Clean Energy Trust Call for Innovation (Invisible to Other Innovators)

ACCURATE, STABLE HUMIDITY SENSORS FOR BUILDINGS

*Note* This is a private campaign. Your ideas will not be seen by others, only by the JUMP moderators

Background:

Humidity sensors can be used to improve indoor air quality and overall energy efficiency of buildings.
Humidity sensors, along with temperature sensors, are key components of many heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Measuring and controlling humidity levels in buildings is important for both occupant comfort and indoor air quality. Low relative humidity levels can cause human discomfort, while high relative humidity levels can contribute to the growth and spread of biological contaminants and increase the potential for condensation and water damage to building materials. Humidity sensors are also important in HVAC control to save energy by avoiding unnecessary humidification or de-humidification of outside and recirculated air.

There are a wide variety of physical mechanisms used for sensing humidity but most low cost, low power humidity sensors used in buildings measure changes in the electrical resistance or capacitance of a sensor exposed to water vapor. In a resistive sensor, water vapor changes the electrical resistance of a hygroscopic medium such as a conductive polymer, and that change in resistance is measured. In a capacitive sensor, a thin film polymer or metal oxide is deposited between electrical conductors. The presence of water vapor changes the dielectric constant of air in contact with the polymer or metal oxide, which then changes the sensor capacitance.

Over time, both accuracy and stability can be compromised by the accumulation of indoor contaminants on the sensor and/or exposure to chemical emissions from other building materials that can change the sensor chemical composition. Heating mechanisms can be used periodically to remove some contaminants, but this increases both the cost and the power usage of the sensor.

The Challenge:

The challenge is to identify an accurate and stable humidity sensor technology that promises performance improvements over the market’s existing sensors. The proposed sensor must be able to measure relative humidity with an accuracy of +5% and maintain that accuracy to within +1% for a minimum period of 10 years. Low cost technologies, low power technologies, and technologies that integrate analog-to-digital conversion are of particular interest.

While this challenge is particularly targeted to innovators who are looking to commercialize the proposed technology as a small business, emerging ideas that identify unique technology solutions to this challenge will also be considered.

This JUMP Call for Innovation requires only a written proposal. Review and consideration of ideas does not require submitters to provide ideas with documented Intellectual Property (IP). If you are concerned about protecting the potential of your IP, choose the “Invisible to other Innovators” option when submitting your idea. Choosing this submission option will enable the judges to review your ideas but will not show it openly on the JUMP website. Choosing the “Invisible to other Innovators” will not permit the JUMP community to comment, discuss, or vote on your idea.

The Award:

Selected finalists will be invited to participate in a “mini-accelerator” program designed to help prepare the winning teams for participation in the Clean Energy Trust (CET) Challenge (http://cleanenergytrust.org/challenge/), an annual investment showcase where startups compete for $1 million in early stage funding. The program will provide curriculum and mentoring to help participants refine their business model canvas; explore first markets and customers; and provide venture development services, including help with hiring, marketing, IP, manufacturing, and supply chain sourcing. The “mini-accelerator” will also help prepare the winning teams for other clean tech business funding competitions.

Depending on the solutions identified:

  • Argonne National Laboratory may provide in-kind technical support of $10,000 - $20,000 to enable Argonne staff to provide prototype development, testing, techno-economic analysis or other defined needs.
  • Successful JUMP winners may also elect to submit a "Request for Assistance (RFA)" for Round 3 or subsequent Rounds of the DOE Lab Impact Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot Small Business Voucher. Successful SBV requests may be provided up to $300k in the form of in-kind technical support for prototype development, testing, and other problem statements facing small businesses in the clean energy innovation space.

Ideal Submission Deadline:

Idea Submission Period Ends: July 31, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST