PORTLAND, Ore.—Smart metals that change shape when absorbing or releasing heat are being developed at the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) under a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The thermoelastic shape memory alloy will take the place of conventional vapor-compressor refrigeration, but without the emission of greenhouse gases.
According to UMERC (College Park, Md.), besides eliminating the need for vaporized refrigerants, its solid-state cooling technology will increase the efficiency of energy usage by as much as 175 percent while it is simultaneously reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 250 million metric tons per year.
The UMERC funding is a part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds earmarked by the Obama administration for developing alternative energy technologies under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program.
metal runs pictured refrigeration system 175 percent more efficiently that
conventional vapor compressor technology by virtue of "thermally
elastic" metal alloy.
This technology looks to be promising enough in reducing effective carbon emission and green house gases , by elimination of CFCs and by reduction in Electricity consumption. Early commercialization of such technologies is the need of the hour.
The article states that this technology will allow refrigeration without the emission of greenhouse gasses. That sounds like a distortion to me, the majority of greenhouse gas emission for refrigeration systems is in the electricity they consume. Refrigerants are considered a greenhouse gas, but are not normally released in refrigerant operations.
I assume this process still consumes electricity. Perhaps it is more efficient than a gas-liquid refrigerant cycle. Would be helpful if there the article contained some estimates on efficiency relative to current solutions in the article.
Does anyone know of other efforts to harness these thermoelastic shape memory alloys? I know that nitinol wire has been used in robotics, because when heated above its transformation temperature it can be stretched to 30 times its normal length, which it recovers when it cools. Also if you stretch it when its already cool, it will "remember" its original length when heated to its transformation temperature. I'm not familiar with other applications, though. Does anyone know of other efforts to harness these thermoelastic shape memory alloys?
An interesting technology for cooling with a number of potential applications. I wonder if it could be used to provide cooling for ICs that enable them to run faster while dissipating the die heat? Could the process be reversed like a heat pump to extract geothermal heat or to generate power? I would love to know more about how this works.