The LAEC seeks to understand and solve fundamental problems at multiscale levels to improve energy conversion efficiency in devices such as compact heat exchangers, fuel cells, batteries, and refrigeration systems. The following highlights some of the current research projects in our group.

From Waste to Clean Food

Providing potable water and clean food are now priorities and daunting challenges for every country due to the combination of dramatic global weather pattern change, disastrous man-made pollution, and a rapidly growing world population. One promising solution is growing food and medicine in an engineered environment in closed greenhouses for optimum and reliable plant growth year-round. With an estimated 60% of the energy produced globally converted to low-grade waste-heat, this research program aims to develop and test the next generation of closed greenhouse, equipped with waste-heat driven technologies, to sustainably produce clean food and fresh water under any climatic conditions. LAEC is partnering with the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Argus Control Systems, the BC Greenhouse Growers' Association and Nexus Biofuel in this initiative.

Passive Cooling Systems for High Power Battery Chargers

Delta-Q Technologies is major manufacturer of battery chargers for electric vehicles, golf carts, forklifts, and aerial work platforms. A number of failrue mechanisms in electronic devices stem from overheating, and the trend in industry is to reduce size and increase power, which doubly impacts the cooling needs. Therefore, cooling has become a limiting factor in the development of higher power-density battery chargers, and 10-15% of the the input power in a battery charger is already being consumed for cooling of the electronic components. This project aims to develop next-generation passive cooling solutions, featuring emerging graphite thermal interface materials, heat pipes, and new, efficient naturally-cooled heat sinks.

Improved Graphite Thermal Management Products

Graphite has high thermal conductivity, low density, negligible coefficient of thermal expansion, and high corrosion resistance. These properties make graphite an excellent material for applications in energy conversion systems, electronics cooling, and heat exchangers. Terrella Energy Systems Ltd. has developed new graphite-based thermal management products manufactured by advanced roll embossing and laminating processes. LAEC, in collaboration with Sheridan College, is working with Terrella to improve the performance and market competitiveness of graphite-sheet-based heat sinks, thermal interface materials, and heat exchangers.

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Systems for Service Vehicles

This research program is working to eliminate the need for idling and to improve the overall efficiency of air-conditioning and refrigeration (A/C-R) systems in service vehicles, including long-haul trucks, reefers and buses. The project is a collaborative research program between Simon Fraser University and the University of Waterloo, and enjoys the full support and close collaboration of three industrial partners: Cool-It; CrossChasm Technologies and Saputo Dairy Products Canada. The long-term goal is to improve the fuel economy of service vehicles through the development of novel and efficient thermal management systems that use regerative auxilary power systems (RAPS) or engine waste heat to operate the A/C-R systems.

Cooling Solutions for High Power Electronics

The telecommunication and power electronics industries continue to develop compact systems with increasing power density and thermal load that requires effective, efficient cooling solutions. The LAEC is engaged in the design and demonstration of next-generation sustainable thermal management strategies that maintain device operating temperatures while reducing the parasitic power used by conventional active cooling systems. These solutions, featuring heat pipes and novel efficient naturally-cooled heat sinks, significantly improve system reliability while also reducing parasitic power draw, noise, and operating costs for cooling high power electronics.

The industrial partner on this project, Alpha Technologies Ltd., is an established leader in the area of power conversion and designs, manufactures, installs, and services powering solutions for worldwide telecom, Cable TV (Canada), traffic, security, medical, industrial, and renewable energy industries.

Adsorption Cooling System for Automotive Application

Vapour compression refrigeration and air-conditioning systems consume a significant amount of electricity and use hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, which are known for their environmental impact as greenhouse gases. In heat-driven adsorption systems an environmentally-friendly refrigerant, e.g. water, is adsorbed by a porous material to create evaporative cooling. The adsorber bed is thermally regenerated, and therefore the cooling system can operate using waste heat (e.g. engine exhaust) or solar thermal energy.

LAEC research focuses on the critical challenges in this field, including the development of novel composite materials with high adsorption capacity, and high mass and thermal transport properties. Promising materials are tested in custom-built modular prototype adsorption systems that are further utilized to study adsorber bed design, evaporator and condenser heat exchanger design, and cycle parameters for the adsorption and regeneration processes.

Transport Properties of PEM Fuel Cell Materials

The performance of a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell relies on the effectiveness of the transport of heat, mass, and charge in a membrane-elctrode assembly (MEA). Accurate information about flow, temperature field, and associated heat transfer rates are particularly important to performance optimization and devising heat and water management strategies in hydrogen fuel cells.

The LAEC and the Automotive Fuel Cell Corporation (AFCC) are engaged in collaborative research focused on analytical modeling and experimental investigation of the transport properties of micro/nano stuctured fuel cell components. Of great interest is understanding the effects of transient and cyclic operating conditions such as compressive loads, relative humidity, and gas pressure on the properties such as thermal conductivity, diffusivity, permeability, and contact resistance in MEA layers.

Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Air conditioning is a critical system for HEVs, as it is the second most energy consuming system after the electric motor.

Insulation Materials

This research program is focused on improving insulation technology, which is one of the most important aspects for saving energy that is otherwise wasted in the heating and cooling of enclosures, such as buildings, freezers, and reefers. The project is a collaborative research project between LAEC at Simon Fraser University and industrial partners Cool-It and Saputo. The long-term goal is to improve the praticality of aerogel composites by boosting their strength and lowering their implementation costs.

Thermal Management of Emerging Batteries

Thermal management is essential for safe and efficient operation of battery systems, especially for high-capacity polymer lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Transport Phenomena in Microchannels, Microstructured Materials, and Porous Media

Microstructured and porous materials are involved in a wide range of applications including composite fabrication, filtration, compact heat exchangers, fuel cell technology, and tissue engineering to name a few.