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A “plastic” answer to eco-friendly refrigeration?

UK/SPAIN: Researchers from the UK and Spain claim to have identified an eco-friendly solid that could provide an inexpensive and efficient alternative to established refrigerants.

Teams from the universities of Cambridge and Catalunya found that crystals of neopentylglycol, a widely available organic chemical compound currently used in the synthesis of polyesters, paints, lubricants, and plasticisers, yields a huge cooling effect when put under pressure.

A number of different teams are known to be working with different so-called “plastic crystals” such as neopentylglycol. Lying at the boundary between a solid and liquid, the word “plastic” refers to the compound’s malleability rather than its chemical composition.

Compressing neopentylglycol is said to yield unprecedentedly large thermal changes due to molecular reconfiguration. The temperature change achieved is described as comparable to those achieved by HFC and hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Dr Xavier Moya, from the University of Cambridge, who led the research with Professor Josep Lluís Tamarit, from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, is now working with Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, to bring the technology to market.

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