Refrigerator Magnets – More than just your average bric-a-brac

Fridge Magnet

Every so often, something weird and wonderful comes from the air conditioning and refrigeration world, hence the air conditioned suit. This week we have heard that now refrigerator magnets may be able to cool fridges!

Everyone loves a fridge magnet and it is predicted that in the future they will be so much more than clutter for the front of your fridge. According to MIT researchers they could be used as the cooling agent.

Their theory explains that the magnons that are found in magnets rotate and is called “spins” as well as these spins, the magnons also give off heat and according to the research that was carried out that when the magnons are introduced to a magnetic field, they travel from one end to another. This means that the heat is taken with them and therefore a cooling effect occurs.

Bolin Liao is a graduate student at MIT in the Department of Mechanical Engineering said, “You can pump heat from one side to the other, so you can essentially use a magnet as a refrigerator. You can envision wireless cooling where you apply a magnetic fields to a magnet one or two meters away to, say, cool your laptop.” He went on to say that a refrigerator that is driven magnetically does not require any moving parts meaning no refrigerant would be needed unlike conventional fridges.

“At this stage, potential applications are in cryogenics – for example, cooling infrared detectors. However, we need to confirm the effect experimentally and look for better materials. We hope this will motivate new experiments.”

Li Shi is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas has said that the cooling effect that has been identified during the research is “a highly useful theoretical framework for studying the coupling between spin and heat, and can potentially stimulate ideas of utilizing magnons as a working fluid in a solid state refrigeration system.”

Boil Liao added, “There’s still a long way to go for thermoelectrics to compete with traditional technologies. Studying the magnetic degree of freedom could potentially help optimise existing systems and improve thermoelectric efficiency.”

Photo by Nasir8891 / CC BY-SA 3.0