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ARPA-E announces $35M funding opportunity to develop novel heat exchanger technologies

The Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001970) for up to $35 million for the High Intensity Thermal Exchange through Materials and Manufacturing Processes (HITEMMP) program, to develop new approaches and technologies for the design and manufacture of high temperature, high pressure, and highly compact heat exchangers.

Heat exchangers are critical to efficient thermal energy use in numerous industrial and everyday applications, including electricity generation, nuclear reactors, transportation, petrochemical plants, waste heat recovery, and much more. HITEMMP projects will target heat exchangers capable of operating for tens of thousands of hours in temperatures and pressures exceeding 800 °C and 80 bar (1,160 psi) respectively.


Operating temperatures and pressures for SOA and developmental heat exchangers compared with ARPA-E HITEMMP goals. The colored dots represent the desired operating conditions of several different potential applications.

These next-generation heat exchangers must overcome two general challenges:

  1. Achievable heat transfer rates (per unit mass or unit volume of the heat exchanger) are limited by the structure of the heat exchanger cores—including optimum fluid flow distribution on both the hot and cold sides—and by thermal resistance associated with the way heat sources and sinks are connected to each other.

  2. Integration into larger (e.g., power generation) systems; this integration must be accomplished without compromising the performance of the heat exchanger and system through excessive pressure drops and/or thermal or other parasitic losses.

These heat exchangers must offer superior thermal performance and low pumping power requirements, and must also be cost competitive and durable. These performance goals are beyond the capability of any existing technologies, but ARPA-E believes that recent advances in materials, topological design methodologies, and manufacturing technologies can be leveraged to realize the desired extreme-environment heat exchanger capability. Specific developments include:

  • The identification and development of materials capable of withstanding extreme temperature and pressure conditions while featuring attractive thermo-mechanical and manufacturability properties;

  • Advances in additive and/or subtractive manufacturing techniques to enable the cost-effective realization of small structural feature sizes, smooth surface finishes, and other enabling heat exchanger characteristics; and

  • The refinement and application of advanced design methodologies to leverage new material capabilities while incorporating manufacturing constraints.

HITEMMP project teams must develop new exchanger topologies, or physical designs, that optimize device structure with suitable advanced materials and the fluids flowing through them for the desired range of operating conditions. Equally important is to develop new, or refine existing, manufacturing technologies that enable attractive performance at an acceptable cost.

Durable and affordable higher-temperature heat exchangers could lead to substantially higher power conversion efficiencies, which in turn could reduce fuel consumption, system footprint (and thus capital and operation costs), and CO2 and NOx emissions.

ARPA-E is allocating up to $35 million for HITEMMP, with up to $10 million available to small businesses under ARPA-E’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and the remaining available to all applicants.

The deadline to submit a concept paper for HITEMMP is 9:30 a.m. ET on 12 September 2018.



The importance of this is hard to over-emphasize.  Compact, low pressure drop, high-efficiency heat exchangers would enable things like the widespread use of regenerative gas turbines, not to mention massive energy savings in a great many industrial processes.  A regenerative gas turbine aircraft engine might not be too much to hope for.  Thermal efficiencies of simple-cycle machines might top 60%.

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