A consortium, led by Libertine FPE Limited, has secured £868k of green-energy funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.
The project will demonstrate a modular Free-Piston Gas Expander (FPGE) prototype for small scale distributed heat-to-power applications using heat from solar, biomass boiler and other sources.
The FPGE makes use of Libertine’s proprietary ‘Linear Power Systems’ technology which includes linear electrical machines, valves and bearings together with power electronics and motion control. These systems provide class-leading motion control authority and power conversion efficiency for Free Piston power generator applications.
Development of a FPGE aims to pave the way for the manufacture of a low cost, high performance product which could address a global market demand for efficient heat to power generation systems including biomass, waste heat and solar power generation uses.
Sam Cockerill, Libertine’s founder and CEO, said: “The project’s aim is to complete a lab-based demonstration of a free piston gas expander sub-system that can be developed into a low cost, high performance, modular & scalable unit.
“There is a global market for this technology in distributed power applications from 5-50kWe. We will be able to reduce costs and simplify installations within a wide range of heat to power systems including biomass/biogas heat to power, engine generator exhaust waste heat recovery, industrial process heat to power and micro-concentrated solar power.
“The close integration of multiple heat-to-power system components within the FPGE module will improve system efficiency, packaging and cost.”
Traditionally, Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems have been employed globally for heat recovery applications where heat is converted to electricity, using high speed turbines generate power. The FPGE has several important advantages over turbine based ORC expanders including high expansion ratio resulting in high energy conversion efficiency, and the capability to withstand two phase fluids giving flexibility in cycle design and operating conditions.
Sam added: “In addition to technical benefits that linear expanders can provide, they also have the potential to offer a lower cost solution considering both capital expenditure and operating costs.”
The consortium is headed by Libertine FPE Limited in partnership with Entropea Labs Ltd and Brunel University London and will see the FPGE prototype developed at Libertine’s new research, development and prototyping facility in South Yorkshire.
This product is a deliverable of the Innovate UK Energy Catalyst Round 4 (EC4) project “ORC integrated free piston expander” (Innovate UK ref. 103497).