Washington Beat

Federal efficiency standards rise 30% for refrigerators

The Department of Energy is ordering refrigerator designers to improve the energy efficiency of their products 30% over current standards by July 2001. The new rule will apply to all refrigerators sold in the United States, but not to those exported to other countries. Officials of Maytag Corp. claim their newly designed line of top-mount refrigerators provide "the platform for future energy efficiency." The corporation is completing a $180 million investment to redesign its refrigeration product line and to expand its production facility in Galesburg, IL. The new refrigerators embrace engineering advances in cooling, crisper design, and airflow. An additional demand on refrigerator makers comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. It wants appliance manufacturers to stop using hydrofluorocarbons as insulating agents.

Search for replacement for HCFC produces no 'obvious winner'

It looks as though engineers will have to re-design many appliances to operate on substitute refrigerants. The effort to find a replacement for HCFC-22, the most widely used refrigerant in the United States, is bringing disappointing results. That fact is underscored in a progress report prepared by testing companies and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute of Arlington, VA. Manufacturers have been voluntarily testing many alternative refrigerants and blends in equipment originally de-signed for HCFC-22. The white paper says none of the refrigerants tested is "an obvious winner to replace all HCFC-22 applications." Although HCFC-22 is superior to older refrigerants such as R-12, it is suspected of depleting the ozone layer and will be banned in 2020. Many factors need to be resolved before a safe switch from HCFC-22 can occur, such as fractionation and long-term reliability.

Research Council report doubts clean car goal can be reached

A White House plan to put highly fuel-efficient autos on highways by 2004 began with fanfare four years ago. Now, few think the goal can be attained. The third progress review of the program by a committee of the National Research Council calls for radical redirection of efforts. The program, named the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), aims to develop a mid-size car that can achieve the equivalent of 80 mpg while complying with emission restrictions. Sometime this year, PNGV officials must pick the most promising technologies to use in concept test vehicles, which are supposed to be ready by 2000. None of the various types of engines or fuel cells that PNGV is considering as power sources for a hybrid electric vehicle is feasible, the committee has found. Instead, the report gives the nod to the compression-ignition direct-injection engine or the diesel engine. It recommends diverting more resources to developing low-cost, lightweight diesel engines.

Augustine, four others receive National Medal of Technology

Norman R. Augustine is among five 1997 recipients of the National Medal of Technology--the government's highest award for technological achievements. The chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed-Martin Corp. was cited for his long career of pioneering technological innovations. Starting as chief engineer with Douglas Aircraft Company in 1958, Augustine has held several key technology positions in industry and government. Another winner is Ray M. Dolby, chairman of the board of Dolby Laboratories Inc. Dolby invented technologies that have improved the recording and reproduction of sound. The third medalist is Robert S. Ledley, director of medical computing and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center. A holder of more than 60 patents, Ledley invented the whole-body CT scanner. A team award went to Vinton Gray Cerf, senior vice president of Data Architecture at MCI, and Robert E. Kahn, president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. They developed Internet protocols. To date, 103 individuals and teams and eight firms have received the medal, which Congress established in 1980. You can download nomination packets for the 1998 medals through http://www.ta.doc.gov/Medal/Applications.asp.

SYSTAT statistical software designed for engineers

SPSS Inc. of Chicago has devised a statistical computer program for engineers and scientists. Called SYSTAT 7.0 for Windows, the software was demonstrated in Arlington, VA. The program displays 13 more statistical procedures and 8 more quick graphics than earlier versions, which were designed for more general use. Among additions is a logistic regression feature that includes almost every model used in research literature for the past 20 years. Another new feature lets you create different metric and non-metric conjoint measurement models. Results in SYSTAT emerge quickly in both graphical and numerical forms.

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