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ARPA-E backs a "Smart Metal" to Cool Future Climate Hell

As part of the new ARPA-E program designed to bring “game-changing” technologies to market, one of the 43 breakthroughs the Department of Energy has funded is the invention of a metal alloy for use instead of refrigerant in air conditioners and advanced refrigeration systems.

The completely new thermally elastic metal alloy makes possible a fundamental technological advance in cooling technology. Used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems instead of liquid coolant, it would increase cooling efficiency 175%, and cut climate-changing CO2 emissions to practically nothing.


Researchers at the University of Maryland are about to begin testing this prototype, built of the “smart metal” alloy with funding of $500,000 from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus).

If their test succeeds, it would create a world leadership opportunity for the US, reduce climate changing greenhouse gases, and lower energy costs.

Air conditioning costs are already the biggest portion of home energy bills, and with climate change resulting in more heat wave days each summer over the next decades, these hits to the family pocketbook will only increase as temperatures rise.

The “smart metal”, a solid coolant to take the place of fluids used in conventional refrigeration and air conditioning compressors was developed by materials science engineers Ichiro Takeuchi, Manfred Wuttig and Jun Cui at Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering.

Eric Wachsman, the lead researcher, and director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) says the grants will help the state of Maryland develop ‘green’ economy.

Wachsman who has been on the job at Maryland for about eight months has also submitted a proposal to the Department of Energy to locate a $130 million multi-institutional research hub in the Washington, D.C. region, focusing on a broad array of green building research (including technology such as this).

Next the team will test the commercial viability of their smart metal for space cooling applications. “These grants are highly competitive and require a demonstration that the technology has genuine commercial potential,” says Wachman.

The 0.01-ton prototype is intended to replace conventional vapor compression cooling technology. Instead of fluids, it uses a solid-state material — a thermoelastic shape memory alloy, that alternately absorbs or creates heat in much the same way as a compressor-based system, but uses far less energy.

General Electric Global Research and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are partnering with the University of Maryland on the project.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

Image: University of Maryland

Source: Science Daily

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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