The Stirling Engine Celebrates Its Bicentennial

Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling
Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling

The matchless cooling technology at the heart of thousands of our ULT freezers today, has a unique “garage story” that traces its roots back to the invention of the Stirling engine in 1816. First conceived by a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling, the original reciprocating piston heat engine was designed to improve fuel efficiency over more common steam engines of the time. Although our version of the Stirling engine uses advanced electronics, linear motion control and gas bearings that Robert Stirling could never have dreamed of, his amazingly efficient design concept is at the core of our freezers today. That’s why the recent bicentennial celebration of Dr. Stirling’s discovery is personally meaningful to me and for all of us at Stirling Ultracold.

A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.
A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.

Since its creation, the Stirling engine design has seen a number of advancements, including an early application of our patented technology on the Space Shuttle and the RHESSI satellite, where the engine has been cooling instruments for over 14 years in a geocentric orbit. In 2009, Global Cooling’s founder David Berchowitz led an effort to harness the significant cooling performance and energy advantages of the free-piston Stirling technology for ultra-low temperature storage applications. Initially, the portable Shuttle ULT was introduced, followed by the undercounter SU105U and the SU780U upright ULT freezer in 2013.

The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.
The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.

Since the beginning, our use of the Stirling engine has been unique in the ultra-low temperature market. We’ve been able to provide the research community with more efficient, reliable alternative to decades-old cascade compressor technology–thanks to Robert Stirling’s invention.

Celebrating this invention, Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK) recently hosted the 17th International Stirling Engine Conference and Exhibition. Stirling Ultracold founder, David Berchowitz, and I attended the event, which marked the invention’s bicentennial anniversary. As the global leader in the commercialization of the Stirling engine, we were pleased to share our story with conference attendees. I spoke about our experiences in the ULT freezer industry and how we’ve changed the way organizations think about buying freezers.

Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.
Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.

While in the UK, we also had the chance to visit the church where Robert Stirling ministered for more than 50 years, Galston Parish. Stirling’s invention is held in such high regard at the parish, there are engine displays inside the church, along with a prominent Robert Stirling monument in the local cemetery.

As the Stirling engine passes its 200-year benchmark, I believe we’ll continue to see improvements and new applications for this inherently-efficient engine. We owe a lot to Robert Stirling and, having recently commemorated his achievement, I feel a sense of pride as we continue his story. For a more in depth account of the Stirling engine’s history and its use in our freezers, you can visit our History web page.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown Tours Stirling Ultracold

sherrod_brown_visit_tour
Senator Sherrod Brown visited Stirling Ultracold and was given a tour of ultra-low temperature (ULT) manufacturing operations by Vice President of Manufacturing, Brett Harris.

At Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to be innovating and manufacturing ultra-Low freezers in Athens, Ohio, and developing a U.S.-based workforce in a historically underserved business zone. That’s why I was very pleased when U.S Senator Sherrod Brown recently accepted our invitation to come to Athens and tour our facility.

Senator Brown’s visit not only allowed him to see our manufacturing operation and meet our employees, but also provided an opportunity for us to thank him for his support of targeted federal incentives that have helped us secure new investment and growth for our business.

sherrod_brown_visitAfter introductions and a brief presentation of our products, Senator Brown toured our ultra-low freezer manufacturing operation. This was followed by an interactive gathering with our employees, where Senator Brown shared his thoughts on a range of topics. The senator ended his visit by talking with our leadership team about future plans for our business, including our current efforts to become Zero Waste and HUBZone certified.

sherrod_brown_greetSpeaking to the press about his visit to Stirling Ultracold, Senator Brown made the following comment . . .

“Companies like Stirling Ultracold create opportunities for the Athens community and its workers. Investing in quality manufacturing means good jobs that can help spur further economic growth.”

From my perspective, it was a very good day and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it. I appreciated Senator Brown’s level of engagement with our people and his thoughtfulness in discussing our future plans.

Stirling Ultracold Freezers Now Available on GSA Advantage

SDVOSB & GSA Advantage
Stirling Ultracold products are available on GSA Advantage through, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business – Contract GS-07F-0360W

We are excited to announce that all Stirling Ultracold ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers and accessories are now available for purchase through the U.S. General Services Administration and the GSA Advantage website. Through our distributer Pulcir, Inc., U.S. government agencies may now benefit from the ease and efficiency of the GSA preapproved procurement process when buying our ULT freezer products.

