WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The world has an insatiable thirst for cooling, whether it’s cool fridges and freezers, or as a way to cool our gadgets increasingly powerful batteries and electronics, now solid state cooling could put an end to things that go boom in the night.
There are plenty of cool wearables, but there are very few cool wearables, if you catch what I’m saying, and now that looks like a problem that could soon be solved thats to a team of engineers from the University of California at Los Angeles and SRI International and their new 5mm thin device – a solid state fridge.
However, if you’re wondering why you’d want to carry what is essentially a mini fridge around with you then imagine the possibilities for a minute – personal air conditioning, chilled beer on tap from your ridiculous looking beer cap and cooler gadgets. Overheating exploding phones ring a bell anyone? Ahem. But there are more serious applications as well such as being able to replace all of the gas coolant in your fridge, which will reduce their harmful impact on the environment, and helping create more efficient air conditioning systems that today consume over 185 billion kW/h in the US alone.
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A Small Miracle For Fridge and Gadget-kind
The technology is based on something called the “Electrocaloric effect,” where a material’s temperature changes when an electric field is applied to it. While at present it’s still a proof of concept, on the surface at least it looks like this is a gadget to get excited about, and the first prototype can crank out over 150 times as much cooling per gram of material as the best previous electrocaloric device.
Additionally, the new tech has so far proved capable of undergoing over 30,000 cycles of electrification without starting to degrade, and in a demonstration it was attached to a Samsung Galaxy G4 smartphone battery that had been heated to 52.5 degrees Celsius, thanks to heavy use, and within just five seconds of being applied, it had chilled the Galaxy’s battery by 8 degrees. No boom there then I guess.
“The development of practical efficient cooling systems that do not use chemical coolants that are potent greenhouse gases is becoming even more important as developing nations increase their use of air conditioning,” said Roy Kornbluh, an SRI research engineer.
Going forward, the idea is to develop the technology in new ways, and, for instance, the team thinks it could be useful as a way of building portable refrigerators for the developing world.
A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Science.