European researchers say they have begun to develop fridges that are powered by a 100% alloy which will reduce their energy usage by 50%. In the last 15 years, fridge technology developers have had to consider what option would be the lesser of two evils. Environmentalists alerted them to the harmful side effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the refrigerant chemical, but alternative refrigerants require a lot more energy.
European scientists now claim that they’ve found the alternative to both chemicals, a solution that will reduce your fridge’s energy bill by half. Trick is, they say, to use electromagnetic fields. No joking. The scientists work on behalf of BASF, the chemicals company, and a Dutch foundation called Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM). They are pioneering technology based on magnetocaloric materials (again, no joking). These materials are a new class of refrigerants and are set to significantly reduce the negative impact of today’s cooling systems on the environment.
Magnetocaloric materials could be highly efficient cooling technology. Research leader Prof.dr. Ekkes Br√ºck from Delft University of Technology has reserved five years for developing the materials with the best properties. He and his team will be working in the BASF laboratories in the Netherlands and Germany to improve the alternative chemicals requiring lower energy levels. Magnetocaloric materials are solid alloys and earlier research by the scientists has already proven that it’s set to be an attractive alternative for cooling fridges. “The [magnetocaloric materials] warm up in a magnetic field and cool down when the field is removed. Theoretical considerations show an energy savings potential of up to fifty percent”, the scientists say. Not only will the technology be applicable to fridges, but because of its compactness it’s likely it can easily be installed in air conditioners, central heating systems and even in computers.
The technology, if it makes the commercial stages, will be staggeringly useful because it’s estimated that 25% of our total energy consumption today is used for cooling applications, for instance in refrigerators and air conditioners.