When rubbers bands are twisted and untwisted, it produces a cooling effect. This is called the “elastocaloric” effect, and it has been suggested that it can be used in a very relevant context today.
How will it work in a fridge?
- Researchers have found that the elastocaloric effect, if harnessed, may be able to do away with the need of fluid refrigerants used in fridges and air-conditioners. These fluids are susceptible to leakages, and can contribute to global warming.
- In the elastocaloric effect, the transfer of heat works much the same way as when fluid refrigerants are compressed and expanded. When a rubber band is stretched, it absorbs heat from its environment, and when it is released, it gradually cools down.
- In order to figure out how the twisting mechanism might be able to enable a fridge, the researchers compared the cooling power of rubber fibres, nylon and polyethylene fishing lines and nickel-titanium wires. They observed high cooling from twist changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibres.
- They reported that the level of efficiency of the heat exchange in rubber bands “is comparable to that of standard refrigerants and twice as high as stretching the same materials without twisting”.
- The findings may lead to the development of greener, higher-efficiency and low-cost cooling technology.