WASHINGTON — As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to supporting the next generation of scientists and engineers, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a University of Maryland team has won the department’s first Max Tech and Beyond Appliance Design competition.

The student challenge aims to inspire the nation’s brightest young minds to pursue energy-efficiency improvements in home and commercial appliances and other equipment, helping to develop innovative ultra-efficient products. The competition also supports the DOE’s broader efforts to train and educate a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs who will help solve national energy challenges and bring cutting-edge energy technologies to the global market.

The University of Maryland team chose to simplify the design of a standard wall-mounted air conditioner by separating the systems that remove humidity and provide cooling. After the students tested a fully functional prototype, they found that the design reduced energy use by 30 percent compared with typical wall-mounted air conditioners already on the market. The Maryland team, led by Professor Yunho Hwang, competed with eight other faculty-led student design teams from universities across the United States. The teams were competitively selected and funded by the DOE to design, build, and test their prototypes during the 2011-2012 academic year. The runner-up team from Marquette University developed a prototype of a natural-gas-fired combination water heater and clothes dryer that uses waste heat from the clothes dryer to heat water for the next washing load. The team demonstrated that with this approach, the dryer offers a 10 percent efficiency improvement compared to the best on the market.

The nine competing student teams received up to $20,000 to design and test commercially viable innovative appliances built to save families and businesses money. A panel of Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory experts judged each team’s prototype based on its demonstrated ability to reduce energy use by 10 percent or more compared to best-on-market products, or the prototype’s ability to reduce production costs compared with typical high-efficiency products already on the market by 20 percent or more.

Publication date: 10/1/2012