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Title:
AIR-CONDITIONING AND HEATING SYSTEM UTILIZING THERMO-ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2006/042190
Kind Code:
A3
Abstract:
In one embodiment, a cooling and heating system includes a heat exchanger, a thermoelectric cooler coupled to the heat exchanger and operable to cool or heat a fluid within the heat exchanger, a heat transfer device, an input conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device, a return conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device, and a pump operable to transport the fluid through the input conduit, the heat exchanger, the return conduit, and the heat transfer device. Thermal energy existing within the fluid, while flowing through the heat transfer device, is utilized to heat or cool an environment adjacent the heat transfer device.

Inventors:
RICE, Douglas, T. (P.O. Box 1154, Veradale, WA, 99037, US)
LANGAN, William, J. (Veradale, WA, WA, US)
Application Number:
US2005/036344
Publication Date:
April 20, 2006
Filing Date:
October 06, 2005
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TIGERONE DEVELOPMENT, INC. (P.O. Box 1154, Veradale, WA, 99037, US)
RICE, Douglas, T. (P.O. Box 1154, Veradale, WA, 99037, US)
LANGAN, William, J. (Veradale, WA, WA, US)
International Classes:
F25B21/02; F25B29/00; F25D11/00; F25D17/04; F25D17/06; F25D23/12; F28D1/06; F28D5/00; F28F7/00; F28F13/06; H01L35/00; H01L35/28
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WALTERS, Chad, C. (Baker Botts L.L.P, 2001 Ross Avenue Suite 60, Dallas TX, 75201, US)
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Claims:

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A cooling and heating system, comprising: a heat exchanger; a thermoelectric cooler coupled to the heat exchanger and operable to cool or heat a fluid within the heat exchanger; a heat transfer device; an input conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device; a return conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device; a pump operable to circulate the fluid through the input conduit, the heat exchanger, the return conduit, and the heat transfer device; and wherein thermal energy existing within the fluid while flowing through the heat transfer device is utilized to heat or cool an environment adjacent the heat transfer device.

2. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, further comprising a fan adjacent the heat transfer device and operable to force air over the heat transfer device.

3. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1 , further comprising a heat transfer structure coupled to the thermoelectric cooler and operable to remove thermal energy from the thermoelectric cooler.

4. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, further comprising a fan adjacent the heat transfer structure and operable to force air over the heat transfer structure to aid in removing the thermal energy.

5. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, wherein the pump comprises a magnetic pump and is coupled to the return conduit.

6. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, further comprising a thermostat controller module operable to control the temperature of one side of the thermoelectric cooler.

7. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, wherein the heat exchanger comprises an upper section having a first passageway and a lower section having a second passageway, the first and second passageways separated by a copper plate.

8. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, wherein the fluid comprises a combination of glycol and distilled water.

9. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, wherein the input conduit, the heat exchanger, the return conduit, and the heat transfer device comprise a closed loop system.

10. The cooling and heating system of Claim 9, wherein the fluid is introduced to the closed loop system via a valve assembly coupled to the input conduit.

11. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1 , wherein the heat transfer device is coupled to a limb of a patient.

12. The cooling and heating system of Claim 1, wherein the heat transfer device comprises a radiator of an automobile.

13. A cooling and heating method, comprising: coupling together an input conduit, a heat exchanger, a return conduit, and a heat transfer device to form a closed loop; coupling a thermoelectric cooler to the heat exchanger; cooling or heating a fluid within the heat exchanger;

circulating the fluid through the input conduit, the heat exchanger, the return conduit, and the heat transfer device; and heating or cooling an environment adjacent the heat transfer device via thermal energy existing within the fluid while the fluid is flowing through the heat transfer device.

14. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, further comprising forcing air over the heat transfer device via a fan adjacent the heat transfer device.

15. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, further comprising coupling a heat transfer structure to the thermoelectric cooler to remove thermal energy from the thermoelectric cooler.

16. The cooling and heating method of Claim 15, further comprising forcing air over the heat transfer structure to aid in removing the thermal energy.

17. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, further comprising control the temperature of one side of the thermoelectric cooler.

18. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, wherein the fluid comprises a combination of glycol and distilled water.

19. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, further comprising coupling the heat transfer device to a limb of a patient.

