Among the dizzying array of potentially game-changing innovations on display this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BASF — along with Haier, a global manufacturer of household appliances, and Astronautics Corporation of America — are presenting a proof‑of‑concept wine cooler refrigerated by a magnetocaloric heat pump.
A magnetocaloric heat pump — a cooling device based on magnetocaloric materials, which heat up when put into a magnetic field and cool down when removed — is a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional compressor-based refrigeration technology. In the magnetocaloric heat pump, heat is transferred from the cold interior of the wine cooler to the warm surrounding air by shuttling a water‑based coolant through the magnetocaloric materials as they go in and out of the magnetic field.
Theoretical studies demonstrate that refrigeration systems based on the magnetocaloric effect can be up to 35 percent more energy-efficient than vapor compression systems. They are also less noisy due to the absence of a compressor, and use water-based coolants rather than gaseous refrigerants.
“Together with our research colleagues who are well-experienced in functional materials as well as in systems solutions and modelling, we developed this innovative class of materials,” explains Andreas Riehemann, Managing Director of BASF New Business GmbH. “Together with our partners we can develop tailor-made functional materials for our customers’ cooling applications.”
The magnetocaloric materials, which BASF will sell under the Quice® brand, consist of abundant and affordable raw materials. They feature high performance across the whole range of temperatures relevant to refrigeration as well as high volume stability under operating conditions.
Astronautics Corp provided the expertise to integrate the new materials into the magnetocaloric heat pump. “By operating an integrated wine cooler prototype, we demonstrate that magnetocaloric technology has the potential to revolutionize the cooling industry,” says Dr. Steven L. Russek, director of the Astronautics Technology Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Using BASF’s magnetocaloric materials, Astronautics developed the magnetocaloric heat pump and, along with Haier, integrated it into the prototype wine cooler.
“The investment in the world’s first magnetocaloric wine cooler symbolizes Haier’s determination to be truly customer-focused and forward-thinking,” says Dr. Tao Xie, Director of Disruptive Technology of the Haier America Tech Center in Evansville, Indiana. “We are constantly challenging ourselves for disruptive ways to deliver new user experiences and be socially responsible for the community and the environment. The magnetocaloric wine cooler prototype shows great promise to help our customers save energy, cut utility bills, and reduce operating noise. As an environmentally friendly technology that produces zero ozone depleting gases or greenhouse gases, it is a technology Haier is aggressively pursuing.”
The partnership plans to continue developing the technology, with the goal of having Haier bring the compressor-free cooling alternative to market within the next couple of years.
BASF is collaborating on a number of other materials that could revolutionize their respective industries: The chemical giant is developing a combined migration and grease barrier on recycled cardboard with Schuster, which could be a game changer for fast-food packaging; and jointly developing renewable sources of superabsorbent polymers — polymers that can absorb and retain extremely large amounts of a liquid relative to their own mass, commonly found in products ranging from diapers and other hygiene products — with Novozymes and Cargill.