Caloricool Launches Refrigeration Energy Efficiency Tech Research Initiative

green refrigeration
New Energy Department-supported technologies under development at Ames National Laboratory could make refrigerators a substantially more energy efficient appliance.

At a launch meeting held last week at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, the scientists and engineers of CaloriCoolTM, a materials research consortium, began making the to-do list for an ambitious goal: improving the energy-efficiency of refrigeration technology by 20 to 30 percent within a decade through the use of caloric materials for cooling. 

CaloriCoolTM is led by the Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University, and sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through its Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Unlike current refrigeration technology, which uses a vapor compression process that requires a lot of power, compounds called caloric materials can generate cooling when acted upon by magnetic, electric or mechanical forces. Several materials with the so-called giant caloric effects have been around for almost 20 years, but have lacked the efficiency and cost-effectiveness needed to be successful in commercial applications like home refrigerators, air conditioners, and grocery store freezer cases.

“Successful rollout of caloric cooling technology is really inhibited by the commercial unavailability of high-performance caloric materials,” said CaloriCoolTM Director Vitalij Pecharsky, Iowa State University’s Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Ames Laboratory Faculty Scientist, at opening remarks on Friday.

Beginning to design, make and test those high-performance calorics is the first order of business, said Pecharsky, and will create a foundation of knowledge for future research to draw upon. “We want this consortium to become a national resource on caloric materials.”

CaloriCool is one of four consortia to be established this year under DOE’s Energy Materials Network (EMN), which was officiallylaunched in February.  Each EMN consortium will bring together national labs, industry, and academia to focus on a specific class of materials in alignment with industry’s most pressing challenges related to materials for clean energy technologies. Together, the EMN consortia will form a network of advanced materials R&D capabilities and resources that will support the Administration’s commitment to revitalizing American manufacturing and maintaining a competitive edge in the clean energy economy.

Other short term goals include the design and construction of a research-scale test station, so that materials performance can be rapidly evaluated in a real-world environment.

“Our first meeting is really about getting organized, getting everyone on the same page, and to make sure we are not missing anything as we move forward,” said Pecharsky. “Our researchers are recognized leaders in various aspects of calorics, and I am proud to say that we have assembled a real dream team.”

The CaloriCoolTM consortium includes Pacific Northwest and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, United Technologies Research Center, GE Global Research, Astronautics Corporation of America, and Citrine Informatics.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy leads the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to develop and deliver market-driven solutions for energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturing; sustainable transportation; and renewable electricity generation. The Advanced Manufacturing Office—investing in applied research of new materials and processes, and platform technologies for energy-efficient manufacturing—and the Building Technologies Office co-manage the CaloriCool consortium under the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative banner for DOE.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.


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