Move Over Peltier, There’s A New Type Of Solid State Cooling


Very Cool And Very Hard To Describe

There have been a lot of attempts to design effective solid state cooling solutions, which do not rely on vapour compression refrigeration.  There are a lot of reasons for this, environmentally it is estimated 20% of global power consumption is used for this purpose and the most effective refrigerants are not terribly good for the environment to create or dispose of.  There is also the size of these systems, with compressors and evapouration chambers, their associated motors, and a pump to circulate the refrigerant.  The last problem is the biggest one for computer enthusiasts, the process creates a fair amount of waste heat which needs to be separated from the components you are cooling. 

There are solid state cooling products on the market, the most familiar of which are peltier style coolers which take advantage of the properties of some materials to develop a hot side and a cool side when a current is run through them.  There are others which make use of magnets to produce the same effect.  There are problems with this as well, the effectiveness of the cooling is limited and it is generally considered unwise to insert magnets into a PC.

There is new research out of China which may provide a new way to provide solid state cooling which is both effective and safe to use around sensitive electronics.  They created a unique thingamajig consisting of a Mn3SnC layer with a piezoelectric layer of lead zirconate titanate (PZT), which drops in temperature by up to 0.57 K when an electric field is applied to it.  Once the field is turned off, the material’s temperature rises by the same amount.  

The material doesn’t care if it is a a positive or negative electric field, the temperature drop remains the same, however if a magnetic field is applied it rises in temperature; something which makes no sense to anyone at the moment.  There are still some significant challenges on the path to making this a viable commercial product but it does demonstrate there are still novel cooling solutions yet to be discovered.

You can get more of the science behind this at PhysicsWorld as well as links to the published papers.



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