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Researchers Pave Way For Compressor-Free Refrigeration

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the cool-science dept.

Technology 218

Hugh Pickens brings news that scientists from Penn State have developed a new method for heat-transfer that may replace the common compressor-based system used in household appliances. Quoting: "Zhang's approach uses the change from disorganized to organized that occurs in some polarpolymers when placed in an electric field. The natural state of these materials is disorganized with the various molecules randomly positioned. When electricity is applied, the molecules become highly ordered and the material gives off heat and becomes colder. When the electricity is turned off, the material reverts to its disordered state and absorbs heat. The researchers report a change in temperature for the material of about 22.6 degrees Fahrenheit... Repeated randomizing and ordering of the material combined with an appropriate heat exchanger could provide a wide range of heating and cooling temperatures."

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Fish (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550339)

First. Steve McPhail GREATEST. NAME. EVER. This is to defeat the cap filter. akdnfiaeia aeifn ieajfioaeihf oeihfaoifj aoiehfioeahf eif oeih iodf ioa afiafdioadfmanf aoihdfhoaehfiohe

Kind of (3, Interesting)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550349)

a "reverse" microwave?

Re:Kind of (4, Informative)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550385)

Not at all. Microwave works by emitting electromagnatic waves that exite water molecules, thus making them and (indirectly) whatever they are a part of warmer.

Re:Kind of (2, Funny)

gerardolm (1137099) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550633)

Electromagnates? In my intrawebz? Sorry for that :D

Kind of like kinetic stasis for ferropolymers (4, Informative)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551337)

Going by the rough description in TFA, it sounds like electricity's effect on the ferropolymer causes its bonds to strengthen, or perhaps to magnetically align, increasing rigidity, reducing the material's potential for containing kinetic energy.

If the material's new state caps the amount of kinetic energy it can store, it has to move on - first law of thermodynamics and all.

This may be the next interesting bit in applying their discovery - finding a compatible heat conductor, and also learning the optimal frequency, voltage, current etc. at which to apply voltage.

What about overclocking / cooling? (4, Funny)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550447)

So, will this pave the way for a new style of super-cooling for the home computer overclocking enthusiast? ...


... cuz if not, I'm not really interested.

Wait, the fridge keeps my red-bull cold...

Re:What about overclocking / cooling? (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550887)

Wait, the fridge keeps my red-bull cold...

The fridge? You're still using the fridge? I keep my Red Bull inside my very, very overclocked computer case. I also hang my steaks in there.

Re:What about overclocking / cooling? (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551043)

I keep my Red Bull inside my very, very overclocked computer case.

That explains the wired network.

Re:Kind of (1, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550925)

like letting the air out of a balloon!!

Efficiency (3, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550353)

Unless this is more efficient than at least Peltier it won't become commercially viable.

Re:Efficiency (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550375)

Yeah, this was my thought as well. TFA is, as usual, slim on the technical details...

Re:Efficiency (3, Insightful)

frito_x (1138353) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550499)

well... i can see benefits in areas like this method being quieter, also it sounds like it won't produce as much heat as the conventional gas compression method.

but then it doesn't sound like arranging these molecules into a crystal-like structure won't require considerable amounts of electric power.

only time will tell. and even then, remember that new technologies' worst rivals are the ones they're trying to replace. even in a best case scenario, it'll probably need many years to become mainstream. gas compression refrigeration's been around almost as long as refrigeration has... it's gonna be a tough one IMO.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550673)

it sounds like it won't produce as much heat as the conventional gas compression method

Don't forget to have your geek credentials removed on the way out. The amount of heat produced depends entirely on the efficiency. If it is less efficient than peltier elements then it is less efficient than compressors and then it produces more waste heat.

Re:Efficiency (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550807)

it sounds like it won't produce as much heat as the conventional gas compression method

Don't forget to have your geek credentials removed on the way out. The amount of heat produced depends entirely on the efficiency. If it is less efficient than peltier elements then it is less efficient than compressors and then it produces more waste heat.

He didn't say that the heat didn't depend on the efficiency, just that the reduced heat output itself might be a benefit.

