In this STAR interview, we speak to Wilko Rohlfs of the Faculty of Engineering Technology. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results. In addition we have many “star” colleagues at UT with an interesting story to tell. Wilko Rohlfs is one of them.
What is the situation (S) outline (at the moment) of your research?
"The European energy market has drastic impacts on our society. Rising prices for electricity and gas lead to insolvencies of private individuals and companies. Energy efficiency of processes in the long run, but also the immediate perception of energy saving measures can help to reduce the upcoming dramatic costs. Heat transfer and thermodynamics are a central topic if it comes to the supply of domestic and industrial heat and the utilization of waste heat."
What tasks (T) are currently involved?
"The most important task for immediate action is education. Appropriate energy saving measures require an understanding of heat transfer processes and the thermodynamic heating circuit. This measure can save about 20% of the energy without significantly affecting the comfort of living. In the long term, we need to reduce heat demand through technical measures and improve the supply of sustainable energy."
What actions (A) are you working on and who are involved?
"Together with my team, I am working on improving heat pump systems, especially those which use ambient air as a heat source. At low outdoor temperatures, these systems currently suffer from poor efficiencies which drastically increases their electricity demand. Root cause is the low source temperature as well as the well-known problem of frost formation. Together with Bachelor and Master Students and heat pump manufacturers we aim to provide practical solutions to that problem."
What results (R) do you hope to achieve and how will society perceive them?
"By increasing the efficiency of the heat pump at low outdoor temperatures, we aim not only to reduce people's energy bills, but also to dampen the electricity demand of air-source heat pumps. Above all, the energy demand is seen as one of the main obstacles to the widespread use of this technology in Northern Europe."