Soon, Your Fridge Will Run On Magnets

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The basic refrigerator hasn’t changed very much in the last fifty years. It’s still essentially a cabinet with a lot of pipes and hoses in the walls, most of which are full of toxic chemicals that aren’t great for the environment. Scientists, however, have found a new way to keep your yogurt cold, using magnets.

Fridge Magnets

It’s actually a well-known effect in the scientific community: If you run a ferrofluid (tiny magnetic particles suspended in a liquid) by a magnet, and then pull it away, the ferrofluid cools. This is thanks to its motion being slowed down. It’s called the magnetocaloric effect, but while it’s pretty neat from a physics perspective, it’s also fairly inefficient as these things go, since you’ve got to keep yanking the ferrofluid in and out of the field. That’s where a new material comes in.

Spinning Crystal

Well, “new” is probably the wrong word: HoMn2O5 has been around for a while and is a ferrofluid well known for its oddball insulating properties. The researchers were just looking to see how it handled the magnetocaloric effect… and discovered that by rotating a crystal of it in a magnetic field, they got it. They don’t even need to take it out of the field, and can just run water by the resulting cold to cool a fridge.

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Green Fridges

There’s still a lot of work to do; they need to work out how to miniaturize the system and spread the cooling effect as efficiently as possible. But it’s a fascinating idea, and more important, it cuts out the toxic chemicals your fridge needs to be recharged with. It also ensures you can keep your fridge around for longer, as magnets don’t need to be replaced and take a much longer time to wear out. Keep an eye out for this green tech soon.

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Dan Seitz

Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.

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