Will NASA Glenn TAPS technology soon power our households?
December 26, 2013 - A newly unveiled energy device, built with technology developed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, may provide homeowners an alternative way to generate their own electricity to power and heat their homes inexpensively, efficiently and cleanly.
By Anthony Capkun
The Thermo Acoustic Power Stick (TAPS) announced by energy startup Nirvana Energy Systems Inc. (headquartered in Portola Valley, Calif.) is designed to convert a home’s natural gas supply into electricity, providing the home with its own mini power plant, or micro-grid. The device was initially developed with PARC, a Xerox company in Palo Alto, Calif.
At the heart of the device is Glenn’s acoustic-based Stirling technology that was licensed to Nirvana earlier this year. The Stirling propulsion technology, developed for spaceflight missions, uses acoustic waves instead of mechanical parts to convert and transfer energy for electrical power generation. According to Nirvana, TAPS produces between 1kW to 4kW of electrical power and 15-30kW of thermal power with efficiency in excess of 905. Nirvana is designing TAPS to be a compact system that can easily be retrofitted into residential systems.
“We developed a reliable and efficient way to generate power from any heat source, including natural gas or renewable resources,” said Rodger Dyson, the Glenn engineer who invented the technology. Dyson and two other Glenn engineers are assisting Nirvana to integrate the NASA technology into TAPS.
“The NASA technology allows TAPS to provide people with another option to achieve greater energy independence with lower cost and more efficiency,” said Kim Dalgleish-Miller, chief of Glenn’s Innovation Projects Office. “NASA Glenn has a decades-long heritage in energy conversion technologies and demonstration. Nirvana sought us out based on this capability, which has contributed to this milestone.”
Nirvana will be testing TAPS throughout 2014. Once testing, certification and regulatory requirements are completed, TAPS should be ready for the residential energy marketplace.