A team of researchers at the University of Maryland have recently created a new “thermally elastic” metal alloy that will significantly increase the efficiency of refrigeration systems and air conditioners by up to 175 percent. This way, it is expected that the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 250 million metric tons per year.
“Air conditioning represents the largest share of home electric bills in the summer, so this new technology could have significant consumer impact, as well as an important environmental benefit,” said Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC).
The researchers have developed a solid coolant to replace the fluids used in air conditioning compressors and conventional refrigerators. According to them, this system represents a fundamental technological advance.
They also want to test the commercial viability of their smart metal for space cooling applications. The 0.01-ton prototype is intended to take the place of conventional vapor compression cooling technology. Instead of fluids, it uses a solid material (their thermoelastic shape memory alloy).
The Maryland team explains that the two-state alloy alternately creates or absorbs heat exactly like a compressor-based system, but uses far less energy.
The University of Maryland collaborates with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and General Electric Global Research. The development is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Department of Energy. “These grants are highly competitive and require a demonstration that the technology has genuine commercial potential.This represents a significant investment in the state of Maryland and the development of its ‘green’ economy,” Wachsman said.
[Source: Maryland University]