NOV 01, 2023 4:55 PM PDT

Saving Energy in Older Buildings: Illinois Tech's Award-Winning BORC System

Those old, clunky radiators that have long heated our homes are about to get modernized, as the Chicago-based natural gas utility, Peoples Gas, recently awarded a team of researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) for their revolutionary Battery-Operated Radiator Control, also known as BORC, which is touted as having the ability to enhance traditional, manually controlled radiators by making them more energy efficient and sustainable for the long-term.

Left to right: Hoang “Patrick” Le, who is a 4th Year MSE student; Dr. Mohammad Heidarinejad, Assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering; and Christopher Riley (ME ’18, M.S. ARCE ’22). (Credit: Illinois Institute of Technology)

Traditional steam radiators “often operate when they aren’t needed, and they can be difficult to control for comfort,” said Dr. Mohammad Heidarinejad, who is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Illinois Tech, and one of the recipients of Innovation Strategies and Technologies Award. “We have developed a way to automate the control of manual legacy steam radiator valves to manage radiator output in a way that is more similar to modern buildings and can be connected to building automation systems.”

Along with delivering better energy efficiency, BORC is remotely controlled and possesses a series of sensors designed to track room temperature and the number of occupants which is then used to determine if the radiator’s temperature should be increased or decreased.

Current research on BORC includes the team demonstrating its capabilities on radiators at Illinois Tech’s Alumni Memorial Hall and the team is also investigating the potential for a steam trap and automated fault detection system. Research contributions from a myriad of students dates back to 2017 with sponsorships from the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program, Armour Research & Development, and Franklin’s Energy.

“We are working with the Illinois Tech technology office and Kaplan Institute for a potential research to market translation, and this news would be very helpful to support this effort,” said Dr. Heidarinejad. “We have a great transition team that we are confident can take us to the next level.”

How will BORC help with modernizing radiators in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: EurekAlert!, Illinois Tech, Illinois Tech (1)

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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