Research Article

Torsional refrigeration by twisted, coiled, and supercoiled fibers

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Science  11 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6462, pp. 216-221
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax6182

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Twisting is cool

Rubber bands that are stretched and held in an extended shape for a while will extract heat from their surroundings as they are allowed to relax, owing to a reversal of stress-induced crystallization, which is an exothermic process. Wang et al. examine the potential for solid-state cooling of twisted fibers, along with configurations such as supercoiling, for materials including natural rubber, polyethylene, and nickel-titanium fibers. The cooling is related to the change in entropy of the material as it is mechanically deformed.

Science, this issue p. 216


Higher-efficiency, lower-cost refrigeration is needed for both large- and small-scale cooling. Refrigerators using entropy changes during cycles of stretching or hydrostatic compression of a solid are possible alternatives to the vapor-compression fridges found in homes. We show that high cooling results from twist changes for twisted, coiled, or supercoiled fibers, including those of natural rubber, nickel titanium, and polyethylene fishing line. Using opposite chiralities of twist and coiling produces supercoiled natural rubber fibers and coiled fishing line fibers that cool when stretched. A demonstrated twist-based device for cooling flowing water provides high cooling energy and device efficiency. Mechanical calculations describe the axial and spring-index dependencies of twist-enhanced cooling and its origin in a phase transformation for polyethylene fibers.

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