Ames Laboratory to Conduct New Research on Refrigeration Technology


The Ames Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be the home of a new research pool for the uncovering and development of more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient refrigeration technologies. It will be sponsored by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

The consortium called CaloriCool will thrive to develop alternative forms of refrigeration technologies, called caloric cooling, together with the private sector and universities. This is just one of the four consortia that are included in DOE’s Energy Materials Network (EMN). The EMN will use industry access to technical and scientific resources that are available at the national laboratories in order to let manufacturers bring advanced materials to market faster.

For more than 100 years, the traditional refrigeration technology has remained unchanged by using a vapor compression process that needs lots of electricity and produces heat. To have a more fitting option to this technology, materials scientists have developed compounds in the last 20 years that can generate cooling when cyclically acted upon by magnetic, electric, or mechanical forces which are called magnetocaloric, electrocaloric and electrocaloric materials.

CaloriCool’s focus is to discover caloric material that would be more effective and much cheaper than those available today, quickly test their cooling powers, make initial economic analyzes, and make these materials for adoption into commercial use.

The consortium will also build and develop a refrigeration device with the ability to test the performance of caloric materials in a real-world operational environment.

Vitalij Pecharsky, a Scientist in Ames Laboratory said, “Following our discovery of the giant magnetoelectric effect, it took everyone almost 20 years to realize that what really holds the technology back from commercialization is the lack of a viable material with a strong enough caloric cooling effect. Once we develop the materials that are suitable and cost-effective, the technology can make the leap forward on its own.”

The Chief Research Officer for Ames Laboratory, Duane Johnson said, “If you consider all the ways in which humans use cooling technologies globally, the societal impact and energy savings are enormous. In the U.S., it represents a 20 to 30 percent drop in energy needs for cooling.”

By the leadership and supervision of the people in Ames Laboratory, CaloriCool includes the University of Maryland, United Technologies Research Center, Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, GE Global Research, Citrine Informatics, Pennsylvania University, and Astronautics Corporation of America.

According to David Danielson, the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the DOE, “Through the Energy Materials Network, the national labs and their partners will develop and apply cutting-edge new materials research tools that will allow us to dramatically accelerate clean energy materials discovery by doing things like using computers to search completely new parts of the periodic table at record speed and performing high-throughput experiments that synthesize and test thousands of materials at a time instead of just one or two. This could be a true game-changer for accelerating cost reduction through innovation for a wide array of clean energy technologies all across the board.”

The DOE’s Office of Science national laboratory, Ames Laboratory, is operated by Iowa State University.