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Magnetocaloric Refrigeration System

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Magnetic refrigerators utilize a phenomenon known as the magnetocaloric effect to induce a temperature change in certain materials by exposing them to a changing magnetic field. This nascent technology can reduce energy consumption by up to thirty percent, and even more importantly requires no refrigerant. Although the market for magnetic refrigerators is in its infancy, research firm Markets and Markets expects it to be valued at $163.7 Million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 108% over that time.

Conventional cooling technologies utilize carbon-based refrigerants in vapor compression systems. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been largely phased out due to their disastrous effect on the ozone layer, but their replacement, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), contribute to global warming and are now scheduled to be phased out as well. Magnetic refrigerators offer a sustainable alternative to these cooling systems; they use only heat transfer fluids that can be water based with little risk to the environment and no direct CO2 emissions. Additionally, they operate at low frequencies with fewer moving parts than traditional cooling systems, reducing noise and maintenance costs.

Description

Researchers at NREL have invented a magnetocaloric refrigeration device that acts as a regenerator in magnetic refrigerators. The device operates by changing the direction of fluid flow through a cage made of a series of paramagnetic materials within the generator. When the fluid flows in one direction the cage is pushed into a magnetic field, causing the paramagnetic materials to heat and that heat to transfer to a fluid. When the flow reverses direction the cage is pushed outside the magnetic field, causing the paramagnetic materials to cool rapidly and thus cool the fluid. A sequence of valves opens and closes so that cool fluid is directed to cooling coils and hot fluid is rejected to a separate coil outside of the cooling zones. This design results in a simpler magnetic refrigerator that is easier to fabricate than other proposed designs.

Benefits
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • No harmful refrigerants used
  • Wide temperature range
  • Quiet system operation
  • Reduced maintenance costs

 

Applications and Industries
  • Residential, commercial and industrial refrigerators
  • Air conditioning systems
  • Heat pumps

 

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
NREL ROI 16-91ProposedAvailable02/13/201802/13/2018

Contact NREL About This Technology

To: Erin Beaumont<erin.beaumont@nrel.gov>