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Big Water Savings in Chemistry

April 1st, 2014 @ 2:12 pm by Camille Kirk

icons_map_dropSustainable 2nd Century and the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability will blog about water use, water conservation and the drought throughout 2014, with a special emphasis on these topics during spring quarter.

For our first water-focused post, we’re going to share something that the Chemistry Department at UC Davis has done to conserve water.

Research instrumentation often generates a lot of heat, thus needing water cooling. The UC Davis Chemistry Department is on the road to converting all of its water cooling from single-pass, domestic water use, to cooling by the campus chilled water loop. In 2010, machine shop engineer Michael Sisto realized that a chilled water pipe was in close proximity to two x-ray diffractometers, each using about 8-10 liters per minute, twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. For under $1,000 in expense to the department, he was able to tie into the chilled water loop, saving close to two million gallons per year of drinking water.

Future cooling water upgrades will be more expensive and will require a substantial commitment from the department, dean and provost. Chemistry plans to spend close to $100,000 in converting a stand-alone cooling loop for the building, and then connecting other instruments that are still on single pass cooling. A double benefit from this “process cooling” will be a helium recovery system that will recycle 80-90% of the super-cooling gas needed for cryochemistry. The 2013 helium bill in Chemistry was more than $60,000. Similar recycling systems are already working for the benefit of principal investigators and the campus in the Physics Department.

Other departments with process cooling loads are encouraged to follow Chemistry’s example. Bravo, UC Davis Chemistry!

If you have a story of water conservation that you would like to tell, or a leak or water-saving idea you would like to report, write to savewater@ucdavis.edu.


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