Energy Efficiency is Improved by Turning Waste Heat into Useful Work

While visiting The Future of Pneumatic booth at PACK EXPO Las Vegas I talked with one research student to learn about a novel way to save energy in an industrial settings by turning waste heat into useful work with a Stirling pressurizer.

In a recent study the U.S. Department of Energy said that the industrial sector in the U.S. accounts for about one third of all energy used in the U.S. — 32 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).  Between 20 to 50 percent of energy consumed is lost via waste heat (5 to 13 quadrillion BTUs).Source: U.S. Department of Energy

A Vanderbilt engineering research student from the Center for Efficient and Compact Fluid Power demonstrated how industrial energy efficiency can be improved by reducing the energy consumption of the equipment used in manufacturing, by changing the process to manufacture products or by reusing the lost or “waste heat.”

According to the student, “This innovative technology can improve efficiency by 10 to 50 percent and save money by converting waste heat into work. It can be used at the pre-compression stage, feeding an industrial compressor, at the hydraulic pump stage, or as an electrical generator, all while reducing cooling requirements. The unit is completely silent and fully controlled for on-the-fly optimized efficiency or power.” In her demonstration the student explained that the waste heat is the heat source for the Stirling engine.  Helium would be used as the working fluid in the engine section for optimal heat transfer properties. Cooling fins would be used on the cold side of engine section and a directly controlled displacer piston would be used to shuttle working fluid from hot to cold side, inducing a pressure oscillation.

By independently driving the displacer piston, the shape of the thermodynamic cycle can be controlled in the face of arbitrary loads.  Pressure oscillation would in-turn be used to drive a power piston (electric generator, compressor, hydraulic pump, among others).

For additional information on the innovative use of turning waste heat into useful work please contact me at

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

My company is a…

Recent Posts

Take Advantage of the Market Information Available to You as an NFPA Member

Need a refresher on what market information is available to you as an NFPA member? Meet with NFPA’s Economic and Statistical Services Manager, Sam Diedrich, for an overview and Q&A. NFPA provides members with a variety of report types, sources, and insights to best understand trends and outlooks in the fluid power industry. Below are…

Read More

New! NFPA Apparel Available for Purchase By Members

NFPA now has member apparel available for purchase, just in time for the Industry & Economic Outlook Conference! Visit our shop to view the different styles and colors available. Save 15% off your purchase of apparel when you register for the IEOC! For questions, please contact Allison Forsythe at

Read More

Preview 2023 IEOC Speaker Lineup

2023 Industry & Economic Outlook Conference August 15-16, 2023 Register for IEOC  NFPA’s 2023 Industry and Economic Outlook Conference is slated to offer an enriching experience to connect with key industry players as well as learn from some of the brightest minds in economics. Learn about industry forecasts, geopolitical trends, the global marketplace and more from…

Read More