Procurement of Sustainable and Responsible, U.S. Manufactured Products

With the availability of Stirling freezers on the GSA Advantage website, it is now easier for government agencies and research laboratories to support federal sustainability initiatives with the purchase of our energy efficient ULT freezers that use 100% natural refrigerant in place of ozone-depleting HFCs. Because Stirling Ultracold products are made in in Athens, Ohio, the purchase of our ULT freezers supports U.S. manufacturing jobs in a historically underserved Appalachian business zone. In addition, our products are available on GSA Advantage exclusively through our new distributor, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (Contract GS-07F-0360W). At Stirling, our goal is to provide ultra-low temperature freezers to the research community in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Easy Ordering Online

Ordering a Stirling Ultracold ULT freezer or accessory through the GSA Advantage website is quick and easy:

  1. Visit www.gsaadvantage.gov
  2. Type “Stirling Ultracold” within the product search box
  3. Browse our product line of ULT freezers and accessories
  4. Purchase with ease and confidence

For more information about U.S. government agency purchasing of Stirling Ultracold products through GSA Advantage, you can contact Pulcir at 865-272-5338 or send an email message to Nick Pezzuolo at npezzuolo@stirlingultracold.com.

Why We’re Becoming a “Zero Waste” Manufacturer… Not Just “Zero Landfill”

We Pledge Zero WasteAt Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to offer products that are known for helping research organizations achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives.  Of course, we realize that the claim of being “green” is made by virtually everyone in our industry. It’s unfortunate that “greenwashing” has become more of a marketing tactic than a real commitment to reduce environmental impact. For us, the call to sustainability has been at the heart of our belief system from the very beginning.  This is reflected throughout our entire product line, as well as our corporate culture. That is also why we have embarked on an aggressive “Zero Waste” program throughout our business.

“Zero Waste” vs. “Zero Landfill”

As has been pointed out in an article by Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, Inc., a focus on “Zero Landfill” implies that burning waste is acceptable. While diverting waste from our expanding landfills is a very good idea, the common practice of converting this waste through incineration generates high levels of greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants, which makes no sense environmentally, economically or socially.

At Stirling, we are transitioning our Athens, OH operation into a “Zero Waste” facility.  This means that we are diverting waste from landfills through the processes of recycling, reuse or composting–not incineration.  As part of this effort, we have also initiated a waste reduction program that targets inefficient consumption of materials in the first place.

Our Zero Waste Process

To assist in our transition to Zero Waste, Stirling Ultracold has established a local partnership with Rural Action, a community based sustainable development organization located in Southeast Ohio. Rural Action has been nationally recognized for its programs, and has worked with many partners in our region to deliver training, resources and support for enabling Zero Waste initiatives.

After ongoing consultation and training with Rural Action, we began establishing new practices and behaviors within our organization to fulfill guidelines of their “Zero Waste Pledge”. One example of this included recycling a significant volume of discarded plastic films, which were used by a nearby Marietta, OH manufacturer to make polyethylene guardrail offset blocks for highway safety.

To review our progress, the Rural Action team conducted a comprehensive “waste management assessment” of our Athens operation last fall.  This report indicated that our Zero Waste initiative had achieved an impressive diversion rate of 98%! According to Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program Manager, Andrea Reany . . .

“Stirling Ultracold is already well on their way to becoming a Zero Waste Manufacturer and I have been impressed with their dedication to decreasing the amount of waste created throughout the organization.”

We feel very fortunate to have benefited from Rural Action’s excellent guidance and expertise throughout this transition.  The next step in our process will be seeking Zero Waste Business Certification from an authorized agency later this year.  When we are officially certified, I plan to follow up with another blog post. So stay tuned!

Fred Hutch Research Reports Earning $20K Rebate with Stirling Freezers

In my last blog post, I highlighted how electric utilities and Stirling Ultracold customers are increasingly benefiting from rebates tied to replacing their legacy, compressor-based models with energy-efficient SU780UE ultra-low freezers. In this post, I’m happy to commend one world-renowned research institution who has reported earning rebates for their Stirling freezer replacement program.

In their newsletter “Hutch News”, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently posted Ultra-low freezers earn cool $20K rebate from Seattle City Light. The second newsletter article reports how Fred Hutchinson (Fred Hutch) began the process of replacing its fleet of conventional compressor-driven ULT freezers with Stirling models in 2013. As a result, the facilities team was able to contract with their local electric utility, Seattle City Light, to receive rebates of $600 per new freezer. The Fred Hutch team has calculated that replacing their current freezers with Stirling units can save them 481,664 kilowatt hours per year, which equates to a savings of $27,937 annually in electricity alone.

In this newsletter post, Critical-Systems Supervisor, James Mead states . . .

“We did some operational and energy-use studies over a six-month period and were shocked because the energy consumption was so much lower compared to what we were using. Our studies found all claims by the company to be true, if not conservative. We were sold on it.”

