NFPA Foundation Awards Research Grant to Vanderbilt University

Mike Gust, Industry Liaison Officer CCEFPBy Mike Gust

One of the many ways that the NFPA Foundation supports the workforce development needs of our industry is through its fluid power research grant award program. These awards are designed to connect graduate students from universities across the country to our industry through pre-competitive research targeting potential breakthrough technologies.

I am pleased to announce that recently the CCEFP was a recipient of one of these awards…specifically Professor Eric Barth of Vanderbilt University. He and his team of graduate students will be conducting research on how to improve pneumatic system efficiency through the recovery of pneumatic exhaust gas. The goal of this project is to design a suite of pneumatic exhaust gas recovery devices that will do so and upon which industry may build a commercial product or system offering. This research project will investigate pneumatostatic and pneumatodynamic converters that take low-pressure / high-flow exhaust and transform it into high-pressure / low-flow gas of similar energy that can be routed directly back into the high pressure supply line. The design of these converters will utilize the existing knowledge base of electrical transformers and the dynamics of DC-to-DC converters, specifically the theory of operation of boost converters. The ultimate target application for this research is industrial pneumatic assembly and material processing systems.

The Vanderbilt research team plans to leverage some of their previous CCEFP research, shown in the figure below, to further augment overall system efficiency gains.

CCEFP Orthosis test bed

Figure 1: (a) Pneumatic Strain Energy Accumulator recovering and reusing exhaust gas on the CCEFP Ankle-Foot Orthosis Device (b) Pneumatic Strain Energy Accumulator operation compared to conventional approach

The Pneumatic Elastomeric Accumulator (PEA), which utilizes elastomeric strain to store energy, will be specifically highlighted. This PEA accumulator which was invented at Vanderbilt University has been experimentally shown to improve the energy efficiency of a class of pneumatic systems by an impressive 25% by itself! Suffice it to say that there is significant potential for overall system efficiency gains. I personally can’t wait to see what progress they can realize.

To learn more about this program or the CCEFP in general please contact Mike Gust (mjgust@umn.edu) or (612) 624-4956.

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