20. The cooling and heating method of Claim 13, wherein the heat transfer device comprises a radiator of an automobile.

21. A cooling and heating system, comprising: a heat exchanger; a plurality of thermoelectric coolers coupled to the heat exchanger and operable to cool or heat a fluid within the heat exchanger; and

wherein the heat exchanger comprises an upper section having a first passageway and a lower section having a second passageway, the first and second passageways separated by a copper plate.

22. The cooling and heating system of Claim 21, further comprising a heat transfer structure coupled to the thermoelectric coolers and operable to remove thermal energy from the thermoelectric coolers.

23. The cooling and heating system of Claim 22, further comprising a fan adjacent the heat transfer structure and operable to force air over the heat transfer structure to aid in removing the thermal energy.

24. The cooling and heating system of Claim 21, wherein the fluid comprises a combination of glycol and distilled water.

25. The cooling and heating system of Claim 21, wherein the copper plate is approximately 1/4 inches thick.

Description:

AIR-CONDITIONING AND HEATING SYSTEM UTILIZING THERMO¬ ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to heating and cooling systems and, more particularly, to a closed-loop air-conditioning and heating system utilizing thermo¬ electric solid state devices.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional air conditioner systems in automobiles include many moving parts, including compressors, condensers, and evaporators. The compressor is typically driven by a belt coupled to the automobile's engine. Hence, the engine needs to be operating when cool air is desired within the vehicle, which wastes considerable fuel and further pollution of the atmosphere. In addition, these moving parts, including the engine, are noisy and are subject to wear and tear.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In one embodiment, a cooling and heating system includes a heat exchanger, a thermoelectric cooler coupled to the heat exchanger and operable to cool or heat a fluid within the heat exchanger, a heat transfer device, an input conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device, a return conduit coupled between the heat exchanger and the heat transfer device, and a pump operable to transport the fluid through the input conduit, the heat exchanger, the return conduit, and the heat transfer device. Thermal energy existing within the fluid, while flowing through the heat transfer device, is utilized to heat or cool an environment adjacent the heat transfer device.

Some embodiments of the invention provide numerous technical advantages. Other embodiments may realize some, none, or all of these advantages. For example, in one embodiment, a closed-loop cooling and heating system includes thermo¬ electric coolers (TECs) that cool or heat a liquid flowing through the closed-loop system. The liquid may then be pumped through a heat transfer device that is used to heat or cool an environment. Depending on the application, this may include the use of forced air. Such a system may be used for automotive heating or cooling purposes

or used in medical device applications. In an automotive application, for example, such a system is an electronic, non-pressurized system that may run on battery power alone and include no hazardous materials, no moving parts (other than a pump), and be cost-effective. Other technical advantages are readily apparent to one skilled in the art from the following figures, descriptions, and claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGURE 1 is a schematic of a cooling and heating system according to one embodiment of the invention; and

FIGURE 2 is a schematic of a heat exchanger for use in the system of FIGURE 1 according to one embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION FIGURE 1 is a schematic of a cooling and heating system 100 according to one embodiment of the invention. System 100 may be utilized in any suitable application, such as automotive applications, medical device applications, or other suitable applications that require the cooling or heating of an environment 130, as described in greater detail below. In the illustrated embodiment, system 100 includes an input conduit 110, a heat transfer device 108, a return conduit 112, and a heat exchanger 102 that collectively form a closed-loop system. In other embodiments, however, system 100 may be an open-loop system. System 100 also includes one or more thermoelectric coolers ("TECs") coupled to heat exchanger 102 and operable to cool or heat a fluid 106 flowing through system 100, a shutoff valve 116, an input coupler valve 118, a bleeder valve 120, a fan 122, a heat transfer structure 124, and a fan 126. The present invention contemplates more, fewer, or different components than those illustrated in FIGURE 1.

