EcoThermics turns over a new leaf: exclusive interview with CEO, Merle Rocke

By Silvia Scaldaferri, Dec 03, 2014, 11:56 3 minute reading

EcoThermics Corporation is the developer and pre-production manufacturer of a patented type of transcritical CO2 compressor, based upon an axial design platform. Significant opportunities are in store for qualified heat pump and refrigeration system manufacturers to deploy these compressors in products for the rapidly-growing and changing heat pump and commercial refrigeration markets.

EcoThermics applies high pressure axial piston hydraulic pump technology to compressors for transcritical CO2 heat pumps up to a pressure of 2000 psi, roughly five times the pressure in traditional heat pumps.

The transcritical CO2 compressors feature a robust and compact, patented design, which is low noise/ vibration. With operation as high as 3600 rpm, OEMs are able to apply this technology to virtually any market in order to build environmentally responsible heating, cooling and refrigeration systems for diverse commercial, industrial, residential, mobile and portable applications.

Based on interest from OEMs, four different sizes and capacities have been developed, from 5 hp to 40 hp, and the company plans to scale-up to 100 hp in size and capacity.

EcoThermics has working demo models in the field and revenue is expected to ramp up in 2016,” said Merle Rocke, Chairman and CEO.

First introduced by Multistack at the AHR Expo in Dallas 2013, the Swash Plate CO2 compressor for Commercial Heat Pump Water Heaters is planned for production. Following this, two specific families of compressors will be manufactured: one with higher horsepower motors for heat pump applications and one with lower horsepower motors for commercial refrigeration applications. Each of these two families will be housed in common exterior housings (from small to extra large). Can you tell us more about the advantages of your axial compressor compared to traditional reciprocating compressors?

Merle Rocke: EcoThermics transcritical CO2 compressor technology has resulted from integration of the best of three other technologies: scroll, reciprocating and high pressure hydraulics. Resulting advantages include durability, higher 2-pole speeds (3600 rpm), dynamic balance, efficiency, smaller physical size, vertical orientation, modulating capacity, range of capacity, modular design platform and lower production cost. Are you waiting for any approvals, from UL for example, for your compressor line?

Rocke: The UL certification process for our first production semi-hermetic compressor, the AT80SH (80 cc’s/revolution), is currently underway. It is now two years on since your collaboration with Country Maid (a commercial bakery). Have the energy cost savings of about $4,250 (€3,260)/ year been maintained?

Rocke: Yes. The customer is delighted – and would like additional units! This unit has over 4000 hours of operation with no service issues. We are quite pleased. How do you see the CO2 heat pump and commercial refrigeration markets evolving in the US over the next 24 months?

Rocke: There is no question that installation of CO2 heat pump and commercial refrigeration applications will steadily grow in the months and years ahead. Primary drivers will include the focus on energy and operating cost reduction – such as a need for hot water for sanitary cleaning, especially if simultaneous chilled water can be utilised – and increased demand from grocery stores focused on supplying organic foods to customers concerned about protecting our environment. Are your CO2 compressors suitable for ice rinks and other industrial refrigeration applications?

Rocke: Yes, absolutely.

Investment opportunities

Ecothermics is currently in collaboration with a global investment firm to secure a major growth capital investment or a strategic buyer to dive more quickly into this fast-growing market.

Since our technology platform is quite scalable, we envision two families of compressors in the future – one for HVAC and water heating and one for commercial refrigeration. But, the sequence and timing of future production models (ranging from 6.5 m3/hr @ 50 Hz up to 60 m3/hr @ 50Hz) will be driven by customer/partner priorities and availability of additional growth capital. Woodbridge International is assisting us with that process,” commented Rocke.

More about EcoThermics

Illinois-based EcoThermics has a broad intellectual property strategy and a portfolio that includes 6 U.S. patents, 2 patent applications; 7 foreign national stage applications (two in the European Union, China, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and Thailand) and at least two additional patent applications under development; 4 registered trademarks etc. In addition, the company has developed a body of innovations in various areas, including hydraulics and radial piston devices (where four of the Company’s U.S. patents apply).


By Silvia Scaldaferri

Dec 03, 2014, 11:56

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