Refrigerants not required: Flexible metal cooling prototype demonstrates extreme efficiency

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The prototype heating/cooling system uses the remarkable properties of shape-memory nitinol metals for environmentally friendly cooling and heating

A German research team has prototyped an extraordinary heating/cooling system that stresses and unloads nickel-titanium “muscle wires” to create heated and cooled air at twice the efficiency of a heat pump or three times the efficiency of an air conditioner. Crucially, the device also uses no refrigerant gases, meaning it’s a much more environmentally friendly way to heat or cool a space.

The device is based on a peculiar property of certain shape-memory metal alloys that spring back into shape after being deformed. In some cases – particularly with nickel-titanium, also known as nitinol – these metals absorb significant amounts of heat when they’re bent out of shape, and then release that heat when they’re allowed to revert to their normal shape. The difference between the loaded wire and the released wire can be as much as 20° C (36° F).

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