Thermal Energy Storage for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Systems
Himanshu Pokharna is the founder and CEO of Inficold, a thermal energy storage company. He obtained his bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Bombay, PhD in Nuclear Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. He spent about a decade working at Applied Materials and Intel Corporation where he focused on developing and commercializing laptop thermal management products. For the last ten years, he has been engaged in various entrepreneurial activities including in commercializing high thermal conductivity materials for aerospace electronics thermal management, and in developing thermoelectric system technologies for refrigeration and power generation. Prior to Inficold, he was at Sheetak where he managed its ARPA-e programs and also licensed its TE system technology towards India’s cheapest refrigerator. He has authored five journal publications and is an inventor on over fifty issued and pending patents.
Low cost and efficient energy storage is the necessary ingredient to enable the mass adoption of renewable energy sources as the primary means of energy production. In general, electric batteries are the only choice for these energy storage products and a significant amount of resources are going towards that in academia as well as the industry.
A significant portion of this electric energy is being used for cooling related applications including building AC, commercial refrigeration and for storing food under refrigerated conditions. We believe that there are cheaper alternatives to electric energy storage which can be used for providing cooling round the clock cooling with intermittent alternative sources of power such as solar and wind. In contrast to electric batteries, thermal batteries can be totally green with no harmful chemicals, have virtually unlimited cycle life and can be significantly cheaper. The key to enabling these technologies is that they should be easy to integrate, not take too much space and be otherwise be totally integrated with the existing refrigeration system such that they are transparent to the end user.
At Inficold, we have developed such a product which can integrate with a variety of different refrigeration and air conditioning products and provide uninterrupted cooling with intermittent energy sources. Alternatively it can be used to reduce demand charges and balance the load on the grid. Its thermal battery, ColdValut™ can integrate with any 1-10 Ton compressor based refrigeration system using any refrigerant and get charged when power is available and cheap and can automatically shift to discharging mode when power is unavailable or expensive.
As a go to market strategy, Inficold is primarily focused on eliminating the expensive, dirty and polluting diesel generators which are ubiquitous in all mission critical cooling application in developing countries such as India. Examples of such applications include- cooling of milk along its value chain or walk in freezers and coolers in the pharmacy, restaurants, and agriculture value chain. Inficold’s product have a pay back period of less than one year and in many situations, it can expand the access to cooling for small holder farmers, thus ameliorating the pervasive food spoilage situation throughout the developing world.