March 29, 2012


'Nanorefrigerator' is cooled using sunlight (Tushna Commissariat, Mar 29, 2012, Physics World))

Researchers in Belgium have drawn up plans for an electronic "nanorefrigerator" device that is driven by high-energy photons, and so could potentially be directly powered by the Sun. The device consists of two electrodes, one of which is cooled by replacing hot electrons with cool ones via photon absorption. While this is definitely not the first system that applies the "cooling by heating" concept, it is the first that can be applied for a nanosized device, with no moving parts or electrical input, allowing a lower temperature to be achieved at the nanoscale.

Cooling with heat is not a new idea - the simplest description of the concept would be "sweating" or more scientifically evaporative cooling. While physicists have been using coherent laser light to cool gasses since the 1980s, a theoretical method for cooling a quantum system with noncoherent light, by using an "optomechanical device", was proposed only last year.

What Bart Cleuren and colleagues at Hasselt University, Belgium, have proposed is a rather simple solid-state device that would potentially use solar energy directly to cool. While that might not sound immediately impressive - many houses that run on solar energy have a refridgerator - what is new about this device is that it does not first convert solar energy into electricity. Rather, the device bypasses the need to generate another form of energy - which usually results in some amount of energy loss.

Posted by at March 29, 2012 8:52 PM

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