Jul 222010
 

Thermally Elastic Metal

Many readers would be familiar with the electrical blackouts that occur in the summer months resulting from the extra load placed on electricity supplies by air conditioners.

A new “smart” metal being developed by researchers at the University of Maryland (UM) could help cool homes and refrigerate food 175 percent more efficiently than current technology, not only giving strained electricity networks a bit of relief, but also drastically cutting summer electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

The lead researchers on the project, Ichiro Takeuchi, Manfred Wuttig and Jun Cui, materials science engineers in Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, have developed a solid “thermally elastic” metal alloy to take the place of fluids used in conventional refrigeration and air conditioning compressors.

This two-state alloy alternately absorbs or creates heat in much the same way as a compressor-based system, but uses far less energy, the Maryland team explains. Also, it has a smaller operational footprint than conventional technology, and avoids the use of fluids with high global warming potential.

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