Energy-efficient cooling technologies
Oliver Gutfleisch is researching into permanent magnets with a drastically reduced rare earth content, for use in electric motors and wind turbines, and also into new materials for innovative solid-state based cooling technologies. The key issue preoccupying Gutfleisch is: How can the earth’s population cope with the challenge of having to invest increasing amounts of energy in cooling systems in the 21st century. “Keeping cool is fundamental to a higher standard of living, and many countries are quick to install ever greater cooling capacities based on non-sustainable and less-efficient technologies”, says Gutfleisch.
Gutfleisch thinks that the best opportunities for a new, energy-efficient cooling technology quite possibly lie in using the magnetocaloric effect. “Admittedly, the materials used so far are based on critical metals. And current cooling concepts do not yet exploit the full potential of the materials.” This is why Gutfleisch and his team are planning to use so-called Heusler materials in a fundamentally new process regime that capitalises on the effects of hysteresis. Should the tests prove successful, this could revolutionise cooling technology right down to product level, and greatly reduce the global energy consumption for cooling systems.