Dr. Jaka Tušek, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, and his research group are developing elastocaloric cooling and heating technology. The ground-breaking research carried out by the SUPERCOOL project under the ERC[1] Starting Grant (StG) has been rewarded with a successful application for an ERC Proof-of-the-Concept (PoC) Grant with the E-CO-HEAT project, providing support for the innovation potential of research achievements. He is the sixth ERC researcher in Slovenia to receive additional support to develop the innovative potential of his research, and the second at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana. The E-CO-HEAT project will be based on the elastocaloric device developed in the SUPERCOOL project, which was the first in the world to demonstrate sustained dynamic performance and record-breaking cooling and heating characteristics, surpassing in its specific characteristics all caloric cooling devices built to date. The ERC PoC funding will enable the technology to be further developed and, together with the business strategy and intellectual property, to be transferred into everyday use.

Figure 1: dr. Jaka Tušek: Figure 1: Photo of an elastocaloric regenerator (left) as the basic element of an elastocaloric device and the operation of the elastocaloric regenerator in heating mode, taken with a thermographic camera (right)

As part of his ERC research project SUPERCOOL, dr. Jaka Tušek and his team are investigating fundamental aspects of elastocaloric cooling and heating technology – a technology that could significantly reduce the environmental impact of existing appliances.

Refrigeration, air conditioning and heating are essential to modern society. Global demand for cooling and efficient heating has grown exponentially over the last decade, but our standard vapour compression cooling and heat extraction technology is old, relatively inefficient and still uses environmentally harmful refrigerants. Vapour compression cooling technology is therefore a major contributor to the greenhouse effect. “Ironically, the more we cool, the greater the demand for cooling. The International Energy Agency estimates that the number of air conditioners worldwide will rise from 1.6 billion today to 5.6 billion by the middle of the century. At this rate of increase in cooling demand, energy use for cooling will exceed total energy use for heating by 2060 and by the end of the century by more than 60%. Among the alternative technologies, elastocaloric cooling and heating technology, based on exploiting the elastocaloric effect during cyclic loading of shape memory materials, has shown great potential in recent years,” said dr. Tušek.

Figure 2: dr. Jaka Tušek: Figure 2: Computer model of an elastocaloric cooling/heating device (left) and image of the device during mechanical testing (right)

The ERC PoC project, acronymed E-CO-HEAT, will run for one and a half years and builds on the fundamental research on elastocaloric technology carried out in the ERC StG SUPERCOOL project, which ended at the end of last year. Based on this research, the researchers have developed a prototype elastocaloric regenerative cooling and heating device that resists fatigue and achieves 100W heating/cooling power and a 30K temperature range. In the first part of the newly awarded EUR 150,000 project, researchers will develop a prototype that will be upgraded with more efficient elastocaloric materials and then tested in real industrial conditions.

“Together with the patent protection of the most innovative solutions of the developed prototype, these improvements will form the basis for the first steps towards commercialising the elastocaloric technology and bringing it closer to the market,” commented dr. Jaka Tušek.


[1] ERC – European Research Council

Photo: Pixabay

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