With average global temperatures going higher every year, it becomes increasingly tempting to crank up the AC. But air conditioners consume a lot of energy. Magnetic air conditioners could just be the answer we need for air conditioning in the future. So, what are magnetic air conditioners and what’s the hype behind them? This article will go into detail of this new technology and how it could possibly transform the world of air conditioning in the future.
Magnetic Air Conditioners
How Do They Work?
A traditional air conditioner works by changing liquid refrigerant to a gas, and in the process, absorbs heat from the outside before compressing and cooling the gas back to a liquid. Magnetic air conditioners, on the other hand, use magnets instead of refrigerants and compressors to cool surrounding air.
The Magnetocaloric Effect
Magnetic air conditioners rely on the phenomenon where magnetic materials rise in temperature when they’re in the presence of a magnetic field and cool down when the field is removed (the magnetocaloric effect). This effect was first observed in the late 19th century, but the temperature change was too minimal for any practical applications. In the past few years, however, plenty of research has gone into developing magnetocaloric metals that can produce much larger effects in normal conditions, and won’t lose efficiency when the cooling cycle is repeated over and over.
How Will They Work?
Magnetic air conditioners will cool air quickly and repeatedly exposing magnetocaloric alloys to a magnetic field. One such element that has been found to have significant effects for useful application is the rare earth element gadolinium.
Environmentally Friendly Technology
Unlike traditional air conditioners that use hydrochlorofluorocarbons that can harm the environment (HFCs), magnetic air conditioners use the magnetocaloric alloy as the refrigerant and plain water as the refrigerant. Earlier magnetocaloric alloys were either too expensive or harmful to the environment, but the latest magnetocaloric materials are not only environmentally safe but also cost-effective.
While both traditional and magnetic air conditioners require electricity to operate, the motor that spins the disk containing the magnetocaloric alloy is expected to be much more efficient than the compressor typically used to run a traditional air conditioner.
Is There A Magnetic Air Conditioner In The Future?
In addition to government institutions, several universities, private companies and governments are exploring magnetic cooling technology for industrial as well as domestic applications such as air conditioning, climate control and refrigeration.
Several institutions have advanced the understanding of this technology, so that we’re better able to figure out why one material may cool better than another. There’s even research on exploring magnetocaloric power generation. However, in as much as this technology is quite innovative and forward thinking, the widespread application of magnetic air conditioners is still a couple of years away. Moreover, its first uses will probably be industrial before it becomes available for residential use.
Magnetic air conditioners highlight the critical role of green technology. This eco-friendly, safer and low carbon cooling method provides a great alternative to traditional vapor compression systems that contribute to ozone layer depletion due to the presence of CFC refrigerant. The future for this technology is still bright, and scientists are getting a step closer to making magnetic air conditioners and refrigerators a reality.