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GE makes breakthrough in home refrigeration technology

Researchers from GE Appliances in the USA are developing the next advance in home refrigeration technology—magnetic refrigeration (magnetocaloric refrigeration).

Researchers from GE Appliances in the USA are developing the next advance in home refrigeration technology—magnetic refrigeration (magnetocaloric refrigeration).

The company says that the technology uses no refrigerants or compressors and is 20 per cent more efficient than that currently used. In addition, the technology can be applied to other heat pump applications such as HVAC and has the potential for use in any heat pump application - up to 60 percent of total home energy consumption in the USA.

Although magnetocaloric cooling as a concept has been around for many years, in 2006, GE began exploring the technology for home refrigeration. A team of GE researchers started from scratch to show the technology could be applied to the real world of household refrigeration and still work efficiently. After five years of analysis and testing, they were able to achieve the desired cooling effect.

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.

GE says that the team’s research is now progressing rapidly and is on track to move from the lab to residential homes within the next five years.

Venkat Venkatakrishnan, director of advanced technologies for GE Appliances, said: “We figured 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.”

Lead Engineer Michael Benedict (left) and Venkat Venkatakrishnan (right), Director of Advanced Technologies, work in GE Appliances’ labs on magnetocaloric refrigeration technology that can replace traditional compressors used in refrigerators for the last 100 years.

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