Re:Efficiency (0, Offtopic)

frito_x (1138353) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550909)

without knowing the specifics of the method proposed... (the temp differential doesn't tell you anything if one doesn't know how much energy is required to accomplish that change of state.) you can not actually tell if it's more efficient or not... can you? (i won't (and didn't) deny i'm just guessing.

p.s.1: sadly i'm not a geek anymore (just a chemical engineering drop-out with credentials removed a long time ago) so i'm kinda letting the rum do the talking...

p.s.2: in perfectly acceptable /. fashion... i obviously didn't RTFA so an undetermined quantity of salt it's gonna be required for any post of mine wrt this.

Re:Efficiency (3, Funny)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550545)

Yeah, this was my thought as well. TFA is, as usual, slim on the technical details...

Yeah, but does that really matter? You are one of the three people on slashdot that actually reads the articles (which I think is against the rules here). I know I didnt read it.

;-)

Re:Efficiency (4, Funny)

Peyna (14792) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550755)

You are one of the three people on slashdot that actually reads the articles (which I think is against the rules here).

Reading of articles is strictly prohibited. However, clicking on the link and loading the article is required. This is how the Slashdot effect and ignorance of content can co-exist.

Re:Efficiency (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550785)

I'm using an unmodified AVG 8 [slashdot.org] - it performs the Slashdotting for me.

Re:Efficiency (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551077)

TFA is useless as usual so it's little wonder no one reads them.

Re:Efficiency (2, Insightful)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550461)

and if it isn't capable of totally drying my clothes during sunless days, it won't become commercially viable. ^^

Re:Efficiency (4, Insightful)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550637)

and since it uses PVC (plus a few more elements) it's quite toxic should it catch on fire.

ahh the smell of chlorine gas in the morning... i can see a couple problems with this material 1. it can only change 21 degrees a cycle, this means you need multiple separate units of the stuff to cycle on and off to cool more, and since it's toxic when burned, it can't do high temperature heating. it also can't do refrigeration in an environment where it might reach it's melting point. yeah you can use heat sinks on the hot side, do you really think heat sinks are cheaper than reliable, safe, CHEAP compressor technology? if there is a significant savings on energy usage (not discussed) then yeah it's great, it's also since it's a polymer easily made into clothing articles, but they seemed to add a number of ideas that don't make sense like 'fire fighter equipment' if it's highly flammable, and creates toxic chlorine gas, it's not suitable for firefighting! and basic electric heating of gloves* is already possible, what advantage does this device have? that it can't raise the temp of your gloves by more than 21 degrees F of the temp outside? um yeah... neat, cool, new way to cool or heat stuff, doesn't mean it has any commercial value, unless it's properties are better than what we're using now.

* = or perhaps of whole snow mobile suits, as i've seen for some modern snow mobiles...

Re:Efficiency (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550871)

> and since it uses PVC (plus a few more elements) it's quite toxic should it catch on fire.

Umm... what do you think the rest of the refrigerator is made of? It's basically a small metal frame with isolation foam (some plastic) and plastic around it. sometimes (more often than not) the cooling circuit is the only metal thing in there.

Re:Efficiency (3, Informative)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551021)

you missed the point. polystyrene is flammable, but completely lacks the poly-vinyl-chlorine.

chlorine is an important part of many poison gasses, although 'pure' chlorine is more of an irritant combined with vinyl the chlorine gas is Quite toxic, that's the big problem, in some states it's becoming illegal to use PVC piping, because in a fire when people are trapped breathing fumes, the toxic vinyl chloride gas can kill not only trapped victims but can make onlookers and rescuer crews sick, if they survive.

I know the following link is greenpeace, but they had the most comprehensive page about why Poly vinyl chloride (PVC) is so toxic.

remember, this device is being proposed as a replacement for the compressor/gas phase of a fridge, not the outer housing.

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/how-to-find-and-avoid-toxic-vi [greenpeace.org]

Re:Efficiency (4, Interesting)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551109)

Nah, man, a 21 degree dT is great. A typical cooling tower or hydronic HVAC operates at a 10 degree dT.

If they can force a 21 degree temperature drop to occur with some fancy plastic and some electricity... that's awesome. The challenge will be to APPLY this to a SYSTEM that will CAPITALIZE on the TECHNOLOGY.

Move it from the lab to the Walmart or the appliance store or the house or the car.

Re:Efficiency (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551131)

just to make sure, you mean degrees F not C right? i don't always put the F there when it was in TFA...

if your 10 degrees was C that totally reverses the statement from 'incredible' to 'plausible'

Re:Efficiency (4, Informative)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551381)

I did a lot of HVAC systems in the past, and many [naplesbyday.com] were large scale water source heat pump systems. This is, as expected, where the air handler cools the air in the space to, say, 55 F at the coil.

