Magnetic technology revolutionizes refrigeration

BASF researchers cooperate with Delta Electronics, Inc.

27-Aug-2009 - Germany

BASF and Delta Electronics, Inc. want to use environmentally friendly magnetocaloric technology to develop new cooling systems and explore the opportunities of magnetocaloric power generation. The cooperation partners are working on materials and prototypes for cooling systems and power generators intended to replace conventional compressor technology in refrigerators and air conditioning systems.

“Our experts in material and process development work closely with scientists in fundamental research at internationally renowned universities such as the TU Delft and our innovative industrial partner, Delta Electronics,” said Professor Rainer Diercks, President Chemicals Research & Engineering at BASF. “BASF has already started the scale-up for the production of special, economically feasible materials that already show a magnetocaloric effect at relatively low temperatures and thus offer a broad range of applications. This is a major contribution to the success of this project.”

Cooling systems based on the magnetocaloric effect have the potential of significantly reducing energy consumption. The magnetic technology does away with gaseous refrigerants and is therefore quieter and causes less vibration than conventional compressor type refrigerators. It is also compact enough to suit all conventional household refrigerators and commercial applications such as computer cooling systems or air conditioners.

As long ago as 1880, the German physicist Emil Warburg observed that ferromagnetic materials heat up when introduced into a magnetic field and cool down again when removed. Magnetic field based cooling systems have existed since the 1930s – but so far only in laboratories. Today, new materials in magnetic refrigeration technology and more effective permanent magnets allow for a much larger effect. Already at normal ambient temperatures, even weak magnetic fields can generate particularly large temperature differences that can be utilized for cooling by means of a heat exchange system. As a specialist in innovative solutions for energy management, Delta wants to develop small coolers for household appliances.

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