What is it about?

The cooling technology sector is a major user of electric energy. But the gases used in cooling devices are known to cause global warming. To solve these problems, other ways of achieving refrigeration, such as solid state cooling, are being researched. Solid state cooling uses “caloric” materials, which undergo reversible thermal changes when an electric, magnetic, or mechanical field is applied. Neopentyl glycol, also called “plastic crystal,” is an important material in solid state cooling research. When pressure is applied to this material, it cools down without letting out heat in its environment. In this study, the authors looked at this effect in detail using simulations. They found that changes at the molecular level were responsible for this effect. In addition, thermal changes in the molecules were large at room temperature and for a moderate pressure. Further, the strength of the hydrogen bond within the molecules influenced the thermal properties as well.

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Why is it important?

Cooling uses about one third of the total electric energy worldwide. There is a growing need for less harmful materials in cooling technology. Solid state cooling can help solve this problem. Unlike the current methods, this method of cooling saves energy, is stable, and pocket friendly. A better knowledge of materials that can be used in solid state cooling is thus needed. KEY TAKEAWAY: The study sheds light on the underlying physics of the effects observed in plastic crystals. This opens doors to better materials that can lead to a cleaner future.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Atomic-scale insights into the colossal barocaloric effects of neopentyl glycol plastic crystals, Applied Physics Letters, February 2022, American Institute of Physics, DOI: 10.1063/5.0081930.
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