Heat exchanger 102 is described in greater detail below in conjunction with FIGURE 2. Generally, heat exchanger 102 includes a passageway therein that allows fluid 106 to flow therethrough while being cooled or heated by thermal energy generated from TECs 104. TECs 104 may be any thermoelectric coolers that are operable to cool or heat fluid 106 within heat exchanger 102. TECs 104 may couple

to an outside surface of heat exchanger 102 in any suitable manner. Any suitable number and type of TECs 104 is contemplated by the present invention depending on the desired amount of cooling or heating of fluid 106 flowing through heat exchanger 102. Heat transfer structure 124 is coupled to TECs 104 and is operable to remove thermal energy from TECs 104. For example, during operation of TECs 104, the sides of TECs 104 that are coupled to heat exchanger 102 may be cooling fluid 106 within heat exchanger 102. In this case, it is desirable for heat to be removed from the opposite sides of TECs 104 in order to increase the efficiency of TECs 104. Therefore, heat transfer structure 124 is operable to aid in removing heat from TECs

104. Any suitable heat transfer structure is contemplated by the present invention, such as a finned structure. To aid in removing heat from TECs 104, optional fan 126 may be coupled to or positioned adjacent heat transfer structure 124 to force air over heat transfer structure 124. Any suitable fan 126 is contemplated by the present invention. In other embodiments, other suitable additional cooling methods for heat transfer structure 124 are contemplated by the present invention, such as running a fluid through heat transfer structure 124.

Heat transfer device 108 may be any suitable device or structure that is utilized to cool or heat environment 130 as a result of the thermal energy contained in fluid 106 flowing through heat transfer device 108. Heat transfer device 108 may be any suitable size and shape and may take any suitable form depending on the application for system 100. For example, heat transfer device 108 may be a radiator of an automobile or a medical device that is coupled to a limb of a patient. In another automotive application, heat transfer device 108 may function as a heater core that is utilized to cool or heat the inside of an automobile or other suitable vehicle by forcing air over heat transfer device 108 via fan 122, which may be any suitable fan. Other applications for heat transfer device 108 are contemplated by the present invention, and the thermal energy of fluid 106 flowing through heat transfer device 108 may be utilized in any suitable manner to cool or heat environment 130. Both input conduit 110 and return conduit 112 may be any suitable conduits operable to transport fluid 106 therethrough. Conduits 110 and 112 may be any suitable length and any suitable diameter. Conduits 110 and 112 may be rigid

conduits, flexible conduits, or a combination of rigid and flexible conduits. For example, a portion of conduit 110 and/or conduit 112 may be manufactured from high pressure flex hose. Any suitable coupling methods may be utilized to couple conduits 110 and 112 to respective components of system 100. Pump 114 is utilized to circulate fluid 106 through system 100. Any suitable pump is contemplated by the present invention. In one particular embodiment of the invention, pump 114 is a magnetic pump and is coupled to return conduit 112. However, pump 114 may also be coupled to input conduit 110. Any suitable size pump is contemplated by the present invention. Fluid 106 may be any suitable fluid. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, fluid 106 is a combination of glycol and distilled water. However, other suitable glycol-base fluids are contemplated by the present invention. In other embodiments, water, antifreeze, or ethanol with a water base and water wetter dispersant may be utilized for fluid 106. Fluid 106 may be injected or otherwise introduced into system 100 via input coupler valve 118, which may be coupled to input conduit 110 in any suitable manner.

Bleeder valve 120 may be used to purge system 100 of all air during the fluid input injection process. As fluid 106 is injected into system 100 via input coupler valve 118, bleeder valve 120 allows the air in system 100 to be bled off until all air is purged and there is a constant flow of fluid 106, at which time bleeder valve 120 is then closed. The air and fluid 106 being bled off comes from the output of heat exchanger 102. Shutoff valve 116 is used to prevent any backflow of air or fluid 106 into bleeder valve 120 during the fluid input injection process. Shutoff valve 116 is closed off, which allows the air and fluid 106 to follow the flow indicated by the arrows. Once system 100 is charged (all air is purged), shutoff valve 116 is then opened to allow complete unrestricted closed-loop flow through system 100.

Although not illustrated in FIGURE 1, in order for TECs 104 to cool or heat fluid 106 flowing through heat exchanger 102, power must be delivered to TECs 104. This power may originate from any suitable power source and may be any suitable power level. For example, a suitable DC current may be delivered to TECs 104 to cool or heat fluid 106 flowing through heat exchanger 102 depending upon the polarity of the DC current. Also not illustrated in FIGURE 1 , a thermostat controller

module may be coupled to TECs 104 in order to control the temperature of the sides of TECs 104 that are in contact with heat exchanger 102. Any suitable thermostat controller module is contemplated by the present invention.

