About NEXT-RP(Message)

About NEXT-RP

Research Center for Next Generation Refrigerant Properties (NEXT-RP) I²CNER, Kyushu University > About NEXT-RP(Message)

Message

Welcome to NEXT-RP

Research Center of Next Generation Refrigerant Properties. We will briefly introduce NEXTRP and what it is currently doing.
NEXT-RP was established in I²CNER in April 2016, four years ago. At the starting time, our laboratory was an empty room, but after about 4 years, we have set most of the experimental facilities. NEXT-RP is carrying out the evaluation of thermodynamic properties, heat transfer characteristics, and refrigeration and heat pump cycle performance for new refrigerants and their blends. Especially, nowadays, the development of next-generation refrigerants has attracted a great deal of attention all over the world in order to prevent the global warming. We believe that NEXT-RP is suitable for the mission of “carbon neutral”.
Moreover, instead of doing all the work at only one place in Kyushu University, we are collaborating with universities and national research institute in Japan and around the world to make timely solutions. We explain the next-generation refrigerant a little more specifically. In the 1930s, CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) caused the big revolution for the refrigeration and air conditionings. As a result, refrigerators, air conditioners, and heat pumps have become widespread widely. But in the 1970s and 1980s, CFC changed from valuable working fluids to a global criminal. The cause is an Ozone depletion problem.
Since then, the development of CFC alternatives has progressed, and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) has emerged as a savior to help the earth. The feature of HFCs is that it does not contain chlorine atoms, which is the cause of ozone layer depletion.
From the 1990s to 2000s, it was thought that HFCs and their blends became popular as an environmentally acceptable refrigerants. However, another global environmental issue has become a hot topic unfortunately. It’s a global warming issues. It is found that HFCs has a great impact on global warming, and then, it becomes necessary to develop the HFC alternatives. Now, we are tackling to find out the next generation refrigerants.

NEXT-RP Kick Off
Symposium @I²CNER

Six months after its inauguration, NEXT-RP held its kickoff symposium at I²CNER on October 7, 2016. The large crowd of participants included numerous representatives from partner organizations and businesses, including refrigerant / air conditioning manufacturers. In an effort to further promote I²CNER’s broad-ranging research efforts, a lab tour for keynote speakers of the symposium was also hosted.

Lab Tour: A sample of the laboratories that were visited

  • Prof. Yukihiro Higashi’s lab (NEXT-RP)

  • Prof. Yasuyuki Takata’s lab (Thermal Science and Engineering Division)

  • Prof. Seiji Ogo’s lab (Catalytic Materials Transformations Division)

  • Prof. Masanobu Kubota’s lab (Hydrogen Materials Compatibility Division)

Messages

  • Prof. Koichi Watanabe Emeritus Professor, Keio University

    It is unnecessary to point out that our first priority should be a concerted effort to achieve a series of productive research results in strategic areas as quickly as possible. The creative and innovative research activities that have been established in NEXT-RP could be one of the best sources of information for the global community in this area. NEXT-RP is also likely to attract attention because it is ideally positioned to be able to address the global community’s ever-increasing concerns about next generation refrigerants. Emphasis should be placed on developing a systematic, targeted roadmap within NEXT-RP.

  • Dr. Eric W. Lemmon U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology

    The NEXT-RP collaboration could be very valuable in coordinating research efforts. This could take two forms: (1) By bringing researchers together to discuss their current work, new collaborations will naturally form. (2) The preparation of assessments of research completed and remaining research priorities would be very helpful ? both to avoid duplication of effort and also to secure research funding. NEXT-RP should not “assign” research to different groups, but allow these coordination efforts to result naturally in more effective research.

  • Prof. Anthony Jacobi University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    NEXT-RP has an excellent reputation from the start, owing to the established excellence and impact of the faculty involved. One idea might be to consider leveraging that reputation with a series of conferences in which you bring together a relatively small group of the most influential researchers in the area to exchange ideas. My advice would be to decide what partnerships you wish to form, being mindful that a mix of academic, corporate, and other organizations would be most powerful, then seek to identify individuals in those organizations who will champion the partnership.

