Magnetic Refrigeration -
the new eco-friendly way to keep things cool?

Here's an article on the benefits of magnetic refrigeration, which may  become a new, more eco-friendly way to run your air cooling system and your kitchen fridge.

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Will magnetic fridges be available by 2012?

Needing to re-gas your portable air conditioner could be a thing of the past if magnetic cooling takes off in the UK by 2012.

A company called Camfridge has partnered with Whirlpool to develop a commercial prototype of a magnetic refrigeration system for air conditioners and fridges. The partnership is being funded by the Carbon Fund and the companies involved have set a goal to display the prototype at the London Olympic Games in 2012.

How magnetic refigeration works

Magnetic refrigeration works by heating up compounds in the presence of a magnetic field and reducing the compounds’ temperature when the magnetic field is removed.*

Air conditioning and refrigeration systems that are currently on the market use gas comprehension to manipulate temperature.

The research done so far on this type of refrigeration has found that it can be 50% more energy efficient than conventional techniques. Furthermore, it doesn’t rely on environmentally harmful gas in order to offer effective cooling systems.

* You can read a more technical explanation of how magnetic cooling works here.

A little history...

The idea is by no means a new one. The fundamental principles behind magnetic refrigerator devices was laid down in 1926 by Dutch physicist, Peter Debye, and the first system using the principle of manipulating temperature magnetically was developed in 1933. However, at the time the technology was unrefined and expensive to produce.

Fortunately, advances in other technologies and availability of materials had made the new venture possible. Although the systems are very much in the experimental stage, with major hitches being the cost of materials to produce the magnetic system, the researchers remain positive.

Robert Trezona, the head of research at the Carbon Trust, said that the refrigeration products being developed by Camfridge and Whirlpool will be capable of replacing all conventional refrigeration systems including fridges and air conditioners in the near future.

President of Whirlpool Europe (up to 2012), Bracken Darrell told the public:

“…We are looking forward to offering millions of consumers worldwide this major, unprecedented revolution in their own kitchen.”

And the recent advancement in magnetic refrigeration is certainly something for both consumers and environmentalists to get excited about. 


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Postscript 2013

Magnetic fridges are still not on sale on the high street. There are some problems with the technology to be overcome. Camfridge and Whirlpool are still working on prototypes.

Magnetic fridges, when they arrive,  should be of considerable environmental benefit. The gas coolants of conventional refrigerators are notorious for their tendency to leak at some point in the lifecycle of the machine. These gases are potent greenhouse gases. The gases involved are flurocarbons and hydroflurocarbons (FCs and HFCs).

One study showed that these volatile gases will be responsible for more than a quarter of all damaging emissions that cause climate change by 2050.

Magnetic fridges will use solid components so the escape of gases will not be an issue. Magnetic fridges will also be quieter and more energy efficient, too.

Do not forget the importance of correct disposal if you are upgrading your fridge or freezer. It is vital that these coolants are correctly recycled so that these leaks into the atmosphere do not occur. Contact your local recycling centre for advice.

Magnetic cooling should also have application in other industries, in particular, air conditioning. Magnetic air con has already been installed in the US Mission in Geneva in 2009. It uses a MagLev generator. There is also a MagLev system now in the Tokyo US embassy.



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