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Debut for magnetic refrigeration wine cooler

The magnetocaloric heatpump

USA: A prototype wine cooler using magnetocaloric technology is being presented this week at a consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

The magenetocaloric heat pump incorporated within the Haier wine cooler is the result of collaboration between global technology company Astronautics Corporation of America and chemical company BASF. It is being featured at the CES show in Las Vegas until January 9.

Magnetocaloric technology is based on the fact that magnetocaloric materials warm-up in the presence of a magnetic field and cool down when the field is removed.

This “magnetic” refrigeration is one of a number of technologies seen as a possible future, more efficient and “greener” alternative to current vapour compression systems. However, one of the major stumbling blocks has been  in finding effective magnetocaloric materials (expensive rare earths are often a focus for research) to produce a system that would be commercially viable in terms of size, weight and cost.

Significantly, BASF’s technology is based on manganese and iron, both abundant and affordable materials. It has been developed by BASF and its partner Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.

BASF says its high performance materials feature optimum magnetocaloric properties across the whole range of temperatures relevant to refrigeration as well as high volume stability under operating conditions. They will be sold under the Quice brand.

“Our latest generation of materials is based on alloys of manganese, iron, silicon and phosphorous,” explained BASF spokesperson Vanessa Holzhaeuser. “In addition to the abundance and lower cost, it has high entropy and adiabatic temperature change at moderate magnetic fields, and at a specific temperature. By changing the alloy composition, the transition temperature can be tuned according to the requirements of the device. The system builder uses a cascade of our alloy to realize the temperature span.”

The Haier wine cooler

“Together with our partners we can develop tailor-made functional materials for our customers’ cooling applications,” claims Andreas Riehemann, md of BASF New Business GmbH.

The wine chiller is designed to achieve a temperature of 8 to 12ºC (45 to 52ºF) in a normal room temperature environment.

“By operating an integrated wine cooler prototype we demonstrate that magnetocaloric technology has the potential to revolutionise the cooling industry,” says Dr Steven L Russek, director of the Astronautics Technology Center which provided the expertise to integrate the new materials into the magnetocaloric heat pump.

According to BASF, theoretical studies demonstrate that refrigeration systems based on the magnetocaloric effect can be up to 35% more energy-efficient than vapour compression systems. Using water-based coolants instead of refrigerant gases, it is said that magnetocaloric systems will also operate with less noise due to the absence of a compressor.

Haier contributed their knowledge of household appliances and led the prototype development of the magnetocaloric wine cooler.

“We are constantly challenging ourselves for disruptive ways to deliver new user experiences and be socially responsible for the community and the environment,” commented says Dr Tao Xie, director of disruptive technology of the Haier America Tech Center.

“The magnetocaloric wine cooler prototype shows great promise to help our customers save energy, cut utility bills, and reduce operating noise. As an environmentally-friendly technology that produces zero ozone-depleting gases or greenhouse gases, it is a technology Haier is aggressively pursuing,” he added.

Haier plans to introduce the technology into the market within the next couple of years.

Related news:

GE freezes water with magnetics – February 12, 2014
USA: Researchers working in General Electric labs claim to have been able to freeze water using magnetic refrigeration technology. Read more…

New material advances magnetic trials – June 11, 2014
USA: A team of Canadian-Bulgarian researchers has discovered special characteristics in a rare-earth that could have implications for the development of magnetic refrigeration. Read more…

Magnetics attracts €2.12m EU funding – October 31, 2013
EUROPE: Research into producing a domestic refrigerator based on magnetic cooling technology has been backed by €2.12m of funding from the European Commission. Read more…

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