Mechanical Engineering associate professor receives grant for state-of-the-art climate lab

By Teri Greene

Published: Jul 25, 2018 12:00:00 AM

Lorenzo Cremaschi, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, received a grant to fund research in the Building Energy and Thermal Systems Lab, which he designed, constructed and oversees. Lorenzo Cremaschi, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, received a grant to fund research in the Building Energy and Thermal Systems Lab, which he designed, constructed and oversees.

Lorenzo Cremaschi, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received a grant of more than $150,000 from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers to fund research in the state-of-the-art Building Energy and Thermal Systems Lab. 

Cremaschi designed and oversees the lab, which opened in 2017 and was completed in June. The lab is capable of reproducing climate conditions from around the world, from tropical to continental to polar tundra. It also provides high-definition tools and state-of-the-art sensors that measure the energy performance of buildings' energy conversion systems while running under realistic field-type operating conditions. 

The lab is home to a large-flow wind tunnel with humidity- and rain drizzle-control capabilities, an integrated infrared thermal camera and a chiller unit that can cool fluids to -91 degrees or heat them to 130 degrees. The facility's main equipment comprises two tube calorimeters, one with a high-speed camera to visualize flows and another with a nanosizer to control fluid additives and nonparticles. 

Energy security, the threat of climate change and the need to meet growing energy demands drives Cremaschi's research, which focuses on decreasing the energy consumption of buildings. He said heating, ventilation and air conditioning is the largest energy end-user for buildings in the United States. 

"Buildings are forecast to account for 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the United States," Cremaschi said, followed by industry at 33 percent and transportation at 27 percent. The energy consumption of buildings alone represents a cost of approximately $416 billion. 

"Increasing energy efficiency is the highest priority for creating sustainable energy for the future and reducing carbon dioxide emissions," he said.

For example, he said, a potential improvement of the efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration equipment by only 2 percent would lead to a primary energy savings equivalent to the energy the U.S. consumes in oil fields for three days, or the energy that 10 million average-size homes in the U.S. consume for a few months. 

Cremaschi is developing a new class of refrigerants that will have a far lower global warming potential than those currently in use. The ASHRAE grant will fund research on this new class of refrigerants. 

A grant from the Alabama Innovation Funds in 2016 provided funds for equipment that was critical to the creation of the facility, including Cremaschi's research collaboration with Jeff Suhling, department chair of Mechanical Engineering. 

Photos and more information about this research can be found here

Media Contact: Teri Greene, tag0036@auburn.edu, 334-844-3591

Recent Headlines