Nitin part of UC Davis project selected by DOE for Industrial Decarbonization Initiative

ICI Project Team - Drs. Narayanan, Outcault, Rasouli, Nitin
ICI Project member images by UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute
Jessica Heath, College of Engineering | originally posted January 31, 2024

The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, has selected a University of California, Davis, collaboration to receive $1.98 million in funding as one of 49 projects aimed at decarbonizing the industrial sector and moving the nation closer to a net-zero economy.  

The collaboration is led by Vinod Narayanan, director of the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute's Western Cooling Efficiency Center, or EEI/WCEC, and a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. His partners on the project include WCEC engineer Erfan RasouliSarah Outcault, the market transformation research director for the EEI, and Nitin Nitin, a professor and engineer who holds dual appointments in the biological and agricultural engineering and food science and technology departments.  

"This is a quintessential UC Davis project that combines our strengths in food science and energy efficiency," said Narayanan. "We are thrilled to be one of only 22 U.S. academic institutions to lead an IEDO project."  

Using the WCEC's microchannel polymer heat exchangers, Narayanan and Rasouli will investigate high-efficiency methods of extracting low-grade waste heat and utilizing it in a novel synergistic pasteurization process developed by Nitin and his research group. Outcault will lead the market adoption team, partnering with the California Dairy Innovation Center, Pacific Coast Producers, and the California League of Food Producers on technology development and market transformation.  

"Low-grade waste heat is ubiquitous in industrial applications. However, it is difficult to extract this heat efficiently and, moreover, find good uses for it," said Narayanan. "The combination of the WCEC's heat extraction technology and Professor Nitin's low-temperature synergistic processing using food-grade compounds makes for an elegant waste heat utilization solution." 

The DOE announcement underscores EEI's role as a leader in industrial decarbonization. The project aligns with the objectives of the UC Davis Industrial Decarbonization Solutions Hub, or IDSH, which advances sustainable innovation aimed at reducing carbon emissions across the industrial sector. Industry accounts for one-third of the total U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and efforts to decarbonize the industrial sector are critical to achieving the nation's climate goals. 

The projects selected by DOE will be managed by its Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office, or IEDO, and will support high-impact, applied research, development, and pilot-scale technology validation and demonstration projects aiming to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions from industrial subsectors, such as the chemicals industry. Of the projects selected, 16 will be led by private industry, 22 by academic institutions, three by non-profit organizations, and eight by DOE National Laboratories. 

The UC Davis-led project is one of five under the DOE initiative's category of decarbonizing food and beverage manufacturing. Other categories include decarbonizing chemicals, cement and concrete, and forest products like paper forming and pulping.