ames-laboratoryUSA: Research into the development of caloric materials for more environmentally-friendly refrigeration is to receive a share of $40m of annual US government funding.

The US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Iowa will be the home of CaloriCool, a new research consortium sponsored by the US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

The CaloriCool consortium will pursue the development of alternative forms of refrigeration technologies, called caloric cooling, in partnership with the private sector and universities. CaloriCool is one of four consortia that make up DOE’s Energy Materials Network (EMN).  The EMN will facilitate industry access to the unique scientific and technical resources available at the national laboratories, enabling manufacturers to bring advanced materials to market more quickly.

Caloric materials are compounds that can generate cooling when cyclically acted upon by magnetic (magnetocaloric), electric (electrocaloric) or mechanical (elastocaloric) forces.

The mission of CaloriCool is to discover caloric materials that would be more effective and cheaper than those known today, rapidly test their cooling powers, perform initial economic analyses, and develop these materials for adoption into commercial use.

CaloriCool will also build a refrigeration device with the ability to test performance of caloric materials in a real-world operational environment. 

“Following our discovery of the giant magnetocaloric effect, it took everyone almost 20 years to realise that what really holds the technology back from commercialisation is the lack of a viable material with a strong enough caloric cooling effect,” said Ames Laboratory scientist Vitalij Pecharsky. “Once we develop the materials that are suitable and cost-effective, the technology can make the leap forward on its own.”

Caloric cooling is promoted as a potential giant leap in energy efficiency compared to traditional vapour-compression refrigeration.

Led by Ames Laboratory, CaloriCool includes Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, United Technologies Research Centre, GE Research, Astronautics Corporation of America, and Citrine Informatics.

“Through the Energy Materials Network, the National Labs and their partners will develop and apply cutting-edge new materials research tools that will allow us to dramatically accelerate clean energy materials discovery by doing things like using computers to search completely new parts of the periodic table at record speed and performing high-throughput experiments that synthesise and test thousands of materials at a time instead of just one or two,” said DOE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy David Danielson. “This could be a true game-changer for accelerating cost reduction through innovation for a wide array of clean energy technologies all across the board.”