New Refrigerant in Watson Library

University of Kansas testing new environmentally friendly refrigerant in Watson Library

The University of Kansas is testing a new environmentally friendly refrigerant in a Watson Library air-conditioning chiller.  Built in 1924, Watson Library is the oldest and largest of KU’s libraries.  The library has two York chillers that operate on refrigerant HFC-134a. The American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) act requires the production and use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in the U.S. to be phased down by 85% over the next 15 years. The global reduction in HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C in global temperature rise.  Foundation Distinguished Professor Mark B. Shiflett in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is leading a research effort to develop new technology for efficiently recycling and repurposing HFC refrigerants called Project EARTH. Professor Shiflett working with the Chemours Company, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), and KU facilities retrofitted one of the two York chillers to a new environmentally-friendly replacement for HFC-134a called Opteon™ XP10 (R-513A), which is a non-ozone depleting, low-global warming hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerant. R-513A has a 56% reduction in global warming potential (GWP) compared with HFC-134a and is compatible with existing equipment designs. Professor Shiflett stated, “We are grateful to Chemours who donated the refrigerant and JCI who provided the labor for this first side by side comparison of R-513A and HFC-134a in two 900-ton York commercial-scale chillers. Mechanical engineering seniors as part of their Capstone senior design course monitored the baseline performance of HFC-134a. A chemical engineering graduate student will monitor the cooling capacity and energy efficiency of R-513A this summer and we are expecting the performance to be equivalent to HFC-134a. This is a great example of how industry is partnering with our new Institute for Sustainable Engineering at KU, which is making a positive impact on our environment.”