The fluids go to a condensing unit (compressor) which, instead of going to a coil with a fan directly to outside air, goes instead to a heat exchanger with water. The water runs throughout the building taking heat away from all of the water source heat pumps.

Typically, what I remember, the water will gain 10 degrees from the loop and dump 10 degrees at the cooler. The cooler will either be an evaporative cooling tower or a "fluid cooler" but it is basically always dumping 10 degrees of heat multiplied by however many gallons per minute of flow.

Yeah, the individual space gets a larger than 10 degree F temperature difference, and the SYSTEM gets "just" 10 degrees, but it's apples and oranges, different flow rates of fluids, CFM, BTU's, etc. Energy is energy, the temperature difference is only one part of the equation.

So, my point, and I do have one, is that ~20 degrees C or ~20 degrees F or whatever, it's enough if applied correctly.

Adsorption (2, Insightful)

quenda (644621) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550651)

Or Adsorption! Those fridges are very common where silent operation is needed: hotel mini-bars, offices. They're just not efficient.
    The article is useless without mentioning efficiency. Inefficient alternatives are nothing new.

Re:Efficiency (2, Interesting)

Skater (41976) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550687)

Am I the only one who remembers absorption refrigerators [wikipedia.org] ? Actually they are still widely used in RVs because they can run on any heat source (such as propane) without requiring electricity. They're also extremely energy efficient and have no moving parts.

The downsides to them are that they rely on the temperature differential between the coils and the ambient air, so on extremely hot days they aren't that good keeping cool (or if you are opening the door frequently).

Re:Efficiency (3, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550725)

Well, peltier stacks use electric current. This method uses electric fields. In other words, it sounds like they use the polymer as a dialectric in a capacitor that is constantly charged and discharged. I know peltiers eat a lot of current, so depending on the capacitance of this new system the total power should be quite a bit less.

Actually transporting the heat is another matter...
=Smidge=

Entropy (1)

thedrx (1139811) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550365)

I'll say, that's an interesting use of entropy.

Re:Entropy (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551283)

Oh, I dunno. Sounds fairly routine to me. I've worked in plenty of places that were highly disorganized and gave off lots of hot air.

Finally (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550367)

Man o man, how many times I've thought to myself "How can I get rid the compressor that powers my refrigerator?" Oh technology, what can't you do?

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550483)

Yeah, I certainly wouldn't want a compressionless portable AC.

What's that you say? Sorry, I can't hear you!

compressionless is new? (1)

notgm (1069012) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550379)

wasn't there a compressionless sound wave-based cooling developed a few years back? i remember ben or jerry from ben-and-jerry's championing the efforts.

Re:compressionless is new? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550443)

And don't forget Peltierâ"Seebeck junctions.

But perhaps it might be more efficient, which is preventing more widespread use of Peltier effect devices.

Re:compressionless is new? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550469)

Or Peltier coolers [wikipedia.org] , like a USB Beverage cooler [coolitsystems.com] .

I tried a refrigerator based on a peltier cooler, but it wasn't very good. Common applications are car beverage coolers, where they are better than no cooler at all.

Re:compressionless is new? (4, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550691)

I tried making my own beverage cooler out of Peltiers once, it kept my beverage nice and cold but it burnt the shit out of my hand.

Re:compressionless is new? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550901)

And that is why the CoolItSystems version has a big heat sink and fan on the hot side.

Re:compressionless is new? (5, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550965)

Did you try using it without putting shit in your hand?

Re:compressionless is new? (4, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550705)

It's still based on compression (and out of Penn State, licensed to Ben and Jerry's, of course), but it's a much *faster* compression, at the frequency of the sound waves used, and it takes advantage of air's intrinsic nonlinearity at high acoustic amplitudes, rather than the much slower effects inherent in traditional refrigeration techniques.

http://www.acs.psu.edu/thermoacoustics/refrigeration/benandjerrys.htm [psu.edu]

22.6F temperature change (-1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550395)

thats not going to replace many legacy refrigerator/freezer units is it.
I'd want the fridge part colder than 50f thankyou (assiming a kitchen temp of 73F) and of course the freezer isn't going to freeze...

Re:22.6F temperature change (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550431)

Congratulations on not even reading the whole fucking summary.

