UMD Startup To Solve Energy Conversion Challenges in Thermal Systems

A small consulting group that started off working with sponsors for the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Energy Engineering (CEEE) has now grown into a full-fledged startup that aims to transform the way thermal systems are designed.

Optimized Thermal Systems, Inc. (OTS), a UMD startup now based out of Beltsville, Maryland, provides engineering consulting for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) systems and customized design software and services to the HVAC&R industry, thermal management and energy conversion.

Besides software development and computational fluid dynamics analysis, OTS provides solutions to design challenges engineers face while working with system components such as heat exchangers, entire vapor compression, heat pumping, and refrigeration systems, and energy conversion and thermal management in general.

Chief Operating Officer Cara Martin said that over the last two years, the company has doubled the number of employees and seen an average 25 percent increase in its gross revenue each year. In addition, the facility has been scaled up from just over 2,000 sq. ft. to almost 10,000 sq. ft.

“The HVAC&R analysis expertise and software developed through university research prompted the creation of the company,” she said.

The startup was initially called Thermal Analysis Partners, LLC, then the name was changed to Optimized Thermal Systems, LLC in 2010.

Today the company employs four UMD graduates full time and four university faculty members working part-time. Dr. Reinhard Radermacher, Minta Martin Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering (CEEE) at the University of Maryland, is the CEO of the company.

Additional UMD faculty at OTS include Chief Science Officer Dr. Yunho Hwang, a research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Vice President and Simulation Architect Dr. Vikrant Aute, an assistant research scientist in the same department, who together form the startup’s leadership.

UMD’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), Martin said, was instrumental in providing OTS with a license to proprietary software used for developing effective solutions for their clients. The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) provided OTS with operating space to get started.

Pasquale Ferrari, Senior Licensing Manager at the OTC, said that Optimized Thermal Systems was a good example of how a startup company founded and staffed by university faculty and alumni could serve as an effective conduit in transferring university-developed knowledge and technology into the marketplace.

Software developed through CEEE is exclusively licensed to OTS. OTS works with HVAC&R manufacturers and engineers to develop custom versions of the software to optimize system components and performance.

One of their products, XProps®, is an enhancement to the ‘REFPROP’ database by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). REFPROP provides vital refrigerant property information used throughout the thermal systems industry and XProps® has the capability to integrate this across multiple applications and platforms and also offers advanced graphing.

Other products offered by OTS include CoilDesigner®, VapCyc®, Thermodynamic Cycle Model (TCM), and the ThermCom Methodology.

“We hope to significantly increase our company in size and revenue within the next five years by branching out into other areas of thermal management and further developing our reputation and capability within the HVAC&R community,” Dr. Radermacher said.

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Published August 25, 2015