LAir Dearman Engine for Power and Cooling in Confined Spaces

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


The project will deliver a cost-effective zero emission system for power and cooling in confined spaces, by adapting the cutting-edge Dearman Engine (DE), a Rankine-cycle expander currently powered by liquid nitrogen (LN2) to utilize liquid air. The use of LAir instead of LN2 provides very attractive proposition for Dearman given its availability, simpler production
process but most importantly its safety features that will expand the use of Dearman engine into new applications like warehouses, mines and large buildings. However, when Air is liquefied it separates to its elements, O2 and N2, this is expected to affect the Dearman engine operation and performance, but most importantly raises health and safety concerns
as pure O2 and pure N2 can be deadly to humans. The ability to understand and control the behavior of LAir throughout the delivery system (tank to engine) is of paramount importance to achieve safe and efficient LAir engine. The University of Birmingham in collaboration with Dearman will develop a LAir driven Dearman engine and correlate its performance with LAir composition and properties from storage to exhaust.

The University of Birmingham will lead the work packages associated with the development of the LAir delivery system and assessment of the engine performance. This work involves:
1- Develop LAir test facility consisting of LN2, LO2 and LAir storage tanks, pump, heat exchanger and the valves/piping system. Such test rig will be instrumented with temperature and pressure sensors, flow meter and composition sensors at intermediate stages between each major component.
2- Carry out extensive CFD simulation and experiments to develop tools to predict boil off and oxygen enrichment rates throughout the LAir delivery system from the storage tank to the engine inlet.
3- Investigate through simulation and experimentation the Liquid air vaporization process through the heat exchanger (external to the engine) to characterize the exit conditions in terms of constituents, temperature, pressure before entering the Dearman engine. Work also includes assessing the effect of HEF fluid thermal properties on the heat exchanger performance.
4- Investigate the effect of the LAir composition on the engine performance and the composition of the mixture at the engine exhaust. The optimum N2/O2 mixtures, based on engine power outputs, durability and stability (i.e. coefficient of variations of IMEP and peak pressure), will be identified. This work will also assess the LAir and HEF economy and as well
as will highlight any engine operability problems that may arise, over a range of speed-load conditions.

Planned Impact

The global demand for power and cooling is ever increasing leading to increased fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world's demand for electricity will increase by more than 70% by 2040 compared to 2015. Looking further ahead into the future, the energy demand for space cooling is predicted to
overtake the energy demand for space heating by 2060 and to exceed it by 60% by 2100, at 10,000TWh consumed annually. This project will make progress towards the use of alternative energy carriers in cooling, power generation and transportation to meet the continually growing energy demand, whilst also being significantly more efficient and
environmentally cleaner. It involves the development Liquid Air driven Dearman engine for cooling and power generation in confined spaces like warehouses, mines, factories and large buildings. Liquid Air offers significant advantages compared to liquid Nitrogen in terms of ease of production, cost and safety. The ability to develop a LAir delivery system with effective control on its properties and constituents to drive a Dearman engine efficiently will have significant impact on wide range of industries like cooling, power generation and transport.
The beneficiaries of this research will encompass industry, government agencies, public administrations and policy-makers and research groups. By working with the established marketing, PR and dissemination teams at UoB and Dearman, each partner will ensure the outcomes of the project are communicated effectively to the targeted audiences, namely the general public, academics and industrialists.
Industry: Engine manufacturers such as the Dearman Engine Company, producers of cryogenic materials, cryogenic storage manufacturers, the transportation industry and manufactures of TRU's for trucks, vans and stationary chilling, will benefit directly from this research. The information and knowledge generated is likely to prompt further studies into energy carriers for transportation.
Economy: If the technologies proposed here are proven to have an impact in reducing CO2 emissions at low costs, the economic efficiency and competitiveness of the UK and potentially the wider EU region will be significantly enhanced.
Research/academic community: The design of new liquid air driven Dearman engine and its delivery system for cooling and power generation in confined spaces will significantly benefit the academic community in the UK and abroad. The benefits of the project will be passed onto other research communities, industry and the public, providing a knowledge and contributing to the global strategy for sustainable energy production and utilization. The project will develop new highly skilled researchers in an area where skills shortage is forecast in the coming years, thereby also benefiting the academic and industrial research communities. In addition, the research will benefit academics in the development of their teaching.
Public and public administrations: The project will contribute towards the reduction of emissions and greenhouse gases. Through industrial partners' involvements with scientific advisory committees the project is also expected to influence policy maker's decisions. Improving emissions including CO2 and fuel economy will contribute to reducing cooling, power
generation and transportation operating costs, which could reduce fossil fuel prices and electricity, further benefiting the wider industrial and public community.


