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Green Technology: New Alloy May Enhance Cooling Systems, Researchers Say

Nov 02, 2015 03:01 PM EST
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Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) have developed a metal alloy system that alleviates the use of coolant gases associated with global warming. Ultimately, this could lead to magnetic refrigerants and environmentally friendly cooling technologies, according to their news release.

The newly developed "green" technology uses iron-based alloys that are able to change a refrigerant's temperature using a magnetic field instead of coolant gases. This thermodynamic phenomenon is known as the "magnetocaloric effect."

Alloys are a mixture of two or more metals that work better together than alone and they are often created to enhance a substance's strength or resistance to corrosion. 

"We created alloys containing four and five different elements whose properties helped our theory collaborators develop a calculation that predicts the magnetic properties of a larger set of compounds that have not yet been synthesized. Now we have identified hundreds of new alloy combinations that could be useful," Casey Miller, head of RIT's materials science and engineering program, explained in the release.

Using their newly developed alloys, researchers were able to improve refrigerant capacity by 40 percent, according to their study. The new alloy system also acts as a replacement for rare-earth elements that are primarily produced in China and used in modern magnets, which is costly and raises environmental concerns. The new iron-based alloy system will use transition metals that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

To find the right metal alloys, researchers thoroughly investigated the family of metal compounds known as "high entropy alloys," materials that could also be used in developing technologies that are more resistant to wear and corrosion.

The findings were recently published in Scientific Reports.

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