Round-table discussion of key members of Research Center for Next Generation
Refrigerant Properties (NEXT-RP), International Institute for Carbon-Neutral
Energy Research (I²CNER), Kyushu University

※April 1, 2016 (at the time of establishment)

From left
Akio Miyara Professor, Saga University/Visiting Professor,I²CNER, Kyushu University/Division for Thermophysical Properties and Transfer Processes of Next Generation Refrigerants, NEXT-RP
Yukihiro Higashi Professor, I²CNER ,Kyushu University/Division for Thermophysical Properties and Transfer Processes of Next Generation Refrigerants, NEXT-RP
Yasuyuki Takata Associate Director of I²CNER, Kyushu University/Division for Refrugerant Property Information and Academai-Industry Collaboration,Director of NEXT-RP
Shigeru Koyama Professor, I²CNER ,Kyushu University/Division for Heat Pump and Refrigeration Cycles, Associate Director of NEXT-RP
Bidyut Baran Saha Professor and Principal Investigator, I²CNER,Kyushu University/Division for Refrigerant Property Information and Academia-Industry Collaboration, NEXT-RP
Ryo Akasaka Professor, Kyushu Sangyo University/Visiting Professor,I²CNER, Kyushu University/Division for Refrigerant Property Information and Academia-Industry Collaboration, NEXT-RP

Though refrigerants are vitally important to our daily lives and various industries, most people are not very familiar with them. They are essential to all refrigeration and air conditioning. The chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) alternatives currently being used as refrigerants have a large global warming potential (GWP), which has led to concerns about their sustainability. Due to the fact that the development of sustainable, new generation refrigerants has been identified as an urgent task, the Research Center for Next Generation Refrigerant Properties (NEXT-RP) was established on April 1, 2016 as an internal organization of I²CNER. Key members of this center got together to discuss various topics, ranging from the background of the center’s establishment to future perspectives.

Aiming to Create a National Hub of Research on New Refrigerants

Shigeru
Koyama
Although most of my colleagues here are already familiar with it, I would like to start by briefly explaining the historical background of refrigerants. Fluorocarbon refrigerants such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), which had been used as the working medium for refrigerators and heat pumps, were found to be ozone-depleting substances and were restricted by the Montreal Protocol of 1987. This led to the development of a CFC alternative, HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). However, as HFCs have a high Global Warming Potential (GWP), they later became subject to reductions under the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. It was determined that CFCs should be globally abolished by 2010 and that HCFCs should be, in principle, abolished in industrialized countries by 2020. Moreover, for HFCs, the international conference held in October 2016 (MOP28) mandated that industrialized countries, including Japan, should reduce production by 85% of the 2013 level by 2036. Under these deadlines, we cannot afford to lose time in developing new low-GWP refrigerants. Japan has an international responsibility to lead research in this area. This background has led to the establishment of NEXT-RP to pursue basic research on thermophysical properties, heat exchange characteristics, and the basic recycling functions of new refrigerants that can minimize environmental impact by having both zero-ODP (zero ozone depletion potential) and low-GWP.
Yasuyuki
Takata
As I²CNER is expected to promote technology transfers, we at NEXT-RP place an emphasis on returning the results of basic research to society. To this end, we thought it was desirable to establish a research center that clearly shows our presence to the outside world, as opposed to just launching a collaborative project of several researchers.