Fred Hutch’s Material Director, Mark Burch, also commented, “To me, this is a great example of what happens when we all work together to support the science and save the environment.”

I’m thrilled to see another example of how our products are having a positive financial and sustainable impact . . . and how our users are just as thrilled to talk about it to their communities and stakeholders.

It’s possible that your research organization could also benefit from a utility rebate program for ULT freezer replacement with Stirling Ultracold models. Contact your Stirling Ultracold representative who can help with setting up the rebate process.

Stirling Ultracold in Booth #1 at 2015 I2SL Annual Conference

As i2sl conferenceyou may know, the International Institute of Sustainable Laboratories® (I2SL) will be holding its annual conference in San Diego on September 21-23.  Of course, we strongly support lab sustainability initiatives here at Stirling Ultracold, which is why we have participated for the past three years, and will be an event sponsor this year.

I hope you’ll come by and see us in Booth #1 on the exhibit floor at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.  We’ll be showing our SU780UE upright ultra-low temperature freezer operating on 110v power at -80° C, using less than half the energy of compressor-based systems.  Please stop by and let us give you a “cool” live demo, including a third-party monitoring system running in real-time on our unit.

During the 8 a.m. Early Bird Session on day 3 of the conference (Wednesday, 9/23), Stirling Ultracold will be presenting a technology demonstration highlighting the impact of ultra-low cooling technology on lab sustainability.  Following that same theme, I would also recommend attending the morning Roundtable on Tuesday, 9/22, entitled Ultra Low Freezers—A Significant Near-Term Opportunity, which will be hosted by Allison Paradise of My Green Lab and Anna Levitt from University of California, San Diego.

As we’re making our final booth preparations and travel arrangements to head west, I just wanted to make sure you’re aware of this important event and invite you to connect with us while you’re there.   As of the date of this posting, it’s not too late to register for the 2015 I2SL Annual Conference, if you haven’t already.

Innovating and Manufacturing Ultra-Low Freezers in Athens, OH USA

Stirling Ultracold graphic highlighting Athens, Ohio locationBack when we were just a small group of inventors with the audacious goal of revolutionizing the ultra-cold temperature storage industry, we could have established Stirling Ultracold just about anywhere. So . . . of all places we could have built our future, why did we choose a small Ohio town in Appalachia? Why did we believe that Athens, Ohio was the right place to innovate and manufacture the best performing, most sustainable ultra-low freezer in the industry?

Why Athens?

Stirling Ultracold employee working on ULT assemblyWe made a conscious commitment to developing a U.S.-based workforce and a growing entrepreneurial culture in a region that had already established a legacy of ultra-low freezer manufacturing. Since opening our facility in 2011, I’ve been gratified and humbled by the positive impact our growing manufacturing operation has had on the lives of our people, their families and our small community. Nevertheless, the decision to locate in Athens has given back even more, supporting our growth on several levels…

Stirling Ultracold employee walking by ULTsWe have benefited in many ways from our close proximity to Ohio University, supported by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Hocking College, and a surprisingly well-educated community that has helped us fill a variety of jobs, in a range of skill-levels. With startup assistance from TechGROWTH Ohio and the Ohio Entrepreneurial Signature Program (ESP), we have successfully transformed from a small R&D shop to a growing manufacturing organization. Starting from a base in Athens, Ohio, our goal is no less than becoming the #1 ultra-low freezer manufacturer in the world.

It’s from here that Stirling Ultracold products make it possible to find cures for diseases and sustain our environment, all at the same time.

Stirling Ultracold Opens Office in Japan

Taisei Matsumoto, the CEO of Stirling Ultracold Japan, with Neill Lane at the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto, Japan
Taisei Matsumoto, the CEO of Stirling Ultracold Japan, with Neill Lane at the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto, Japan

I am pleased to announce that we have taken important step toward becoming a global leader in providing ultra-low temperature freezers.  A new Stirling Ultracold sales and service office was recently opened in Kobe, Japan. The staff in this office serves the Japanese laboratory research and life sciences marketplace, and is dedicated to supporting Stirling Ultracold products in the region.

Our exclusive Japanese partner officially opened this location in late 2014 and is operating the new office.  With a showroom of products and a dependable sales/service team now in Japan, Stirling’s presence and brand has been enhanced in the Asian market.  This also allows us to better serve our global clients who are operating Japanese-based labs.

In addition to a brick and mortar presence, a new Japanese-language Stirling Ultracold Japan website has been created for presenting Stirling Ultracold products to the local market.  With a strong local partner these steps are enhancing our position in the Japanese market and our ability to support the research community, worldwide.