Industry Partners Innovation: Innovative Air Handling

Technology transfer from a Syracuse University lab to local business could revolutionize the residential HVAC market.

When Upstate Parts & Supply needed engineering help to develop a new HVAC unit, it turned to SyracuseCoE, which connected the company to faculty members in Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS). With assistance from SyracuseCoE and ECS faculty, Upstate successfully developed and commercialized its NuClimate Chilled Beam, which was subsequently licensed by Carrier, sold to Zehnder Group and has been installed all over the world.

If we’re successful, you could see new residential HVAC products on the market using this technology by 2025, not to mention the possibility of adapting the technology to retrofit current units. This is potentially a billion-dollar market.

John A. DiMillo

That track record is one reason ECS faculty members Thong Dang and Mehmet Sarimurat are partnering with Upstate Parts & Supply to pursue development of a concept developed in their SU lab that could revolutionize the residential HVAC market. Dang and Sarimurat envisioned developing a compact, high-efficiency air handler for residential HVAC systems that they believe will use 35 percent less energy than current models.

SyracuseCoE staff members assisted Upstate Parts & Supply and Syracuse University in developing a successful proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy for Phase 1 small-business technology transfer (STTR) projects. The $200,000 grant was the first federal Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding the firm has received in its 33-year history and one of only 12 awards the DOE’s Building Technology Office funded nationwide, demonstrating strong promise for the concept.

“The collaboration between SyracuseCoE, SU faculty and Upstate Parts & Supply is a model example of what SyracuseCoE does—providing a bridge to transfer SU technologies to a small company to aid commercialization that will eventually benefit the regional economy, consumers and the environment,” says Tammy Rosanio, associate director of partner programs.

The project seeks to develop a novel air handling unit for residential heating and cooling systems that synergistically integrates its fan and heat exchanger. This innovation, if successful, could produce an air handler that, compared to conventional units, is 30 percent smaller and uses 35 percent less energy, all while improving the overall performance of its HVAC system by at least seven percent.

Upstate Parts & Supply received the STTR grant July 1. According to John A. DiMillo, a company vice president, the Phase I grant supports advanced computational fluid dynamics studies performed by SU faculty and students to evaluate and refine feasibility of the concept. SyracuseCoE helped jump-start the project through work done this summer by students and faculty in SyracuseCoE’s Analysis and Design Center under the TEC Innovates program. A team of students will also be working with Upstate Parts & Supply during the academic year under a mechanical engineering capstone project to design and build a test stand that is capable of measuring the performance of an air-handler unit, work also supported by the TEC Innovates program.

The goal is to demonstrate feasibility by the end of June 2020 and pursue a Phase 2 grant. A successful Phase 2 grant of $1 million would support building and testing a prototype unit.