Researchers develop 'smart' metal alloy; 175% more efficient cooling systems

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a new, "smart" metal alloy could help cool homes 175 percent more efficiently than current technology.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a new, "smart" metal alloy could help cool homes 175 percent more efficiently than current technology.

The thermoelastic shape memory alloy is intended to be used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Materials science engineers Ichiro Takeuchi, Manfred Wuttig and Jun Cui developed the solid coolant, which takes the place of the fluids used in conventional refrigeration and air conditioning compressors.

The two-state alloy can alternately absorb or create heat just like a compressor-based system. The difference? It uses far less energy, doesn't use environmentally harmful chemicals and has a smaller operational footprint than existing technology.

"Air conditioning represents the largest share of home electric bills in the summer," said Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, in a statement. "So this new technology could have significant consumer impact, as well as an important environmental benefit."

The research team plans to begin testing a prototype system for commercial viability using funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program.

General Electric Global Research and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are partnering with the university on the project.

Photo: Keck Laboratory for Combinatorial Nanosynthesis and Multiscale Characterization, University of Maryland

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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