Unless you had multiple stages (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550435)

Perhaps they can work in series to achieve greater temperature differences.

Multiple stages tend to be less efficient. (0)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550801)

The problem you run into here is still efficiency.

Having to go with multiple stages, especially if they're not incredibly efficient, is a token for inefficiency.

Let's say they're 200% efficient. For every unit of energy spent, they move 2 units of heat.

We're going to need 2 units for a fridge, 3 units for a freezer. (80-46=34, good for fridge, not good for freezer).

Trouble - We spend 1 unit of electricity, move 2 units of heat to hot side. Due to the efficiency loses, 3 units of heat end up on the hot side.

So the second stage needs to be 50% larger, use 50% more energy, to finish the job. 1.5 units of energy move 3 units of heat, to exhaust 4.5 units of heat out of whatever radiator system exists.

We end up spending 2.5 units of electricity to move 2 units of heat out of the refrigerator.

Meanwhile compressor refrigerators are capable of doing this in one stage, while being capable of moving 2, even 3 units of heat per unit of electricity.

Re:Multiple stages tend to be less efficient. (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551299)

More then 100% efficiency? This will make millions.

Re:22.6F temperature change (1)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550453)

Hmm... I expect some readers to ignore the article and take the summary for granted, but did you even read the summary in total? "Repeated randomizing and ordering of the material combined with an appropriate heat exchanger could provide a wide range of heating and cooling temperatures." They will easily be able to get to normal refridgeration temperatures. Whether they can do this more efficiently than current technologies is another question entirely. It would have a great environmental impact if they could, as I assume this would also affect AC units and other temp-control devices in controlled environments within buildings.

Re:22.6F temperature change (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550709)

A compressor on a refrigerator lasts a very long time too, 20 to 30 years or more. One of the most reliable things out there. The biggest problem with refrigerators is the hinges and door seals wearing out.

let me be the first to say (1)

chenjeru (916013) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550409)

'cool'

same place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550429)

So the same place both exhausts the heat and gets cool? Sounds like a problem. At least with a compressor refrigerator the cold and hot spots are separate (much easier to insulate that way).

Already been done? (1, Interesting)

retro128 (318602) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550507)

How is this different from a Peltier cooler?

Re:Already been done? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550697)

How is a incandescent light bulb different from a light emitting diode? They turn electricity into light and heat. Aren't they the same?

Re:Already been done? (2, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550717)

It's pretty vague, but it sounds like it is not continuous. The Peltier effect with thermoelectric material is constant as long as electricity is applied. This new material seems to give off heat and is then able to absorb heat once the electricity is turned off.

It's sound pretty strange and not much better than thermoelectric which already has been around quite a long time. Just wait and see if we can get more technical explanations later.

Re:Already been done? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550747)

It's sound pretty strange and not much better than thermoelectric which already has been around quite a long time. Just wait and see if we can get more technical explanations later.

How do you figure? The thermoelectric effect has crap efficiency. This sounds like it might work a lot better (although of course we need numbers to judge).

It's not strange at all. It's basically taking a material in a high entropy state (disorganized), and when an electric field is applied, it converts into a low entropy state (organized).

A natural consequence of going from high entropy to low entropy is that heat is removed from the system. Reverting back to the disorganized state increases entropy, and draws heat back into the system.

Then you just need a mechanism which can take advantage of this.

Light (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550509)

Delta 22.6F is pretty meager. Peltier coolers hit Delta 40C, about 4x the differential.

Re:Light (4, Interesting)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550593)

It really doesn't matter so long as there is a Delta. It sounds like this can absorb and release heat as fast as an electrical switch can be flipped and mankind has made some pretty snappy switches that could repeat REALLY fast.

The real question is how much power is lost. Peltier coolers for instance are horrendously inefficient. If this isn't more efficient and/or cheaper than compressor technology it will never happen. Since compressor technology isn't cheap to produce the only thing that will likely stand in the way of cheapness is greed on the part of the patent-holder. We shall see.

Re:Light (1)

Bloater (12932) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551195)

"It sounds like this can absorb and release heat as fast"

So do you think this gives off EM radiation as an electric field is applied or that it just heats up rapidly as it becomes ordered so that a heatsink can take the heat away (thus "gives off heat" as per the article), and removal of the electric field will then cause it to return to a colder temperature.

Since they suggest heat exchangers I going to guess that it warms with an electric field and cools without rather than gives of EM.

