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With ice in its veins, red-hot ThermoLift eyes big 2019

Coming off a great year, one of the brightest stars of Stony Brook University’s energy innovation-incubation system will turn up the heat in 2019 – literally.

Heat-pump innovator ThermoLift – which leverages and advances the extreme-temperature Vuilleumier thermodynamic cycle to provide unprecedented control of heating and cooling systems – has completed a rigorous round of government testing and is preparing to deploy its cutting-edge tech in utility-sponsored field demonstrations across multiple regions.

It does so under the warm glow of an exhaustive U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) study of commercial-building HVAC sustainability – a report that ranked ThermoLift’s patented “TC-Cycle” (advanced Vuilleumier) heat pump as the best of 18 “high-priority technology options” worthy of development.

In the report, “Energy Savings Potential and RD&D Opportunities for Commercial Building HVAC Systems,” the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (“EERE”) begins with a global review of 300 technologies, to determine those with the best potential to reduce commercial HVAC energy consumption.

The EERE also makes recommendations on potential research, development and demonstration activities that could hurry along the burgeoning science.

Among its conclusions: The ThermoLift TC-Cycle heat pump is not only the best option in the Alternative Gas-Fired Heat-Pump Technologies category, but No. 1 among all 18 high-priority technologies, including those topping the Electrically Driven Heat-Pump and Current-System Enhancement categories.

ThermoLift, headquartered at the AERTC and a member of SBU’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program, couldn’t ask for higher praise, according to cofounder and CEO Paul Schwartz.

There is nothing better than the Department of Energy saying ‘you’re the best,’” Schwartz says. “You can’t pay for that kind of endorsement.

“This truly shows the opportunity of our advanced thermodynamic cycle, and no amount of money or marketing research could validate our science like that.”

Of course, ThermoLift has spared no expense when it comes to developing and validating its flagship product. In 2018, the company – launched in 2012 by Schwartz and company President Peter Hofbauer – concluded its most strenuous testing round to date at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The testing significantly exceeded the DOE’s performance target – and, equally important, ThermoLift’s was the only device tested at the lowest cold temperature performance specification.

ThermoLift’s tech, which aims to cut commercial HVAC costs up to 50 percent while significantly reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, not only performed with constant capacity at lower temperatures than other heat pumps, but delivered these resultsat temperatures well below other pumps’ operational ranges.

To further validate the TC-Cycle device, the ThermoLift team demonstrated output temperatures down to minus-150 degrees F (-100C), thus showing not only the capability for heating and cooling, but also for refrigeration, freezing and cryogenics, all from the same device.

That “demonstrates significant superiority to DOE targets for thermally driven heat-pump technologies,” according to Schwartz. “And we’ve demonstrated the heat pump’s ability to operate anywhere on Earth, in any environment.”

With the impressive test results and the DOE stamp of approval locked up, ThermoLift and commercial partner Linamar Corp., a Tier 1 high-volume global manufacturing company, are gearing up for their next big milestone: field deployments of pre-production models, scheduled for the second half of 2019.

“We are busy optimizing what we’ve demonstrated,” the CEO says. “This current-generation device is designed for mass manufacturing, optimized thermodynamics and minimized costs."

“This is the real proving ground, everything we’ve worked for all these years,” Schwartz adds. “We’re anxious to get these out into the markets and customers’ hands here in the United States, and soon after in Europe."