Refrigeration has gone through various stages, each of them more efficient and more effective than the last, but the demand for refrigeration is set for a big expansion, something on the order of $8 billion more by 2018, says Louisiana State University physics professor and lead researcher Shane Stadler.
This big expansion in refrigeration and air conditioning will also have a major impact on energy use and emissions, which means that future refrigerators will need to be significantly more efficient than current compressed-refrigerant designs today. Louisiana State University researchers stumbled across a magnetocaloric material that could reduce energy costs associated with refrigeration and air conditioning.
Because patents are still pending, and the breakthrough appears to be truly groundbreaking, Louisiana State University is keeping things under wraps regarding the actual materials involved and the processes. They haven’t even released a paper on the subject, but say that the new technology could lead to a future solid state refrigeration system that requires a lot less power to run than current designs. Of course, using less energy will result in reduction of household emissions, which is even better for the environment.
The solid state material responds to magnetism, changing its temperature in relation to ambient temperature, which is why it belongs to a class of materials known as magnetocaloric materials. When the magnetic field activates, the new material heats up, releasing this heat to air or water. Then, when the magnetic field dissipates, the new material cools off, absorbing heat. The process repeats, transferring heat energy from one side to the other, and is, at least according to Louisiana State University researchers, significantly more energy efficient than compressed gas systems currently on the market. How soon we could see a solid state refrigerator or solid state air conditioner on the market is still anyone’s guess.