An EM device would be cool (pun intended) because you could place a grid of the material in relation to a grid of reflectors that forced the EM to a black panel behind which would be connected to a heat sink and physically insulated from the rest of the fridge and you'd be totally solid state.

Possible practical implementation (4, Interesting)

ZombieEngineer (738752) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550513)

This could feasibly be used to make a practical air conditioner by having a segmented disk shape block that allows air to pass through.

Outside air would pass through one half of the disk that is currently energised (the electric field orders the polymer and thus releases heat).

The inside air would pass through the other half that is currently not energised (the relaxation of the electric field allows the material to absorb heat).

The disk rotates with segments shifting between the outside / inside halves, the electric field is applied by a simple electric comutation.

This is not a true "no moving parts" system but it has the potential to be an order of magnitude quieter than the current air conditioning units.

ZombieEngineer

Re:Possible practical implementation (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551227)

Yup. Given the material's properties, I can't see any way of utilizing it without SOME mechanical action, which means the article's stated idea of a flat-panel refrigerator with no moving parts will never happen, at least not using this material.

Problem (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550527)

From TFA:

These polarpolymers include poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene) and poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene)-chlorofluoroethylene, ...

I'd like one of those poly-pola-try-viyl, er, I mean fluoro-frikkin-flora,.....

Ah, screw it. Gimme a fridge with a compressor.

Re:Problem (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550905)

Wasn't the reason we moved from R12 to R134A in cooling systems because of the environmental impact of CFCs? These are just CFC polymers.

Hmm (1)

duckInferno (1275100) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550535)

Cool.

Fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550551)

This is just one of those tons of press releases Universities put out to show themselves off. And researchers have to make this stuff to show NSF or whoever is funding that what they do is relevant to society.

Look at the website of almost any university and you know what I mean. You may come across my piece of FUD as well. Revolutionary break through in quantum coherence....? anyone?

Re:Fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550599)

How is this FUD? They announce a development which may allow compressor free refrigeration does that mean my current fridge stops working? Should I be afraid of this tech. Should I be uncertain of my compressor fridge. Should I doubt my food is still cold since this hit teh interwebs? Do you even know what FUD is?

Re:Fud (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550849)

Your current refrigerator has compressible refrigerant in it.
Which will destroy the world if it somehow leaks out.

And YOU will be responsible.

Re:Fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550603)

Vaporware (if it is vaporware) != FUD.

It's not vaporware! (2, Funny)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550677)

It is anti vaporware: it is refrigeration without vapors!! No more e-vapor-ators!

Re:It's not vaporware! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550995)

So if vaporware is the anti-FUD, does this mean we can get Duke Nukem Forever and Microsoft together and destroy the world?

It's all talk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550613)

The free market has no motivation to implement any more new technology. This is the exact same problem we have with Oil companies. Technology will not change until government forces step in and start providing incentives for new technologies. We still have the same home appliances we did 50 years ago, and that is not likely to change in the next 100 years. At the rate we are going we will most likely destroy ourselves before we see the technology of a refrigerator change.

Re:It's all talk (1)

amyhughes (569088) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550701)

The compressor is the noisy part of a refrigerator, right? If you could make a refrigerator without one you'd have market differentiation over a desirable feature (quietness). Problem being, the heat differential is not great enough to work for the freezer, so if that's the best that's possible then your fridge would still have to have a compressor.

Re:It's all talk (1)

conteXXt (249905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550775)

re freezer: You are forgetting something here. The inside of the fridge/freezer combo is a closed circuit (air-wise and refrigerant-wise). When you take a new freezer and it starts to cool, it's many passes of the air inside through the evaporator before it comes anywhere near freezing. That and the fact that there is still "heat" to be absorbed well below the freezing point (heat pumps anyone?).

Re:It's all talk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550777)

What free market? Patent privileges still exist. Until they are done away with, commoditisation is terribly slowed. Patents keep the pace of change down to levels the establishment can deal with. We'd see faster technological progress if the only way to keep up was to keep on innovating, not innovate once and charge rent for 20 years.

Other methods (1)

gbh1935 (987266) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550641)

What happened to the other compressorless methods? There was a method using sound a few years back that was supposed to be the next best thing...

Silent as well? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550653)

Being solid-state, one can hope this tech is silent. The buzz of our fridge-freezer is a pain.

Buy a new fridge... (3, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550721)

If your current fridge is too loud, then I suggest shopping for a new one. Many of the newer units feature far quieter compressors.

