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Highly efficient electrocaloric cooling with electrostatic actuation

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1130-1134
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan5980

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A solid way to keep cool

Refrigeration relies on vapor compression that is noisy, takes up space, and is mechanically complex. Solid-state cooling requires changing an external field to drive cooling, but devices produced so far have not been efficient enough for practical applications. Ma et al. constructed a lightweight and flexible device using a thin electrocaloric polymer film, where toggling it in an electric field between a heat source and sink drives the cooling process (see the Perspective by Zhang and Zhang). The device rapidly cools down an overheated smartphone battery and has potential application for developing compact, low-profile electronics.

Science, this issue p. 1130; see also p. 1094

Abstract

Solid-state refrigeration offers potential advantages over traditional cooling systems, but few devices offer high specific cooling power with a high coefficient of performance (COP) and the ability to be applied directly to surfaces. We developed a cooling device with a high intrinsic thermodynamic efficiency using a flexible electrocaloric (EC) polymer film and an electrostatic actuation mechanism. Reversible electrostatic forces reduce parasitic power consumption and allow efficient heat transfer through good thermal contacts with the heat source or heat sink. The EC device produced a specific cooling power of 2.8 watts per gram and a COP of 13. The new cooling device is more efficient and compact than existing surface-conformable solid-state cooling technologies, opening a path to using the technology for a variety of practical applications.

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