20 November 2006
Magnetic refrigeration moves forward
SCIENTISTS in Germany have unveiled a pioneering new technique involving the magnetic cooling of gas, reveals a study published in the journal Physics this month.
Magnetic refrigeration has been around since the 1930s for cooling solid samples, but new evidence from researchers at the University of Stuttgart indicates that the cooling technique can also be used to generate gases approaching absolute zero.
The technique, which is also known as adiabatic demagnetisation cooling, uses a changing magnetic field to convert kinetic energy into magnetic energy, bringing about the massive drop in temperature.
The pioneering study reveals that gases made up of chromium-52 atoms have properties which can allow efficient magnetic refrigeration to take place, suggesting that more gases than previously thought could be cooled using the method.
Magnetic refrigerators have created a buzz in the past for seeming to offer a future alternative to vapour compression cooling, with the possibility of extreme gas cooling using the magnetic technique promising a new field of phenomena for scientists to explore.