Research into magneto-caloric materials may help make cooling systems more efficient and quieter. A four-year partnership between the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and BASF, Florham Park, N.J., hopes to develop materials with improved properties for large-scale production.

Magneto-caloric materials heat up in a magnetic field and cool down again when removed from it. Therefore, a heat pump based on magneto-caloric materials may be an alternative for traditional cooling cycles and reduce energy consumption, BASF notes.

"Theoretical considerations reveal an energy savings potential of up to 50 percent," says Thomas Weber, managing director of BASF Future Business GmbH. "An added benefit is that a system based on a magnetic cooling cycle can be relatively small. Such systems are ideal for a variety of applications ranging from the cooling of electronic components to refrigerators and air conditioners.” Because the technology does not use gaseous refrigerants, it is quieter and causes fewer vibrations than compressor-type refrigerators, BASF says.