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Description 1- In collaboration with Wirac Engineering, the technology for small scale liquid air generation is developed and acquired by UoB.
2- The research team has managed to identify the operating conditions that maintain liquid air with the appropriate constituents and avoid differential boil-off that generate an oxygen rich gas, thus allow using the liquid air for power generation and cooling in confined spaces.
3- Also, successful simulation of heat exchangers operating with liquid air was developed.
4- Experimental testing of liquid air driven Dearman Engine was carried out showing that the engine can operate safely using liquid air. Output data from the testing indicated that the current design of the Dearman engine needs to be modified to achieve better performance using liquid air.
Exploitation Route The findings will enable various industries to utilize the environment friendly liquid air to generate cooling and power safely through the identified operating conditions that keeps liquid air within the acceptable composition.
Liquid air can be generated using off peak power and excess renewable energy and then be used for cooling and power generation when needed. This will impact on the environment by reducing fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Interest in clean cooling using liquid air was shown by the Katara project in Qatar and a proposal for the liquid air based air conditioning system was submitted and it is under discussion.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Transport

Description Dearman and UoB have acquired extensive knowledge regarding generation and handling of liquid air which will enable Dearman to develop products based on liquid air. Particularly regarding using liquid air for power generation and cooling in confined spaces like mines. Throughout the project, the team has developed a strong relationship with two UK industries related to the development of liquid air generators (Noblegen Products, Wirac Automation Ltd) and liquid air pump that can be used to pump the liquid air at the required pressure and flow rate to the Dearman Engine (Advanced Engineering Services (Int) Limited). Those two units were developed by the UK industry for the project and they are the first of their kind in this technology. The development of this integrated system including the liquid air generator, the liquid pump and the Dearman engine will have a major impact on the wide spread use and commercialisation of the liquid air technology for power generation in confined spaces. Therefore this project has made significant achievement in advancing this technology to reach a market readiness level. The researcher who carried this work gained significant experience and is currently employed as a research fellow at the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham in the field of energy storage technologies.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Energy,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Economic

Description Carbon foot print reduction of Church Farm Brewery through converting the cooling chiller waste heat to electricity - feasibility study.
Amount £42,000 (GBP)
Organisation Local Enterprise Partnerships 
Department Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP)
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2022 
End 12/2022
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account: Follow on Fund
Amount £16,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 04/2019
Description Clean Cooling - the new "Frontier Market" for UAE and GCC region 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The workshop intends to provide an overview of relevant best practices and technologies from the EU and the UAE/GCC. The aim is to use the workshop as a catalyst to create dialogue and new EU GCC academic and industry collaborations to share knowledge; build capacity, underpin and galvanise novel "clean cooling" technology demonstration and advancement opportunities around the local and global challenge of sustainable cooling. In so doing, it will build on existing leadership and expertise in energy and specifically cooling across the two markets (UAE/GCC and EU) at a unique time where delivering clean, sustainable cooling is being recognised globally as key to our energy and environmental challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Panel Discussion at the Future Tech Festival held in Delhi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Panel discussion on the importance of clean cooling for the agricultural industry in India.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018