Zero-emission, Flexible, and Efficient Power


Noble Thermodynamic Systems has developed the argon power cycle, a new engine design that delivers emission-free electricity from natural gas or hydrogen at an efficiency well above current power generation systems. The technology is based on the use of a closed loop internal combustion engine cycle working with a monatomic gas in concert with a gas separation unit.


Miguel Sierra Aznar

Miguel Sierra Aznar

Miguel Sierra Aznar co-founded Noble Thermodynamic Systems with professor Robert W. Dibble. The team, working together with professor J.Y. Chen of U.C. Berkeley, brings decades of power system research and development experience around internal combustion engines and the argon power cycle. While earning his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the U.C. Berkeley, Aznar led and completed two major California Energy Commission projects on advanced combustion technologies. He also served as the experimentalist in several externally funded projects spanning from automotive applications to post combustion carbon capture strategies.

In 2014, he received his M.S. with recognition in sustainable energy technologies from the Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands. He was also granted a B.S. in engineering with honors from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, Netherlands, as well as a B.S. in power generation and energy conversion systems from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.



The world energy consumption by fuel source. Source: U.S. Energy Information administration

The world energy consumption by fuel source. Source: U.S. Energy Information administration

Critical Need
As the world acknowledges the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve air quality, power generation portfolios are evolving to integrate a larger share of renewable energy sources. As a consequence, electric grid operators are facing reliability challenges brought on by the intermittent nature of renewables, resulting in an increasing demand for rapidly dispatchable natural gas power systems.

Conventional gas turbines and reciprocating engines, despite their fast response rate, emit high volumes of particulate matter and nitrous oxides. Efficiency benchmark technologies such as combined cycle gas turbines and integrated gasification are unable to follow power demand fluctuations, nor are they able to reduce their carbon footprint cost effectively through carbon capture and sequestration measures. While supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle is a promising technology for effective zero emission base load power, it cannot quickly ramp production and does not offer grid operators the flexibility they require.

A simplified diagram of the argon power cycle.

A simplified diagram of the argon power cycle.

Technology Vision
The argon power cycle will be able to increase the electric power generation efficiency of reciprocating engines by up to 60 percent and can be used to retrofit existing generation assets. Plus, the reduction of emissions will ensure EPA compliance for those assets while maintaining much-needed flexibility to provide ancillary services to the grid.

The use of a close loop recirculated cycle with monatomic gas as the working fluid prevents the generation of harmful pollutants, permits the cost-effective separation of the resulting carbon dioxide (which can be used for industrial applications), and provides a quantum jump on the efficiency of the reciprocating engine, ultimately rendering a cleaner and more efficient system.

This technology has a wide range of applications spanning from power generation to marine transit, farming, enhanced oil recovery, and hydrogen energy storage. Demand for power generation from internal combustion engines, worldwide, is estimated at 46 gigawatts according to Diesel & Gas Turbine Worldwide, the power utility sector will be Noble Thermodynamics' initial target market.

Potential for Impact
If successful, our technology will eliminate the power sector’s contribution to air pollution while speeding up implementation of carbon capture, hydrogen energy storage, and most importantly renewable energy projects by providing clean, flexible, and efficient power at no extra cost to environment or extra cost to the consumers.

Noble Thermodynamics is Looking for...

  • Technical collaborators

  • Joint development partners

  • Team members - scientist, engineers

  • Team members - business, interns

Noble Thermodynamics

info [at] noblethermo [dot] com

2017 finalist at Berkeley Cleantech Up competition


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