Heat Pump and Refrigeration Technologies
A heat pump is a highly efficient piece of technology that uses a minimal amount of exergy (such as electricity) to harness an otherwise unusable source of heat (anergy) for space heating, water heating or industrial processes. Heat sources can be, for example, ambient air, geothermal energy, surface water, as well as waste heat from sewage treatment or from industrial plants.
This technology is hence of great importance to efficiently cover the heating needs of buildings, commerce and industry with renewable energy. Accordingly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) envisages in its “Net Zero by 2050” roadmap a 55% share of heat pumps to cover the heat demand in the building sector.
The increasing cooling and refrigeration demand also requires the improvement of the technologically identical chiller. According to the IEA report “The Future of Cooling”, if efficiency were not improved, electricity demand for air conditioning would triple worldwide by 2050.
Swiss companies and research institutes have been deeply involved in the development of heat pump technology from its very beginning and are still well positioned in the global market as well as in international research and development projects. The objective of this SFOE research programme is to expand this competence with targeted support for advanced innovation.
Research priorities for the period from 2021 to 2024
Modern heat pumps can achieve around 50% of their theoretical cycle efficiency. In practice, however, they are often operated far below this level. The integration and operation of the heat pump system should therefore be improved and coordinated with the building system and user behaviour. Flexibility is required in order to respond to supply and demand fluctuations in the energy system. Digitalisation opens up new possibilities for the optimisation of operations as well as for the integration of photovoltaics and storage. The transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants is also necessary.
Publication of research results
The SFOE promotes the broad publication of research results. Reports from projects that received SFOE funding are available for free download from the federal government’s “ARAMIS” database. We recommend to use the “heat pumps and refrigeration” label in the advanced search feature. Further details are available under the “Links” tab.
National and international collaboration
Researchers in the field of heat pumps and refrigeration technology are well networked in Switzerland. Universities, research institutes and development departments in industry cooperate in numerous projects. Their research results are internationally recognized, and the products of the Swiss heat pump industry are sold worldwide.
Swiss researchers are also connected internationally and collaborate, for example, in projects of the EU or the International Energy Agency (IEA). These include the IEA Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies, where Switzerland is involved in various projects and chairs the executive committee. The SFOE supports this collaboration (see tab “Links”).
A selection of websites of external organizations is listed under the tab “Links”.