FIGURE 2 is a schematic of heat exchanger 102 according to one embodiment of the invention. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGURE 2, heat exchanger 102 comprises an upper section 200 having a first passageway 201 and a lower section

202 having a second passageway 203. A metal plate 204 is sandwiched between upper section 200 and lower section 202.

Heat exchanger 102 may have any suitable size and shape and may be formed from any suitable material. For example, in the embodiment illustrated in FIGURE 2, both upper section 200 and lower section 202 are formed from a suitable metal, such as aluminum having any suitable thickness. In the illustrated embodiment, the thickness of both upper section 200 and lower section 202 is approximately one inch. Upper portion 200 and lower portion 202 have recesses 207, 208 respectively, for accepting metal plate 204. Recesses 207, 208 preferably match the contour of metal plate 204. In addition, the depth of recesses 207, 208 is preferably approximately half the thickness of metal plate 204. Therefore, when metal plate 204 is sandwiched between upper section 200 and lower section 202 then upper section 200 and lower section 202 may be coupled to one another around their perimeters. For example, any suitable coupling method is contemplated by the present invention, such as welding.

Passageways 201, 203 formed in upper section 200 and lower section 202, respectively, may have any suitable configuration and any suitable volume. In the illustrated embodiment, passageways 201, 203 take the form of a serpentine configuration for fluid 106 to flow therethrough. Passageways 201 and 203 are coupled to one another by a hole 205 formed in one end of metal plate 204.

Metal plate 104 may be any suitable size and shape and may be formed from any suitable metal, such as copper. Metal plate 104 may also have any suitable thickness, such as 1/4 inch. Each of the passageways 201, 203 are in contact with respective sides of metal plate 204 so that fluid 106 flowing through passageways 201, 203 contact metal plate 204. This allows metal plate 204 to absorb thermal energy from fluid 106 flowing through upper portion 200 and transfer some of that

thermal energy to the fluid 106 when it flows through passageway 203 of lower section 202.

In one embodiment, fluid 106 enters passageway 201 via opening 209 in upper section 200. Fluid 106 then flows through passageway 201 until it gets to an end 210 of passageway 201 before traveling through hole 205 down to passageway 203. Fluid

106 then travels through passageway 203 until reaching an outlet opening 211 in bottom section 202. As fluid 106 flows through passageway 201, TECs 104 either cool or heat fluid 106. Some of the thermal energy from fluid 106 as it flows through passageway 201 is absorbed by metal plate 204 so that as the fluid flows through passageway 203 in bottom section 202 the fluid 106 is not only cooled or heated by thermoelectric coolers 104 coupled to bottom section 202, but also cooled or heated from the thermal energy existing within metal plate 204.

Referring back to FIGURE 1 , in one embodiment of the invention where fluid 106 is utilized to cool environment 130, fluid 106 is injected into system 100 via input coupler valve 118. Pump 114 is used to circulate 106 through system 100. Fluid 106 enters heat exchanger 102 where it is cooled by thermoelectric coolers 104 as described above in conjunction with FIGURE 2. Heat transfer structure 124 with or without fan 126 is utilized to remove heat from the outside surfaces of TECs 104 in order to increase the efficiency of TECs 104. The fluid exits heat exchanger 102 and travels through input conduit 110 to heat transfer device 108. Fluid 106 flows through heat transfer device 108 in order to cool environment 130 with or without the help of fan 122. Fluid 106 is then returned to heat exchanger 102 via return conduit 112. Fluid 106 then continually travels through this closed loop system 100.

Thus, system 100 in one embodiment is a closed-loop cooling and heating system that includes thermoelectric coolers 104 that cool or heat fluid flowing through system 100. It is a Freon ® -free, non-pressurized system that is based on electronics and is used to cool or heat an environment. System 100 may be utilized in any suitable environment and application. For example, system 100 may be utilized in an environment having an ambient temperature of somewhere between -10 0 F and +120 0 F. As described above, any suitable number of applications is contemplated by the present invention, such as automotive applications, medical device applications, or other suitable applications.

Although embodiments of the invention and their advantages are described in detail, a person skilled in the art could make various alterations, additions, and omissions without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.