Modern air conditioners and refrigerators have too many moving parts, are expensive to buy and run, and require too many expensive repairs. Researchers are hard at work, devising simpler, hardier, less expensive replacement systems for cooling and refrigerating which amount to nothing less than a revolution.
The breakthrough system, which is projected to be 20 percent more efficient than current refrigeration technology, could be inside your fridge by the end of the decade.
The system is using a water-based fluid flowing through a series of magnets to transfer heat, rather than a chemical refrigerant and a compressor. This significantly lowers any harm to the environment and makes the recycling of old refrigerators simpler.
“This is a big deal,” says Venkat Venkatakrishnan, a leader of the research team. “We are on the cusp of the next refrigeration revolution.” _GE
Image: McGraw-Hill PDF
Another approach to refrigeration, using thermoelectric devices.
The cooling cycle shown below is based upon the compression and decompression of a special solid material, a Nickel Manganese Indium, or Ni-Mn-In alloy developed by a team of Spanish researchers.
GE researchers in Germany and the US are taking a slightly different approach, using the same type of nickel-manganese alloy magnetic materials.
… the team’s materials scientists developed a new type of nickel-manganese alloys for magnets that could function at room temperatures. Design engineers arranged the magnets in a series of 50 cooling stages. Today they are capable of reducing temperature by 80 degrees. “We are focusing on magnetic refrigeration as a potential replacement for all the refrigeration technologies currently in use,” Benedict says. _GE
Advantages of the new system:
- At 20 to 30% more efficient, it will save power costs.
- The “refrigerant” is not likely to leak or become contaminated or incorrectly mixed.
- There will be no danger to the ozone layer from solid state refrigerants.
- Design, installation, and servicing of systems should be much simpler.
- The systems should last longer with fewer maintenance problems.
- Disposal of obsolete systems will be simpler and less costly.
- Above systems should be easily adapted for DC power, making them compatible with off-grid use in remote locations.
What makes this revolution so cool is that it is taking place below the pop-culture radar screen. It is too mundane for the gee-whiz! media, but the effects of the conversion to such systems of cooling and refrigeration will be profound.
Parts of the above article were adapted from an earlier Al Fin blog posting