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Clean energy research targets idle engines

Simon Fraser University researcher Majid Bahrami will use his expertise in cooling and heating systems and $4.5 million in funding to develop green air conditioning and refrigeration systems (AC-R) that will reduce fuel consumption and emissions caused by service vehicle and long-haul truck idling engines.

With the new funding, which includes $2.9 million from Automotive Partnership Canada, the associate professor in Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) will lead a team in building sustainable AC-R technology that will enable the vehicles to deliver air conditioning and refrigeration even when their engines are turned off.

The result will be a significant reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in long-haul and refrigerated trucks, heavy and light duty vans, tourist buses and emergency vehicles, which will no longer need to keep engines idling to stay cool.

To develop the new energy conversion technology, Bahrami and his team will capture waste heat from engine exhaust to power the AC-R and adsorption cooling system.

"This project places SFU at the forefront of innovative sustainable energy conversion and will bring a cutting-edge research facility to our Surrey campus," said Bahrami. "For consumers, it will help bring milk and frozen food to the local supermarkets in a more environmentally friendly manner."

Bahrami has research partnerships with the University of Waterloo's Amir Khajepour, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Mechatronics Vehicle Systems, and three companies: Cool-It Hiway Services and Saputo Dairy Products in B.C., and CrossChasm Technologies in Ontario.

Bahrami and Khajepour will turn waste heat from engines and brakes into air conditioning and refrigeration for service vehicles. The sustainable AC-R system will use the process of adsorption, which has a myriad of environmental advantages, such as using benign refrigerants and porous materials like water, ethanol and silica gels.

An adsorption system also has low energy requirements and no GHG or CO2 emissions, does not generate noise, and requires minimal maintenance.

The Automotive Partnership Canada program, which invests in large automotive research collaborations, has committed $2.9 million to the four-year project. Industry partners are contributing $1.1 million in cash and in-kind services, and BC Knowledge Development Fund and the Ontario Research Fund are contributing $500,000.

The project will involve at least 71 researchers across Canada and provides a unique opportunity for SFU and Waterloo students. SFU is expected to train at least 14 graduate students and 25 undergraduate co-op students.

"From student training to showcasing innovative clean technology and integration with industry and academic partners, this project is an example of how the Faculty of Applied Sciences is a leader in developing regional clusters of clean energy expertise," says Nimal Rajapakse, dean of SFU's Faculty of Applied Sciences.

"This is an R&D project that is driven by the needs of industry, and aims to deliver transformative solutions in the form of novel energy efficient tools and systems that reduce environmental impact," says Mario Pinto, VP, Research at SFU. "It will bring benefits to Canada's automotive and food sectors, and will support the training of future Canadian engineers and researchers.

"The project will also benefit SFU by adding to the real-world, industry-relevant research and education opportunities available to students in our standout Mechatronic Systems Engineering program."

Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) is a five-year, $145 million initiative that supports collaborative research and development (R&D) activities benefiting the Canadian automotive industry through partnerships between industry and academia and/or National Research Council Canada.

APC's funding partners are: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) ($85 million); National Research Council Canada (NRC) ($30 million); Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) ($15 million); Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) ($5 million); and Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) Program ($10 million).


Contact: Marianne Meadahl
Simon Fraser University

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