Personal Cooling

Bush Technical personifies SyracuseCoE’s mission to connect companies with students and faculty to develop new technologies.

“The students are solving real problems for real companies looking for real answers. They become much more invested.”
– Bill Bush, Owner of Bush Technical

Medical teams in Africa working to combat contagious viruses such as Zika and Ebola are hindered by their need to wear full body suits in temperatures that often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing a cooling vest underneath can help, but the electricity required to make the ice used to cool the vest is often not available in remote areas, not to mention the burden of being tethered to a 20-pound cooler.

That’s just one application for a lightweight, battery-operated personal cooling vest being designed by Bush Technical, a one-man consulting and contracting company specializing in compressor technology, with assistance from engineering students at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Bill Bush was a retired Carrier engineer when he was tapped by H. Ezzat Khalifa, Syracuse University professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to create a micro-scroll compressor for a SyracuseCoE-led research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). That was 2014.

The project was to develop personal environmental control (PEC) systems for office workers, units that would sit on or under a desk. Bush recalls thinking that the scroll compressor technology the team wanted him to develop wouldn’t provide sufficient efficiency for the system. But it did, exceeding its efficiency target by 17 percent. In networking with other ARPA-E stakeholders, Bush found other markets interested in uses for his ultra-efficient mini compressor

Now fully out of retirement, Bush is an adjunct instructor at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, for the last five years assisting with the senior mechanical engineering design course. For the last two years, and continuing for a third, Bush has also led teams of capstone students working with Bush Technical on refining a wearable system that provides personal cooling.

As a one-man operation, Bush says partnering with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering on a capstone project is a win-win situation. Rather than working on an abstract technical challenge, “the students are solving real problems for real companies looking for real answers,” he says.

“They become much more invested.” In turn, he gains valuable engineering assistance while retaining intellectual property rights.

In 2018, students designed a manufacturing process for mass production of the compressor. In 2019, with support from the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund, they developed a breadboard prototype to prove that the wearable vest technology would work. Bush describes the breadboard prototype as having all of the components connected and operating, without the size restrictions the actual device would require. “It’s basically an open system with easy access to fiddle with and make tweaks,” he says. For 2020, a third capstone team is designing a test facility for both cooling system components as well as for complete cooling systems.

Working from his lab space at SyracuseCoE, Bush is working step by step to refine the system. “Once I’ve got the kinks worked out, another very good capstone project will be to develop it into an actual wearable prototype,” he says. There will also be an opportunity for computer science students to support the development of an application that controls the device through a cell phone app.

Bush credits SyracuseCoE for “snowballing” the entire enterprise—beginning with submission of the ARPA-E proposal for the PEC system, to providing support to help develop his technology, to providing space and infrastructure for Bush Technical at SyracuseCoE headquarters. “This Bush Technical initiative wouldn’t exist without SyracuseCoE,” he says.

Led by Syracuse University, SyracuseCoE engages students, faculty, and collaborators at 200+ firms and institutions to catalyze innovations that improve energy efficiency, environmental quality, and resilience in healthy buildings and cleaner, greener communities.