Researchers at MIT reopen the potential of magnetic refrigeration systems in this new theory.

mitmagnons00 Your fridge magnet may be your next fridge, says MIT

Someday, your fridge will be able to cool your beer the same way it sticks notes onto it. That’s according to a new research coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which currently analyzes the potential of magnets to control heat.

The research focuses on a nifty little particle-like thing known as magnons, which are technically defined as collective rotations of magnetic moments (“spins”) inside a magnetic structure. They have found out that aside from their general magnetic properties, magnons are also capable of conducting heat. They can, theoretically, move around the magnet while carrying the heat it absorbed, lowering the temperature of the part of the magnet that moves it away from. The effect would thus enable a magnet to produce a cooling effect, and can be used to develop a special refrigeration system that uses the same phenomenon.

Most of the research is still on paper however, and the theories discussed are primarily derived from equations, but the principle is there: magnons behave like electrons, at least in respect to the way they respond to temperature gradients or electricity. The principle may have its differences from thermoelectricity, but the theory presents it as still fundamentally the same.

One of the most looked after potential application of this theory is the development of cooling and refrigeration systems that have almost no moving parts. An energy efficient refrigerator that uses magnons to cool would require less maintenance, and can keep on working for a much longer time (cryonics anyone?). Additionally, the concept can also be used to reinforce the overall efficiency of current thermoelectric generators, which are as of now mostly still used as sub-systems for recycling energy inside another system.

Also, it is worth noting that research into magnetic cooling systems isn’t exactly new. As far as the late 19th century, scientists have already been looking into the possible uses of a similar phenomenon known as the magnetocaloric effect. The principle however is different, and there’s actually another large corporation already investing on it.

Source: MIT