New cooling technology harnesses ions

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory claim to have developed a new cooling method, which they have named “ionocaloric cooling”.

In a recent paper published in Science, researchers explained that ions in solution can be used to control the melting and crystallisation of a material, creating an ionocaloric cycle.

Existing and developing caloric cooling technology includes the use of magnetism, pressure, stretching or electric fields to cause solid materials to absorb or release heat. According to researchers, however, these technologies often require large applied fields for a relatively low coefficient of performance and adiabatic temperature change.

The ionocaloric cycle uses these phase-change principles but differs by using the flow of ions to create solid-to-liquid phase changes. Researchers say that theoretical and experimental results show higher adiabatic temperature change and entropy change per unit mass and volume compared with other caloric effects under low applied field strengths.

Authors Drew Lilley and Ravi Prasher told Phys Org that the technology has the potential to compete with or even exceed the efficiency of traditional refrigerants.

“There are three things we’re trying to balance: the GWP of the refrigerant, energy efficiency, and the cost of the equipment itself,” Prasher told the website.

“From the first try, our data looks very promising on all three of these aspects.”

Photo by Shavonne Yu on Unsplash

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