Electrocaloric polymer could provide cooling on demand

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A novel blend of ferroelectric polymers developed by a team led by Pennsylvania State University could be used to provide on demand cooling for chips and small scale systems.

These so called electrocaloric materials have been investigated previously but, in order to operate correctly, an external field is required, which consumes energy and heats the material. However, the latest polymer blend can hold absorbed heat even after the external field has been switched off.

In a typical electrocaloric material, heating and cooling takes places when the field is changing in response to a full electric pulse. But the team’s anomalous electrocaloric material has a cooling effect when the field is turned on, but no subsequent heating when the field is turned off, other than a minuscule amount of heating generated in the dielectric material by the electric field.

“The advantage of the electrocaloric material is its very high efficiency, compared with other solid state coolers, such as the thermoelectric cooler,” said researcher Xiaoshi Qian.

“We would like to improve the electrocaloric materials in the future so that cooling generated upon an electric pulse can be much larger,” Qian continued. “This study is the first step toward that direction.”