While you're at it, I'd suggest looking for an energy star one.

One thinks a Uni would not mangle it this bad (0, Troll)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550657)

When electricity is applied, the molecules become highly ordered and the material gives off heat and becomes colder. When the electricity is turned off, the material reverts to its disordered state and absorbs heat.

When a thing is giving off heat, we say it is "hotter": it has a higher temperature. When a thing is absorbing heat, we say it is "colder": it has a lower temperature.

You know, the sort of stuff they showed you in Primary School!!!!

Stupid chip-packet doctoratates.

Re:One thinks a Uni would not mangle it this bad (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551011)

TFA is written very poorly and describes a phenomena involving polymers that is already widely known. There are many examples. Here is one you can try using something far less exotic than the polymers mentioned in the article.

For this example, take a rubber band. Stretch it out. Touch the stretched rubber band to your lips. It will feel warm. Hold it in the stretched position for a few seconds to let it cool down to room temperature. Now let the rubber band relax, and once again touch it to your lips. You should now notice that it will feel cool.

The above process uses exactly the same principles described in TFA. Stretching the rubber band causes reduction of disorder by aligning the polymer chains. It also warms the rubber band because of the work applied. As you hold the rubber band in the stretched state it will cool to room temperature releasing some of the energy needed to heat it. This is equivalent to the step where the electrical field is applied.

Now release the rubber band. The polymer chains now revert back to a disordered state, cooling the rubber. Since the rubber band started in a stretched room temperature state the relaxed rubber band will now be below room temperature. this is equivalent to turning off the electric field as mentioned in the article.

Voila. This is a wonderful new refrigeration system that will replace all existing known cooling systems. NOT.

There are so many issues with practical application of this it is not funny. If these issues didn't exist we would have been using rubber band refrigerators for many decades already.

Also, please note that from a thermodynamics point of view this is essentially how a conventional refrigeration system works (albeit fat far more efficiently).

Re:One thinks a Uni would not mangle it this bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24551145)

When a thing is giving off heat, we say it is "hotter": it has a higher temperature. When a thing is absorbing heat, we say it is "colder": it has a lower temperature.

You know, the sort of stuff they showed you in Primary School!!!!

Stupid chip-packet doctoratates.

You're an idiot.

When something gives off heat, it becomes colder.

When something absorbs heat, it becomes hotter.

When you touch an ice cube, it feels cold, but that's because it's absorbing heat from your hand, making your hand (which is emitting heat) colder and the ice cube (which is absorbs heat and melts) hotter.

Re:One thinks a Uni would not mangle it this bad (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551265)

OK, then you and I can probably agree that it is at least ambiguous. And you will also agree that heat transfers are regularly misunderstood.

When the charge is applied, the polymer becomes warm. If it is warmer than its surroundings, it will subsequently cool to the temperature of its surroundings.

If that is what the writer meant, then he did not make his point very well. My reading of that statement indicated to me that applying the charge would make the temperature of the item drop as well as making it give out heat: clearly impossible. In order to give out heat, it must first become hotter.

I imagine that the science-literate person wrote a clear and precise description, which a later reviser shortened into the mess we read.

2nd law says no. (0)

SlashRSlashN (1036626) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550659)

"...change from disorganized to organized..."

This sounds like it's forgetting some important law of physics, like, say, the second law of thermodynamics that states that the entropy of all real systems always increases.

But, hey, if you can breach that rule then you can also ignore the efficiency limits of a Carnot engine (which is really crappy) and you are home free to making the world a cooler place for a lot less effort.

Re:2nd law says no. (2, Informative)

Diomedes01 (173241) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550745)

the entropy of all closed systems always increases.

There, fixed it for you.

Re:2nd law says no. (1)

GleeBot (1301227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550787)

"...change from disorganized to organized..."

This sounds like it's forgetting some important law of physics, like, say, the second law of thermodynamics that states that the entropy of all real systems always increases.

Did you miss the bit where they apply an electric field?

Homer says yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24551189)

[voice name="Homer Simpson"]In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics![/voice]

Re:2nd law says no. (4, Informative)

robo_mojo (997193) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550789)

...the second law of thermodynamics that states that the entropy of all isolated systems always increases.

There. Fix'd it for you.

When external energy is applied to the system (like, say, electricity), then the system isn't isolated.

