The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) recognized Sandia’s work to develop and commercialize innovative technologies for heat exchangers.

Sandia National Laboratories' SEARCH tool —for selection, evaluation and rating of compact heat exchangers software suite — won an Excellence in Technology Transfer Award from the FLC’s Mid-Continent/Far West regions. The technology focuses on microchannel heat exchangers.

As the team at Sandia notes, microchannel heat exchangers are an emerging technology that makes refrigeration, refining, power generation and many other industrial processes more efficient. Switching to microchannel heat exchangers can save space, reduce power consumption and increase reliability for high pressure applications such as combustion or cryogenic processing.

Until recently, says Sandia, demand for industrial microchannel heat exchangers has outstripped supply, with large-scale production dependent on a single, non-U.S. manufacturer. Developing a domestic source could reduce costs and increase the supply of microchannel heat exchangers, allowing more industries to unlock their numerous benefits.

Sandia’s SEARCH software suite streamlines the design of high performance microchannel heat exchangers. The conventional design process requires a combination of analytical performance estimates, computational fluid dynamics simulations and finite element modeling, with each step taking hours or even days. Sandia’s simplified design tool uses a sub-heat exchanger thermodynamic model, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code mechanical constraints, and a thermal-hydraulic solver within the Engineering Equation Solver platform to model any combination of liquid, gas, two-phase and supercritical heat exchange fluids.

Sandia has worked with Vacuum Process Engineering (VPE) through a CRADA to commercialize this technology. Sandia licensed SEARCH to the Sacramento, California, small business as a foundational capability to design microchannel heat exchangers to meet each customer’s unique requirements, and supported its certification under the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code as the first dedicated microchannel heat exchangers original equipment manufacturer. VPE is now producing microchannel heat exchangers in the United States.