ECE material in commercially viable, high-efficiency cooling devices that will be less harmful to the environment. It supplements a previous grant to SPS from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which is committed to new alternative approaches to energy efficiency that will lead to lower overall energy usage and the reduction of U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources.

“The commercial application of the ECE material covers a wide range of markets and applications, including building and automotive air conditioning, commercial and home refrigerators, and electronics cooling,” said Ralph Russo, co-founder and CEO of SPS. “With rising energy prices and ever-increasing concern for the environment, new technology such as higher-efficiency and environmentally friendly solid state cooling becomes a natural choice for future alternative energy solutions.”

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Publication date:08/30/2010