USA: A consortium researching possible caloric materials for use in next-generation refrigeration technologies expects to start tests this year.

Formed last year, the CaloriCool consortium has already made progress in exploring the field of possible caloric materials, which can generate cooling when cyclically acted upon by either magnetic, electric, or mechanical forces, for use in next-generation refrigeration technologies. The group maintains that caloric refrigeration technology could be as much as 30% more energy efficient than traditional vapour-compression refrigeration technology.

The consortium is made up of a team of academic and industry scientists and engineers. It is led by the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Iowa and sponsored by the US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

The CaloriCool team is focused on possible caloric materials that are both non-toxic and abundant and are readily adaptable to common industrial synthesis and processing, manufacturing practices, and commercialisation. The goal is to double the pool of caloric materials available today, and transfer the know-how into the market place so that new materials created by the consortium can be integrated into up-and-coming commercial caloric refrigeration systems within ten years.

“Consortium’s researchers agree that the key to really high-efficiency refrigeration systems is caloric materials,” said Ames Laboratory scientist and CaloriCool director Vitalij Pecharsky, an Anson Martson distinguished professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University. “But until this point, discoveries in this field have been serendipitous. The aim of this consortium is to change all that, to pool our expertise and conduct a methodical search for the right materials to make this technology happen.”

The consortium will analyse promising caloric materials in specially designed test station device that allows researchers to rapidly assess the samples in an actual working environment.

Citrine Informatics, one of the consortium partners, is developing a system that will merge both published and experimental data with fast computational assessment of promising materials.

“We make a common platform available to all consortium partners, where the world’s caloric materials information can be stored, searched, and analysed together in a way that has never been possible before,” said Kyle Michel, chief technology officer of Citrine Informatics. “By deploying our artificial intelligence system on that data, Citrine screens millions of new materials in seconds to identify promising candidates for researchers within the CaloriCool consortium, leading to new materials insights in less than half the time of traditional approaches.”

The consortium held its first annual meeting at the end of March, which included researchers and engineers from Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Astronautics Corporation of America, Citrine Informatics, GE Appliances, and DOE consortium program managers from the Advanced Manufacturing Office and Buildings Technology Office of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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US lab to research caloric cooling materials