A Louisiana State University (LSU) research physicist team has discovered a breakthrough magnetocaloric material that cools. The press release believes food refrigeration and air conditioning may become more efficient and environmentally friendly thanks to the patent-pending work of physicists.

Lead researcher LSU Physics Professor Shane Stadler said, “The world refrigeration market is expected to increase by about $7-8 billion by 2018.” The team’s breakthrough could have a significant economic impact as well as an impact on the energy industry and environment.

LSU Refrigeration Research Team Members.  Stadler Group. Postdoctoral researcher Tapas Samanta, undergraduate Daniel Lepkowski, graduate student Ahmad Us Saleheen and undergraduate Emily Kramer. Image Credit: Louisiana State University. Click image for the largest view.

LSU Refrigeration Research Team Members. Stadler Group members postdoctoral researcher Tapas Samanta, undergraduate Daniel Lepkowski, graduate student Ahmad Us Saleheen and undergraduate Emily Kramer.
Image Credit: Louisiana State University. Click image for the largest view.

Stadler’s research focuses on the next generation of magnetic cooling technologies, which are simpler in design, quieter and more environmentally friendly than the conventional compressed-gas heat moving systems currently in use.

Michael L. Cherry, chair and professor, LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy said, “LSU’s basic research into low temperature physics and materials science has potential applications in areas related to energy, electronics and the environment.”

In this new technology, a magnetic field magnetically orders the material at ambient temperature, which raises its temperature above ambient. The excess heat is removed through a thermal medium, such as water or air, bringing the material back to ambient temperature.

Then magnetic field is removed and the material becomes magnetically disordered and its temperature drops below ambient temperature leading to a cooling effect. This “solid state” cooling process is reported to be significantly more energy efficient than the conventional, compressed gas systems currently on the market today.

Stadler explains the research significance, “We’ve studied these systems for a long time and were fortunate to discover a system in which a magnetic transition coincided in temperature with a structural transition. That this magnetostructural transition occurs near room temperature is what makes it a strong candidate for magnetocaloric cooling devices of the future.”

Stadler’s team’s technological discovery is a promising alternative for refrigeration and air conditioning that can reduce the use of harmful fluorocarbon gases as well as simpler designs and lower maintenance expense.

Andrew Maas, assistant vice president for research over technology transfer and director of LSU’s Office of Innovation and Technology Commercialization adds, “We are excited about the potential applications that are available for Dr. Stadler’s technology. The Department of Energy, General Electric and other companies around the world have been working with magnetocaloric materials for some time. Dr. Stadler’s solution addresses many of the issues that these big players have encountered.”

Currently, a local group of entrepreneurs have expressed interest in this advanced technology. After further testing, they will look into developing commercialization opportunities utilizing it for the heating and cooling industry.

Obviously there isn’t a study paper on this one. The details are likely highly prized intellectual property. The real question is can the Department of Energy or any of the major manufacturers see a commercial advantage strong enough to develop the material and process into products.

This LSU system isn’t as simple as plug it in and its cold, rather its a two step process. Perhaps it isn’t as economical to build as a simple (non existent) plugin, but this could work quite well, be built at far lower costs and run using a lot less power. Keep your fingers crossed that it works out to our products.


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