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Sustainable refrigerators thanks to magnetic materials

Photo: Alex Motoc on Unsplash
Published Aug 04, 2020

Magnetic heat-pumps offer a low-energy demand and environmentally friendly alternative for the classical refrigeration industry. The process is called Magnetocaloric refrigeration and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is working on developing materials based on cheap and less scarce metals like iron, manganese, arsenic, phosphorus and silicon.

This modern technology uses solid refrigerants and inert heat transfer fluids (e.g., water), compared to the traditional refrigeration systems based on ozone-depleting and global-warming volatile liquid refrigerants. The solid refrigerant is manufactured from magnetic materials presenting a magneto-thermodynamic phenomenon known as the magneto-caloric effect (MCE). Most of the currently available MCE materials are based on expensive rare earth metals or metallic compounds with some negative characteristics. A promising class of MCE materials are made from Fe, Mn, As, P and Si and are less expensive than the other solutions.