Researchers at GE have revealed a breakthrough in the next leap in HVAC and home refrigeration technology – magnetic, or magnetocaloric, refrigeration, which uses no refrigerants or compressors and is 20 percent more efficient than what is used today.
Magnetocaloric cooling as a concept has been around for many years, but it has taken the GE Team five years of analysis and testing to achieve the desired cooling effect that would allow the technology to be used in home refrigeration and, by extension, commercial heat pump applications.
The system uses a water-based fluid rather than a chemical refrigerant such as Freon to transfer heat from inside the refrigerator and achieve the cooling process.
Instead of a compressor, magnets are used to create a magnetic field that agitates particles in the fluid causing it to cool. The strength of the magnetic fields determines how cold the fluid becomes and, in turn, how quickly it cools the refrigerator.
“We’ve spent the past 100 years making the current technology more efficient, but most of the major efficiency increases have been achieved,” says Venkat Venkatakrishnan, director of advanced technologies for GE Appliances.”
Now, however, the company has worked out how to create heat or cold without a compressor or chemical refrigerants.
“This breakthrough can power your fridge with greater efficiency, and because the technology does not contain traditional refrigerants, recycling refrigerators at end of life will be easier and less costly,” Venkatakrishnan says.