At the G20 Summit, the New Delhi Declaration shines a spotlight on the critical role of sustainability, raising poignant questions about the readiness of our technological advances to rise to the occasion. This declaration underscores the significance of sustainability, prompting a collective introspection into whether our current technological strides are truly equipped to tackle the challenges at hand. Within this commitment, G20 leaders have vowed to achieve carbon neutrality, envisioning a world of net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, signifying a resolute aim for 2050. In their pursuit, strategies such as fostering a circular carbon economy, advancing socioeconomic development, and driving technological innovation are set to lead the charge.
In various fields, numerous technologies are progressing towards sustainability, and elastocaloric cooling shines as a solution in line with sustainable principles. It cools through mechanical deformation without needing energy-hungry compressors or harmful refrigerants.
In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the elastocaloric cooling industry, including key players and geographic innovation hubs. We will also briefly discuss some of the top-cited patents in the domain.
Elastocaloric materials-based cooling systems are an emerging technology that has gained attention in recent years. Elastocaloric materials exhibit the ability to undergo temperature changes when subjected to mechanical stress. This unique property makes them suitable for applications in heating and cooling systems.
The concept behind elastocaloric cooling systems involves cyclically applying and releasing stress to the elastocaloric material, causing it to absorb and release heat. This process enables the material to act as a solid-state refrigerant, eliminating the need for traditional vapor compression systems that rely on refrigerants.
Elastocaloric cooling systems are still in the early stages of development and commercialization; however, interest in these technologies is growing due to their potential energy efficiency and environmental benefits, and research and development efforts are underway to optimize material properties, system design, and efficiency.
China is the largest innovation hub, followed by Germany and Japan, with Daikin having the highest number of filings. In Europe, Great Britain and Germany are the most prominent innovation hubs, with Robert Bosch, Volkswagen, and Exergyn being the leading assignees in the region, focusing on heat pumps and heat exchange devices. Exergyn, a company headquartered in Dublin, is a pioneer in the commercial-scale application of shape memory alloys (SMA). The emergence of China as one of the top innovators can be attributed to universities like Xi'an Jiaotong University, which is conducting research on various shape memory alloys for refrigeration and air conditioning.
Daikin is the most prominent player in the industry, with a large patent share in the domain. Also, Daikin is collaborating with the University of Maryland to develop elastocaloric material-based cooling systems. Robert Bosch, a German engineering and technology company, holds the second most prominent position and focuses on patent filings for elastocaloric material-based heat exchange devices. Xi'an Jiaotong University, one of the top players, has consistently filed patents in recent years on solid-state refrigeration and collaborated with other universities (the University of Maryland) to develop elastocaloric cooling systems. Volkswagen is a major contender in the domain, primarily securing patents related to vehicle air-conditioning systems. Additionally, Exergyn, a clean-tech company, specializes in the commercial-scale application of shape memory alloys (SMA). The company is actively engaged in product development across various industries, such as heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, refrigeration (HVACR), automotive, and aerospace, with a strong commitment to significantly enhance global air quality and combat climate change.
The most cited patent is US10808159B2, filed by the University of Maryland, which focuses on a cooling system comprising a plurality of solid refrigerant materials capable of exhibiting a thermoelastic effect. The second most cited patent is Elastek’s US5465781A, focusing on heat transfer devices such as air conditioners, ventilators, and heat pumps that use a layer of elastomeric sheets as elastocaloric material. Daikin’s patent US10234152B2, which is the third most cited patent, discloses an air conditioning system that uses Ti/Ni/Cu alloy-based thermoelastic material. Additionally, Fraunhofer has two patents (US11454429B2 and DE102016100596A1) in the top cited patents, focusing on a heat pump that comprises a heat exchanger made from mechanocaloric materials such as elastocaloric materials.
|Patent Publication Number||Title|
|US10234152B2||Air conditioning device|
|US11454429B2||Method and apparatus for operating cyclic process-based systems|
|DE102016100596A1||Method and device for operating cycle-based systems|
Elastocaloric cooling is making significant waves across various industries. In the automotive sector, it offers the potential to enhance the efficiency of air conditioning systems, reducing energy consumption and contributing to sustainability. In aerospace and space applications, its lightweight and reliable cooling solutions are invaluable for maintaining optimal conditions in extreme environments. The food and beverage industry can benefit from precise temperature control during production and storage. Additionally, its applications span from medical devices and wearable technology to electronics, ensuring efficient cooling for equipment and personal comfort. In the realms of sports and outdoor equipment, it paves the way for enhanced performance.
The future of sustainable cooling, with a focus on elastocaloric technology, holds great promise amid the challenges of climate change and surging energy needs. Acknowledged as a pivotal element in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing global warming, elastocaloric cooling offers eco-friendly solutions. Although it comes with specific cooling capacity limitations that vary by materials and applications, dedicated researchers and engineers are actively advancing the technology, securing patents, and exploring new application domains. This collaborative effort is poised to boost cooling efficiency and introduce novel sustainable practices, supporting climate mitigation and environmental preservation.
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