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Magnetic refrigeration draws closer

Chemicals giant BASF has signalled the acceleration of development of magnetic refrigeration, with the creation of reliable, economic ‘magnetocaloric’ materials.

The firm says it is starting on ‘economically feasible’ production of the manganese-iron compounds, which enable refrigeration to take place without refrigerants or compressors.

The materials heat up when introduced to a magnetic field and cool when the field is removed. Research suggests 50 per cent less energy consumption than with conventional vapour compression techniques.

The firm has partnered with system integrating specialist Delta electronics and is now looking to develop cooling systems, with domestic refrigeration in its sights.

The cost of the materials was seen as a major obstacle to development of magnetic technology, but BASF says that its materials work, together with stronger permanent magnets, will enable systems to be developed beyond laboratory scale.

BASF Future Business managing director Thomas Weber said: “We are all ready to go. What we need now are prototypes for cooling systems to demonstrate the energy saving potential in everyday use.”