Expectations for Research Institute on Refrigerants Founded in Japan

Yukihiro
Higashi
Although the importance of refrigerant research from the viewpoint of preventing global warming has been widely recognized, including among many in the industrial community, it is indeed basic research that is not directly linked to corporate profits. For this reason, I can clearly see the difficulties standing in the way of continuing research. And, since a variety of users can be ultimately expected for refrigerants, standardization from a neutral academic stance would be better achieved at the stage of basic research. In that context, I think the significance of research that can solidify the intellectual foundation of NEXT-RP is profound.
Akio
Miyara
There are two types of expectations coming from the outside, namely those from researchers and those from corporations. Conventional approaches are taken by research groups in a research institute, where individual researchers face limitations on their achievements. However, at NEXT-RP, researchers from all over the world will be gathering to improve by cooperating and learning from each other. As such, results on a different level from the past are to be expected. Also, I often hear from corporations at academic conferences that they expect an increase in the level of basic research leading to more applications, and that they would like NEXT-RP to conduct research in these areas.
Ryo
Akasaka
Research on low-GWP refrigerants in Japan has already been at a level to attract global attention. Japan is now leading global research in this field, and launching a specialized research center for refrigerants in Japan will definitely appeal to the international community. While up until now much of the research on refrigerant properties has been conducted in several countries from various aspects, some of them have not always met the needs of the refrigeration industry. NEXT-RP is highly expected to propose new joint research to meet current needs, and is predicting to set international trends for the future.
Bidyut
Baran
Saha
In order to create a carbon-neutral society, energy efficiency improvements in refrigeration and air conditioning systems are essential. The key here is a next-generation, low-GWP refrigerant. If NEXT-RP accomplishes new achievements in refining the thermophysical properties of refrigerants, and is able to form a partnership with corporations to answer their needs, it will be a huge landmark in the industry. As an internal researcher at I²CNER, I hope that NEXT-RP will promote interdisciplinary research cooperation as well.

Future Challenges to Meet Growing Expectations

Yasuyuki
Takata
There are already several research hubs for refrigeration and air-conditioning around the world. In the United States, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with close ties with I²CNER, has the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center (ACRC). The University of Maryland and Purdue University also each have such a center. In China, Shanghai Jiao Tung University and Tsinghua University have research centers. What is common among these research institutions is that they receive ample funds from corporations in addition to grants from the government. In this context, it is of great significance for Japan, which has not had an entity that meets the needs of businesses, to have a specialized research institution. No other national institutions have a better collection of members as of the time of our inauguration, and I have huge expectations for NEXT-RP. We have two strategic challenges for the future. The first is how to strengthen partnerships with the industrial community from the viewpoint of technology transfers. The second is how to improve global recognition of NEXT-RP, which will be the only research hub for refrigerants in Japan.
Shigeru
Koyama
There are three points embodying our strategies. First, researching the properties of low-GWP and zero-ODP based new generation refrigerants; second, research the characteristic evaluations when utilizing new generation refrigerants in actual systems; and finally, developing optimal system proposals using several combinations of potential refrigerants and systems. Crucial in achieving such difficult goals is the procurement of external funding. As Professor Takata said, in the U.S. the business community invests a considerable amount of money in these three universities. On the other hand, as Japan has not had specialized organizations for this purpose, corporate research investment had no option than to look overseas. Dramatically changing this flow of research funds is another important mission for NEXT-RP. I hope we will be able to contribute to achieving the strict reduction targets specified in the Montreal Protocol by accomplishing our given challenges and missions.
Yukihiro
Higashi
The fact that we have a research center specializing in refrigerants that are not commonly known among the general public has significant meaning. As members engaged in the organizational operation, we must not just produce research results, but must also focus to ensure the continued operation of the center. As one of our initiatives, we held a Kick-Off Symposium in October 2016, inviting prominent researchers from both home and abroad, with the purpose of enhancing the visibility of NEXT-RP. At the symposium, I realized how great the expectations for NEXT-RP were, and saw that both domestic and overseas industrial and academic communities have been hoping for this kind of research center to be established. We will make efforts to build a collaborative system not only among academic researchers, but also widely among members of the government and business communities, in order to further develop NEXT-RP.
Akio
Miyara
For refrigerant research conducted abroad, many post-doctoral scholars and researchers come together under renowned professors and proceed with research as one unit. However, in Japan, even if innovative research is carried out at a laboratory somewhere, it lacks a sense of speed as long as it is conducted by only the one lab. Research centers abroad have often taken up the same theme as our labs, and they ultimately go to advance ahead of us. In this sense, I expect that NEXT-RP will dramatically change the style of refrigerant research in Japan. It is expected that an inter-university network will be developed, with I²CNER of Kyushu University at the center, and that this network will cooperate with the New Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the business world to intensively promote cutting-edge research.
Ryo Akasaka e aim to more extensively cooperate with international research organizations. This would enhance the presence of NEXT-RP in the world. We have already held regular international workshops collaborating with researchers in the U.S., Italy, Germany, China, and South Korea, and we also actively communicate with them to exchange new information on refrigerants. In the future, we will develop research agreements with several institutes, including student exchange programs and seminars by invited researchers who are working on refrigerant properties. Results obtained from the collaborations will be published in conferences and papers, and this would assist to extend our networks to another industry and academia. For software development, i.e. the final step in research on properties of refrigerants, we will establish a workflow to quickly transfer our results to R&D activities in the industrial field.
Bidyut
Baran
Saha
More than anything else, I want to stress the importance of the international collaborative research. Currently, the U.S., England, Germany and China are engaged in research on new refrigerants. India, Singapore and Malaysia also express a strong interest in this field. At NEXT-RP, we will lead in the research and development of low-GWP refrigerants at a world level by collaborating with researchers from these countries. The success of NEXT-RP will also give a boost to other research divisions at I²CNER.

