NFPA Research Supplement Update: Liquid Piston Gas Compressor/Expander

CCEFP Summit

Eric Lanke headshot 2017


By Eric Lanke
NFPA President/CEO

I recently attended the October 2018 Summit of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) at the University of Minnesota. This is one of the meetings this fiscal year where the fluid power research projects supported by our new NFPA Research Supplement Program were presented.

In our efforts to increase the number of university students educated in fluid power, the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation has provided ten $10,000 research supplements to ten academic faculty members working on fluid power research at six universities. This helps to engage current and build the careers of future university faculty who are and will be in a position to teach fluid power to undergraduate engineers on their campuses. The research supplements provide travel support so that each faculty member and one of their graduate students can attend to present their research at designated industry conferences and research summits like the one hosted by the CCEFP.

One such faculty member is Professor Perry Li of the University of Minnesota, who presented on his project, “Liquid Piston Gas Compressor/Expander for Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) and CO2 Sequestration,” at the CCEFP Summit. The goal here is to develop a prototype of a reciprocating high pressure, high efficiency, liquid piston gas compressor that can serve as an energy storage device for large-scale fluid power systems. Working with funding provided by the National Science Foundation, Li and his team only began working in September, but have laid out the following theoretical understanding for the project:

  • Isothermal gas compressor/expanders have wide market potential for green economy.
  • The key challenge is operating at high efficiency AND at high power.
  • Previous research has shown that an optimized liquid piston with porous media and a compression/expansion approach can achieve a 200 times increase in power density at 92% efficiency.
  • Current research aims to create and validate a reciprocating prototype based on this concept.

A copy of Li’s presentation slides can be accessed here.

Collectively, the research projects supported by NFPA Research Supplements represent more than $4.9 million in funding from a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). They are an excellent sample of the growing body of fluid power research being funded by the federal government and other research organizations.