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UIC startup executes exclusive license to commercialize thermal energy storage technology

Said Al-Hallaj

NETenergy, a startup company based on technology developed at UIC, executed an exclusive license to commercialize a thermal energy storage (TES) technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Launched in 2013, NETenergy is a thermal energy storage company founded by Said Al-Hallaj, a research professor in UIC’s Department of Chemical Engineering. NETenergy developed a thermal battery that works much like an electrical battery, except it stores thermal energy. Use of the thermal battery technology can reduce energy usage and cut carbon emissions in half.

NETenergy will develop and commercialize a hybrid heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system that utilizes the TES technology developed by NREL. The hybrid HVAC-TES system will reduce the cost of cooling in commercial buildings because it allows the air conditioning system to run at night when electricity is less expensive, and then discharge energy during the day when electricity is priced higher.

In addition to lowering costs for building owners, the technology will help electric utilities meet demand on hot summer days during peak times. Previous research by NREL showed that incorporating the TES technology into commercial rooftop air conditioning units can improve efficiency by 10 percent and reduce peak-demand by 40 percent.

“Thermal energy storage will play a critical role in the ongoing global effort to reduce harmful emissions and accelerate the deployment of clean energy,” said Dr. Al-Hallaj. “It has been a great privilege to work with NREL and our OEM partners on this project and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to commercialize the hybrid HVAC-TES technology.”

The project was a close collaboration between NETenergy, NREL, and OEM partners as part of the second cohort of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund.