The Future of AC
Magnetic Air Conditioners: A High Tech Way Of Keeping Cool
Original post by Beth Brindle at How Stuff Works
Magnetic air conditioners are based on a phenomenon known as the magnetocaloric effect. Magnetic materials heat up when they are exposed to a magnetic field, then cool down when the field is removed. The magnetocaloric effect was first observed in iron samples by a German physicist named Emil Warburg in 1881, but the change in temperature was too small for any practical application. In recent years, however, separate groups of researchers have developed magnetocaloric metal alloys that produce a significantly larger magnetocaloric effect at room temperature.
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Environmentally Friendly Technology
Is There a Magnetic Air Conditioner in Your Future?
In addition to the researchers mentioned above (Astronautics and DOE), several private companies, universities and government agencies around the world are exploring magnetic cooling technology for industrial and domestic applications including air conditioning, refrigeration and climate control.
The National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark runs its own “MagCool” project, while research at Penn State and other U.S. universities has advanced the understanding of magnetocaloric principles, helping us understand why one material might cool more efficiently than another. In 2009, BASF and Delta Electronics announced a corporate partnership to develop new magnetocaloric cooling systems and “explore the opportunities of magnetocaloric power generation.” But as much as we’d love to get our hands on this new technology today, commercial availability of magnetic air conditioners is still at least a few years away, and the first uses will most likely be industrial rather than residential.