Boffins developing 'smart' metal to help you save on electric bills

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Washington, July 18 (ANI): Researchers at the University of Maryland are developing a new "smart" metal that could help cool homes or refrigerate food 175 per cent more efficiently than current technology, allowing users to save a great deal on electric bills.

The new "thermally elastic" metal alloy also promises far greater efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers will soon begin testing of a prototype system, with economic stimulus funding from the US Department of Energy. The new grant is part of a program designed to bring "game-changing" technologies to market.

"Air conditioning represents the largest share of home electric bills in the summer, so this new technology could have significant consumer impact, as well as an important environmental benefit," said Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC).

"The approach is expected to increase cooling efficiency 175 percent, reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 250 million metric tons per year, and replace liquid refrigerants that can cause environmental degradation in their own right," Wachsman added.

The lead researchers on the project, Ichiro Takeuchi, Manfred Wuttig and Jun Cui, materials science engineers in Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, have developed a solid coolant to take the place of fluids used in conventional refrigeration and air conditioning compressors. They claim their system represents a fundamental technological advance.

In the next phase of research, the team will now test the commercial viability of their smart metal for space cooling applications. The 0.01-ton prototype is intended to replace conventional vapour compression cooling technology. Instead of fluids, it uses a solid-state material - their thermoelastic shape memory alloy.

This two-state alloy alternately absorbs or creates heat in much the same way as a compressor-based system, but uses far less energy, the Maryland team explained. Also, it has a smaller operational footprint than conventional technology, and avoids the use of fluids with high global warming potential. (ANI)

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