Surface Power’s 'nano-engine' harvests light to generate heating and cooling

Surface Power’s HONE nanotechnology aims to harvest daylight to create heating and cooling all year round.

Commended in the 2degrees Champions Awards 2015

The background

We set out to create a Daylight harvesting technology which would work all year round in countries without sunshine.

Current competitors are in the renewable heating space are solar thermal (hot water) and heat pumps (heating). There are few if any solar hot water companies innovating in the science arena. The biggest player in the USA with over 70% of the market is still marketing a patented coating which expired from patent 10 years ago.

Most players are innovating materials or production line efficiencies only as usually they have another core business technology such as insulation or boilers, etc.

Solar Hot Water uses heat exchange from the sun, it works when there is sun and in summer. It is very basic science being used for thousands of years. These products were first placed on the market in their current guise in 1891 by the California light box company.

They perform poorly without sunlight and is the same science for 125 years but amazingly is the back bone of government policies as there is no better alternative.

Heat Pumps use electricity and produce an element of heat based on the Carnot Cycle with a COP of 1:4 which extracts low grade heat from the ground or outside air. COP simply means these boilers consume 1 kWhrs of electricity to make 4 kWhrs of heat. Heat Pumps were first placed on the market in 1860’s to dry salt.

The science is still the same today and again is the back bone of government policy as there is no better alternative. The science is based on the Carnot cycle developed between 1820’s and the 1840’s. Nanotechnology has already broken this carnot cycle limit with the most recent being research at the University of Mainz in 2014.

Surface Power’s HONE Nanotechnology achieves COPs of between 1:250 and 1:400, that means for every 1 kWhr of electricity the technology consumes, it produces between 250 and 400 kWhrs of FREE heating/Cooling energy from Daylight and these are results from Ireland and UK as a reference countries.

(NOTE: Heat Pumps take low grade heat energy from Ground Sourced or Air Sourced temperatures so their COP is always fixed by these constraints)

HONE Nanotechnology has been developed completely in Ireland & UK.

The actual comparison of data from systems installed in 6 countries is highlighting how significant an improvement this technology is over the legacy offering.

Developing this technology was neither cheap nor simple and has taken many years and several million euros.

What did we do

To solve this problem, we set out to see if we could make use of Daylight as a base energy source:

1/ Daylight has no barriers of access; whereas sunlight is only accessible by people who live in sunny locations and many of these locations are typically low energy consumers with vast fossil fuel resources.

2/ Daylight is everywhere in every location on earth so we set about using the West of Ireland and New Zealand as reference countries as they have some of the lowest daylight levels in the OECD countries due to the onshore weather systems. (i.e. if our outcomes were good in these 2 reference locations, we would only have better results in other locations globally.)

As we had previous significant industry successes in nanotechnology under pinning our research capabilities, we had a major head start to create a Nanotechnology based Photon Nano-Heat Engine. This would be used to harvest energy from Daylight energy and turn it into a high temperature energy source. This would be used to provide FREE Heating & FREE cooling using daylight as fuel. HONE technology has been developed over the last 10 years and has over 130 elements to the science. (Cooling is provided by driving heat into chillers. These chillers use heat to create cold water which is then pumped into cooling applications or buildings.)

The process is in 3 stages: A collector matrix harvests Daylight, Nano-blocks deliver energy to a static Nano-engine and then this turns on an active Nano-engine which runs all day like a boiler. For 24 service, you just store up hot water OR cold water to use at night time. Most of the pumping is done by the collector matrix using Daylight as well so the COP’s are a significant breakthrough.

The result

The results speak for themselves.

In 2014, the Belfast Trust, the UK’s 2nd largest NHS Trust (National Health Service) with 20,000 employees removed a heat pump and solar thermal system at the Musgrave Park Hospital campus and installed a Surface Power HONE Photon Daylight system and in the first month dropped their gas bill by 80%.

Initial result for the NHS was a reduction of gas consumption by 80% using Daylight as the alternative energy source to natural gas. Data is from their own metering cloud.

All data is cloud based as systems are connected into the Surface Power HONE cloud. Free heating temperatures over 70C were being achieved by the NHS on the 2nd Jan 2015 along with 1000's of domestic home owners running on free daylight heating.

The personal pitch

The financial benefits are significant. There are a number of headline benefits.

• It works everywhere in every country and in Ireland & UK as a poor weather reference countries can reduce oil and gas consumption in buildings and processes by up to 80% - Unlimited Market Size.

• It does not require financial supports, subsidies or grants, etc. to create a payback – Interference Free.

• It can provide up to 100% of the input energy for cooling – Free Energy

• The equipment has a 50 year design life and is fully recyclable – Long Life Span.

• We can install it in buildings or in large plants to serve a city with heating/cooling & hot water on a district scheme – Multi Format.

• It can also be used to produce base load (no grid) electricity in conjunction with another technology we are developing – No other non-fuel base load electricity technology exists today.

• Our innovation path (1 step left) will be complete when we can do “base load” heating, hot water, cooling and electricity off grid.

• This also means we will be able to do off grid de-salination and irrigation.

• No other technology can do this in the world today or even come close to doing this even if placed into an innovation path.

Financial 0pportunity:

• In Ireland & UK, we are currently reducing existing building energy bills by up to 80% with proven multi-year data.

• The EU imported €400 Billion worth of energy in 2013. 49% of the EU’s energy goes into heating and cooling buildings. We believe we could deliver at least €150 Billion worth of annual Daylight Energy savings into Europe in addition to creating a significant manufacturing base of 1000’s of jobs as well.

• In the last US Gov DOE annual energy survey of buildings in 2011, just over 8 Trillion kWhrs were consumed for heating, cooling & hot water in natural gas alone in that year. This market partially falls into our 100% of input energy profile from Daylight and is worth billions per year.

• We see the majority of deployments of this technology being FREE to the end user and being financed by Utilities and Energy Investment Vehicles using heating and cooling metering and we are in discussions with many Utilities and Partners about roll out programs.

Suppliers, contractors and solutions providers used

While many customers have participated in proving the technology, the NHS have played a significant role as their 4 installations are part of the OFGEM metering program so the results are underpinned by this metered program as well as the NHS metering cloud.

Contact details for the head of estates are available as are other references.

Links to relevant supporting materials

Radio Interview with Ireland's "Jay Leno"

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3 minute video explainer

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White Paper for the non technical

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This article forms Surface Power HONE's submission into the Innovation of the Year category of the 2degrees Champions Awards 2015. It was written and submitted by John Quinn, CEO of Surface Power HONE.

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