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CaloriCool launches refrigeration tech research with first meeting

At a launch meeting held last week at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, the scientists and engineers of CaloriCoolTM, a materials research consortium, began making the to-do list for an ambitious goal: improving the energy-efficiency of refrigeration technology by 20 to 30 percent within a decade through the use of caloric materials for cooling. CaloriCoolTM is led by the Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University, and sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through its Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Frustrated Material Refuses Orderly Arrangements

Unlike most materials, a newly discovered oxide of lead, copper, and tellurium does not show an orderly arrangement of electron spins near the temperature of “absolute zero” Kelvin (-460 °F).  Approaching “absolute zero”, thermal vibrations slow and typically atoms, and their electron spins, find orderly arrangements resulting in long-range symmetry. In this material the electron spins fail to find an ordered state and thus are frustrated.  Their spins (called quantum spins) mimic water, which lacks any long-range order, and hence these odd materials are called quantum spin liquids.

Waste stream to energy source: What if America’s next big fuel source is its trash?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the United States produced 254 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2013. And though 87 million tons of that material from the landfill was diverted through recycling and composting, what if the nation could do better? What if landfills could become local sources of clean energy production? Better yet, what if all waste streams, like those from agricultural, livestock, and food production, could essentially become fuel refineries at a local level?

A collaboration of National Laboratory researchers wants to create energy conversion technologies designed to mine the carbon out of waste processes that traditionally have been an environmental burden to the planet and a disposal headache for humans. (3/24/16)


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