Advances in magnetic refrigeration technology could help the average household cut energy consumption by up to 10 per cent, according to researchers at BASF.
The German chemical company has been working alongside power supply manufacturer Delta Electronics to develop ferromagnetic materials that could be used to replace existing compressor technology in refrigerators and cooling systems.
These materials generate heat when introduced into a magnetic field and cool down once removed. BASF is hoping to harness this process by using a drive shaft to move these materials in and out of the magnetic field while pumping heat transfer fluid in place of a traditional compressor.
Recent improvements in magnetic refrigeration material have made it efficient enough to be used on a commercial scale.
According to the company, the technology has the potential to be cheaper, quieter and more efficient than existing systems and can be used for any application that uses vapour compression technology. It also mitigates the environmental concerns associated with refrigerators and other cooling systems by eliminating the use of toxic substances.
Olaf Rogge, BASF’s Magnetocalorics project leader, told The Engineer that his team had begun the production of economically feasible materials that had demonstrated a high magnetocaloric effect at low temperatures.
The most promising so far has been a chemically stable manganese-iron compound which has a low-volume expansion. If trials are successful, the company hopes to work with an industrial partners to commercialise the technology within the next few years.