Changing the Paradigm for Thermal Energy Systems:
An ARPA-E Initiative
The vast majority of energy conversion processes occur through thermal pathways. As such, thermal energy systems are defined by the fundamental limitations of heat transfer and thermodynamics. Since the advent of the first heat engines, some of the basic building blocks of these systems have remained relatively unchanged, and to this day, are still responsible for substantial restrictions on system efficiency and cost. Effective innovation paths for the development of future thermal energy systems depend on new component design concepts, novel materials-focused manufacturing techniques, and incorporated system architectures. This talk will describe some recent advancements in thermal system components, with specific focus on the development of ejectors as a fluid pump or compressor device using zero electricity input. Gaps in thermal system development will be identified in the areas of materials and manufacturing, highlighting potential future program initiatives at ARPA-E. An overview of ARPA-E will provide an introduction to the process the agency uses to develop funding opportunities, and will discuss how to become more involved with ARPA-E through current funding announcements as well as open opportunities for employment as a technical Fellow.
Dr. Adrienne Little is currently serving as a Fellow at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), interested in novel materials and manufacturing solutions to key problems in the areas of waste heat recovery, power generation, and water treatment.
Little earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology where she worked at the Sustainable Thermal Systems Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Srinivas Garimella. At Georgia Tech, Little developed passive, heat-activated pumps and compressors and high-performance heat exchangers for waste heat recovery systems. Applications included space conditioning, datacenter electronics cooling, and power plant efficiency enhancement. She received her B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering where she explored the effects of surface wettability on two-phase flow regimes inside hydrogen fuel cells.
Little also interned at the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium to develop supersonic flow visualization techniques, and at GE Global Research in Germany to build dynamic models of supercritical CO2 bottoming cycles for gas turbine power plants.
Supplementary to her engineering work, Little was named a Sam Nunn Security Program Fellow where she explored the nexus of science, technology, and policy. As a member of the European Union Center of Excellence at Georgia Tech, she studied transatlantic relationships between the EU and US, with a focus on energy availability and nuclear nonproliferation.