University of Saskatchewan

September 01, 2014   

Engineering research could help save energy worldwide

Davood Ghadiri Moghaddam and his energy-efficient HVAC test facility (photo credit: Thomas Onion)
November 25, 2013

By Thomas Onion

Up to 20 per cent of all energy in the developed world is consumed by a single source—heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

PhD student Davood Ghadiri Moghaddam is part of a University of Saskatchewan mechanical engineering research group that has designed an HVAC system capable of reclaiming up to 80 per cent of energy that other systems would waste.

This single invention could have a significant impact worldwide.

“Around four per cent of the total energy being used in the developed world can be saved. In reality, that’s a really huge amount,” Moghaddam says.

The system was developed in partnership with Saskatoon-based Venmar CES Inc., which will soon be putting the unit on the market.

What makes the new HVAC system so efficient is a component they designed called a liquid-to-air membrane energy exchanger (LAMEE). The LAMEE is an energy exchanger which uses membranes to effectively recover moisture and heat energy before they are wasted in the building’s exhaust air.

“In a conventional system, air is dumped outside. However, there is huge potential in this exhaust air because it was already conditioned with a considerable amount of heat and moisture. It is like free energy,” Moghaddam said.

Other energy recovery systems exist, but the jointly developed HVAC is up to 20 per cent more effective than today’s technology. The new HVAC can also be easily fitted to older buildings, unlike some other systems which require major building renovations.

Moghaddam, one of more than 25 students who’ve worked on the LAMEE over the past decade, designed and built a small-scale testing facility for the LAMEE.

“This facility has certainly improved our research and testing capabilities,” says Moghaddam’s supervisor Carey Simonson. “It will be a key research facility for my research group for years to come.”

The test site provides both Venmar CES and researchers with important information such as the efficiency of the product and how it will perform in extreme weather conditions. The facility’s small size helps cost-effectively model how a LAMEE would operate in a building’s HVAC.

“In industry it is very important to be able to predict a system’s performance before building anything. It will save the manufacturer time and money. You must know, ‘Does it make sense to build a system using this equipment? Is there a market for it?’” Moghaddam says.

His hands-on work at the university has already led to a part-time job on Venmar CES’s engineering design team. Due to the collaborative research, U of S graduates make up more than half of the in-house research and development department at Venmar CES.

He says the workplace in Canada is very different from that in his native Iran.

“In the Canadian workplace, everything is based around teamwork and it is very important for you to transfer your knowledge to your co-workers, your friends. But in other communities, if you transfer your knowledge, you might lose your job because then others can do your work,” he said.

Currently three years into his PhD, Moghaddam has published six journal papers and six conference papers, with more under review. He attributes this productivity to the co-operative environment in his research lab.

“We have a very wonderful and active research team. We are like brothers, always trying to produce more and more,” he says.

With support from his fellow students, motivation from expert supervisors, and financial support from Venmar CES, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the U of S, Moghaddam feels very fortunate.

“In this research group we have the complete package,” he says.

Thomas Onion is a graduate student intern in research communications.

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This article first ran as part of the 2013 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the U of S Research Profile office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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