In the Ohio city where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, Emerson Climate Technologies yesterday officially opened its HVAC&R Innovation Center, the Helix.
Located on the sprawling campus of the University of Dayton in the city of Dayton, the Helix is the product of a partnership between Emerson Climate Technologies, based in nearby Sidney, and the university. The 40,000-square-foot, two-story, $35 million facility was designed to promote exploration and problem-solving in refrigeration, air conditioning, heating and related fields, with an array of real-world labs and high-tech collaboration spaces.
The Helix was built so that “a lot of innovation can be brought to bear to make a better world,” said Dave Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson Electric, the St. Louis-based parent of Emerson Climate Technologies, in a presentation at the grand opening outside the Helix.
Farr alluded to the role natural refrigerants would play at the Helix. With regulators restricting traditional refrigerants, the innovation center will address “how we do cooling and heating with CO2 and propane” as well as “how to make CO2 compressors smarter and easier to use,” he said.
Daniel Curran, president of the University of Dayton, commented at the grand opening that the Helix was “ a place to explore ideas and ask big questions,” and he welcomed the opportunity for students to “interact with the professionals at Emerson”.
Rajan Rajendran, vice-president, systems innovation center and sustainability for Emerson Climate Technologies, who was instrumental in the development of the Helix, observed that the facility was unique for bringing all aspects of HVAC&R research “under one roof”.
The Helix comprises several modules that emulate real-world refrigeration and HVAC scenarios, including a supermarket, working commercial kitchen, industrial refrigeration system, a data center, and a two-story, 2,000-square-foot home, outside of which the temperature can be set between -20°F and 120°F.
The supermarket encompasses a transcritical CO2 system from Systemes LMP, which includes Emerson compressors and controls. The compressor/gas cooler is contained in an environmental chamber where the temperature can be adjusted to test the efficiency of the system in warmer conditions. The system has a parallel compressor to improve the efficiency when the ambient temperature exceeds the critical point of CO2: 88°F.
The Helix had a “soft opening” in December leading up to the grand opening yesterday. Since December, it has hosted more than 3,000 individuals, including Emerson employees (about half), end users, OEMs, component makers, academics and consultants.