Coming soon to a kitchen near you—magnets in your refrigerator. And we’re not talking about slapping your kid’s artwork inside the fridge next to the milk and butter.
It’s the next generation of residential food and drink cooling, and it’s powered by magnets. Gone will be the almost century-old unit in your kitchen that uses a heat-transfer process based on liquid refrigerants called vapor compression refrigeration. Condensers and refrigerants will be replaced with magnets and special alloys that get hot and cold based on their proximity to magnetic fields. The technology could also be used for air-conditioning.
Magnetic refrigeration, proponents say, is a rapidly approaching technology that will amount to a revolution in domestic energy use.
“It’s the equivalent to a gas-powered car moving to electric—that’s the kind of leap we’re making in refrigeration,” said Ed Vineyard, a senior researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vineyard’s Building Technologies Program has teamed up with GE to bring magnetic refrigeration to the public in around five years.
Instead of using lasers to heat targets, now researchers are shooting light beams that cool what they shine on.
Scientists want to see if novel refrigerators based on this research could reach temperatures just a few degrees above the coldest possible—absolute zero.