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Purdue Research Foundation

Autonomous Sensors Generate Truer, Faster HVACR Feedback

Nov. 24, 2020
Researchers at Purdue University developed the sensors to monitor the oil circulation ratio in real time for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.


WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- NOVEMBER 23, 2020 – New autonomous sensor technology may help businesses monitor refrigeration and heating systems in real time much faster and easier than current options.

Researchers at Purdue University developed the sensor to monitor the oil circulation ratio in real time for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. The oil circulation ratio provides data on the health and functionality of the overall system.

“Our technology is needed as more businesses use variable-speed HVAC systems,” said Orkan Kurtulus, a senior research engineer at Purdue’s Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. “The ability to measure the OCR is critical to ensure the system is using the correct amount of oil for effectiveness and efficiency. Our sensor allows businesses to check the oil circulation without disrupting the system or requiring the tedious process previously used to monitor circulation.”

Capacity control in HVAC&R systems is being used by a growing number of businesses because it increases the efficiency and reduces costs by slowing the speed and energy level when a system does not need to operate at full capacity.

“Our cutting-edge approach for OCR quantification allows otherwise immiscible refrigerant pairs to be separated and analyzed by a sensor in the suction line of HVAC&R systems,” said Vatsal Shah, a research assistant at Herrick Labs. “There remains an unmet need to mitigate oil retention in vapor compression systems, as this can cause inefficiency and even shorten the lifetime of HVAC&R equipment, especially in lieu of new variable speed and tandem compressor technologies, which implement repeated cycles.”

The Purdue team verified the autonomous sensor method using the latest standards from ASHRAE.

The other members of the Purdue team are James Braun, the Herrick Professor of Engineering; Eckhard Groll, the William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Mechanical Engineering; and Travis Horton, an associate professor of civil engineering.

The team worked with partners in the Ray W. Herrick Labs and the Center for High Performance Buildings. Founded in 1957, Herrick Labs supports world-class mechanical engineering research for students, faculty and industry. Among the facilities in the 83,000 square feet of space are HVAC&R and indoor air quality labs; advanced engine test cells; acoustics, noise, and vibration testing; and unique perception-based engineering labs.

The Purdue innovators worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent this technology.

The researchers are looking for partners to continue developing their technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Dhananjay Sewak of OTC at [email protected] and mention track code 2020-GROL-69138.


About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office recently moved into the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact [email protected] for more information.      

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Contact: Chris Adam, [email protected] 

Sources: Orkan Kurtulus, [email protected], Vatsal Shah, [email protected]