Aiming to Be the World’s Leading Research Institute on Refrigerants

Yasuyuki
Takata
Significant developments have been predicted for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. It is expected that air conditioning equipment will prevail in developing countries, where such equipment could not previously be used due to economic considerations. In addition, global warming will lead to the necessity of installing air conditioners in Europe, where they have not been required so far. As the reach of the industry is expected to grow, the need to reduce energy consumption and develop environmentally-friendly refrigerants is only increasing. In the U.S., the University of Illinois has the advantage with heat exchangers, Purdue University with compressor strength, and the University of Maryland with software. When NEXT-RP, specializing in fluids, joins this circle, various research partnerships will be accelerated. In order to promote these activities, securing a sufficient budget is a crucial challenge. We need to obtain support from the industrial world as a whole, and not simply depend on the government’s budget. We will solidify our research system, and then make efforts to raise researchers’ awareness and nurture young researchers.
Shigeru
Koyama
Specifically, refrigeration and air conditioning equipment refers to refrigerators and heat pumps. There are three categories to cover, depending on the temperature level. The first one is refrigeration and the low-temperature range, where maintaining low-temperatures will be an important basic technology. The next is the temperature zone related to our living environment, ranging from normal temperatures to around the water-boiling temperature of 100°C. This zone is particularly in need of energy savings. In industry, there is often the need to make use of waste heat of about 100°C released from factories and heat pumps to create a heat source of around 200°C. In addition to this, there is important research on a new generation medium for organic Rankine cycles, which can generate electricity from a heat source of about 200°C. With this in mind, we hope to propose innovative refrigerators and heat pump systems developed at NEXT-RP within the next five years, or ten years at the very latest. As for the training of young researchers, we consider personnel development in ASEAN countries to be an important challenge. Japanese air conditioner manufacturers have several production facilities throughout ASEAN countries, and are developing training for students and working people in those areas.
Yukihiro
Higashi
At NEXT-RP, inter-university partnerships have been realized without a budgetary provision. This is a rare case, I think, and reflects the determination of the participating researchers who have a pure and passionate sense of mission. In order to link this growing momentum to steady results, we must consider securing a budget as one of our most important future tasks. As we call it a “center,” it is meant to function as a hub to promote partnerships with various related organizations. While paying attention to next generation personnel training, everyone involved is committed to doing their utmost to make NEXT-RP the world’s leading research center in the field. We kindly ask for your support and cooperation.