By GREGORY ZELLER //
ThermoLift’s second-generation TC-Cycle has made a whirlwind multistate debut.
Representatives of two U.S. Department of Energy laboratories traveled to Michigan in October to check out the latest ThermoLift prototype, which then took a bow at the inaugural Innovation Showcase hosted by the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
ThermoLift, headquartered at Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center and member of the university’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program, is developing a natural gas air-conditioner and heat-pump technology that combines a structure’s heating, air-conditioning and water heating into a single appliance – providing HVAC cost savings of up to 50 percent while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The ambitious effort has produced the TC-Cycle (ThermoLift trademarked the name this summer), which updates Vuilleumier cycle thermodynamics and old-school ignition technologies to create “what we think is a fundamentally different thermodynamic cycle,” according to CEO Paul Schwartz.
After years of development – and grant funding from the DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, plus ample private funding – ThermoLift’s second-generation prototype unit was presented Oct. 3 to representatives of the NREL and Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a private preview at ThermoLift’s Ann Arbor production laboratory.
“This was an opportunity to have representatives from both laboratories come see our machine operate,” Schwartz said. “We spent the whole day reviewing our development program – what ThermoLift has completed and what we plan to do in the future.”
The immediate future took the 2012 clean-gen startup – launched by Schwartz and former Volkswagen engine and power-train engineer Peter Hofbauer – to Colorado, and the first-ever Innovation Showcase at the Golden-based NREL.
ThermoLift was invited to the showcase as a member of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, a five-year, $10 million invitation-only collaboration designed to accelerate next-level environmental tech. The Colorado spotlight gave the TC-Cycle a chance to dance in front of the Wells Fargo Board of Directors, as well as other IN2 companies and investors.
Fresh capital infusions are definitely on the company’s mind – stay tuned, Schwartz said – but ThermoLift’s primary focus now is maximizing the TC-Cycle’s productivity. Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s observers are busily validating the system’s performance based on those Oct. 3 observations, with $200,000 in DOE funding for further Oak Ridge field tests standing by; NREL contributors, meanwhile, are concentrating on specific issues like commercial building systems integrations and user cost savings.
“We expect to have future demonstrations with Oak Ridge and NREL over the next several months as we continue improving operating performance,” Schwartz said, and while those demos will happen primarily at the company’s Michigan facility, “It’s our hope over the next six months to have an operating [TC-Cycle] at the energy center on Long Island.”
The CEO also hopes to bring nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory into the picture, noting ThermoLift “met with Brookhaven several times early on in ThermoLift’s development.”
“We’re just looking for the right funding source and the right program,” he told Innovate LI.
While the TC-Cycle is not quite ready for prime time, Schwartz referenced its one-of-a-kind properties – his company is “not aware of any other active program across the globe investigating this unique thermodynamic cycle” – and said the recent patent issued by the Chinese government “provides the company with a unique advantage to commercialization.”
“We see a clear pathway to initial field demonstration in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.