Re:2nd law says no. (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550799)

The entropy of a closed system always increases. In this case, that includes where the electricity is coming from.

Re:2nd law says no. (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550829)

But do we really want to invest in a technology that decreases the entropy of the only Universe we have to live in?

Re:2nd law says no. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550863)

Wow, dumb much?

Clearly the stainless steel fork on the table next to me is a figment of my imagination, since the iron ore it was made from certainly had more entropy...

Re:2nd law says no. (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551041)

By that logic, my food should've gone bad days ago. Maybe even earlier!

Relative or Absolute Range (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550711)

I am not a physicist, so feel free to flame me if my question is stupid. But the article mentions a design concept that would hook multiple devices up in a sequence or series, in order to continuously move a temperature in either direction. This concept would make sense if the principle of the phenomenon is based upon a relative temperature range, instead of an absolute range. But if that was true, that this phenomenon could alter an oven at 330 up to 350, or a refrigerator at 50 down to 30 freezing, and I can't imagine it being efficient without it also being magic. So, is it based upon a relative range of temperature, or an absolute one?

Re:Relative or Absolute Range (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550853)

The article talks about a temperature difference: The see a 22 F (12.22.. C for sane persons) difference between its energized state and its unenergized state.

So, if it is sitting at room temperature (20C), and you power it up, its temperature raises to 32 C. If you then let it cool down to room temperature and then turn it off, its temperature will cool to 8C.

With heat exchangers to dump heat into it when it is cold, and strip heat off it when it is hot, you could stack these devices to provide whatever differential you needed, at least until the material becomes too hot or cold for the phenomenon to work.

Notes: if the degrees symbles do not show up, you will have to imagine them. And a difference of 22 degrees F is not -5 C.

Re:Relative or Absolute Range (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550911)

Re-Reply: Yes, efficiency is the target, and the collection of heat exchangers and these devices does not sound particularly efficient to me. But then again, peltiers and compressors are also inefficient, so there is a lot of room to improve on them.

How many times will it work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24550753)

Maybe I didn't understand tfa well but it is my impression that it is talking about a solid material. As the material moves between ordered and disordered states there should be some kind of material fatigue, similar to what you get when you bend a piece of metal back and forth. It sounds to me like it will wear out quickly.

Depends (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550891)

You can freeze and melt water quite a few times before it wears out.

TFA is short on details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24551059)

My impression, backed by no solid information in tfa, was that the material stayed solid. In any event, it didn't mention a phase change.

Not Bloody Likely (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550893)

It sound like they have essentially developed a solid refrigerant. That has got to be far less useful than a liquid refrigerant that can me moved around to where it is needed. Not to mention since there is no phase change involved you need a buttload more of this fancy polymer to get the same heat capacity.

Nah. This will never be economically competitive.

Portable Cooling (1)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550931)

I could be wrong, but it sounds to me that without the compressor machinery, this could enable smaller, quieter cooling units and lead to products like battery-powered thermoses or air-conditioned clothing. Do any engineers have a take on this?

Re:Portable Cooling (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 5 years ago | (#24550977)

Maybe: but this is about making the same thing get hotter or colder. More machinery is needed to use that to make a flow of heat from one place to another.

A simple way: take two blocks of this stuff. Energise A, it becomes hot: allow it to cool.
Place A and B Together, energise B and de-energize A. A cools off, pulling all the heat from B.
Seperate them again, energise A again to dispose of the heat pulled from B. De-energize B, and you have achieved refrigeration. Rinse and repeat.

No doubt there are better ways to make a cycle like this (pumping some coolant, maybe), but none of them (that I can think of) make for a very portable device.

entropy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24551063)

"change from disorganized to organized"

Why can't they just say negative change in entropy? That way if anyone cared about what it meant, they could be on the Wikipedia article in seconds. How would I learn more about this phenomena if I did not know to look up entropy? There isn't even a publication attached.

Synergies (1)

RonTheHurler (933160) | more than 5 years ago | (#24551205)

Oh, oh, oh! I have an idea. Let's combine this idea with a stirling engine and see what kind of synergies come out.

Polymer on each end of the engine, alternating current synchronized with the displacer, etc. etc. etc.

Whaddya think?

At least 7 years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24551217)

When Iowa State University was recruiting me out of high school I went to a Material Science demo there, where they had a working refridgeration unit based on this exact principle.
The problem then was simple efficiency, as in not efficient enough to be practical.

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