Magnetic refrigeration: the cold of the future

2010-10-04-refrigeracion_med

The cover of the Journal of the American Chemical Society’s latest edition includes a study carried out by the Aragón Institute of Materials Science (CSIC-UNIZAR) on materials for magnetic refrigeration.

Magnetic refrigeration is based on the change in temperature experienced by a material when it is subjected to a change in magnetic field. This is known as the magnetocaloric effect. All magnetic materials respond to this effect, although the objective of the current research is to find materials where the changes in temperature are so great that they can be applied technologically.

One of the possible applications that these materials would have is for use in conventional refrigerators, where the known freons that are used today would be substituted by non-contaminating magnetic materials that respect the ozone layer, thus making them much cleaner environmentally.

Researcher Marco Evangelisti, of the Aragón Institute of Materials Science (ICMA, under the auspices of the University of Zaragoza and the CSIC, or Spanish National Scientific Research Council) is working on the development of a microchip capable of cooling its surroundings, lowering nearby temperatures to absolute zero (-273.15ºC). Until now Helium 3 has been used to achieve this, though this is very scarce, expensive and difficult to obtain for the scientific community.

The experiments at very low temperatures are of great importance, given that they study the physical properties of materials (magnetic, electrical, etc.) Thus they are indispensible for the design of new materials. From there, and given the scarcity of Helium 3, it will be necessary to find alternative refrigerants.

The Journal of the American Chemical Society highlights on its cover the image of a molecule designed by Marco Evangelisti and Olivier Roubeau, both researchers at the ICMA. Specifically the molecule is [MnIII4GdIII4] which, given its magnetic properties, appears to be an excellent magnetic refrigerant for low temperatures. Source: Sinc