The Energy-Use Minimisation via High Performance Heat-Power-Cooling Conversion and Integration: A Holistic Molecules to Technologies to Systems Approach project (iHPC) is a four year multidisciplinary project aimed at minimising primary-energy use in UK industry. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


iHPC is studying next-generation technological solutions in the heat-power-cooling conversion area. The team are working to understand optimal implementation of various possibilities to:

  • Identify the challenges
  • Assess the opportunities
  • Outline the benefits to different stakeholders


The area is ripe for exploitation with an estimated 17% of all UK industrial energy-use being wasted as heat. The successful implementation of heat-power-cooling technologies would increase the potential for waste-heat utilisation by a factor of 3.5, from 17% with current technologies to close to 60%.

iHPC focusses on two selected energy-conversion technologies with integrated energy-storage capabilities:

  1. Heat-to-power with organic Rankine cycle (ORC) devices
  2. Heat-to-cooling with absorption refrigeration cycle (ARC) devices

These have been chosen as they are capable of recovering and utilising thermal energy from a diverse range of sources in industrial applications. The heat input can come from highly efficient distributed combined heat & power (CHP) units, conventional or renewable sources (solar, geothermal, biomass/gas), or be wasted from industrial processes.

The in-built, by design, capacity for low-cost thermal storage acts to buffer energy or temperature fluctuations inherent to most real heat sources, allowing smaller conversion devices (for the same average input) and more efficient operation of those devices closer to their design points for longer periods. This will greatly improve the economic proposition of implementing these conversion solutions by simultaneously reducing capital and maintenance costs, and improving performance.

Research goals

The technologies of interest are promising but are not currently economically viable in the vast majority of applications with >5-20 year paybacks at best. The project involves targeting and resolving pre-identified 'bottleneck' aspects of each technology that can enable step-improvements in maximising performance per unit capital cost. The goal is to enable the widespread uptake of these technologies and their optimal integration with existing energy systems and energy-efficiency strategies, leading to drastic increases performance while lowering costs, thus reducing payback to 3-5 years.

It is intended that technological step-changes will be attained by unlocking the synergistic potential of optimised, application-tailored fluids for high efficiency and power, and of innovative components including advanced heat-exchanger configurations and architectures in order to increase thermal transport while simultaneously reducing component size and cost.

Important system-level components are included in the project, whose objective is to assess the impact of incorporating these systems in targeted industrial settings, examine technoeconomic feasibility, and identify opportunities relating to optimal integration, control and operation to maximise in-use performance. A dynamic, interactive whole-energy-integration design and assessment platform will be developed to accelerate the implementation of the technological advances, feeding into specific case-studies and facilitating direct recommendations to industry.