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Scientists Test New Energy Efficient Cooling Method Using Thermodynamic Trickery

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Physicists from the University of Zurich have created a device that could cool down a hot object without requiring the consumption of energy.

Theoretically, the team claimed that the surprisingly simple device can turn boiling water into ice without the use of an external power supply.

Moreover, the researchers said the process that enables cooling without energy consumption does not contradict the fundamental laws of physics.

From Hot To Room Temperature

The second law of thermodynamics states that heat can move from a warmer object to a cooler object, not the other way around. For example, a teapot full of boiling water placed on a kitchen table will gradually cool down, but it will not be any colder than the temperature of the kitchen table.

However, in their experiment, the researchers were able to cool down a piece of copper, which was heated to 100 degrees Celsius, to below room temperature. They did not use any external power to achieve this.

Instead, the team employed an element more typically seen in motel room minibars: the Peltier element. Peltier elements have components that are able to transform electrical currents into differences in temperature, creating a heat current that flows from hot to cold and vice versa.

They were able to create a thermal oscillating circuit that makes heat temporarily flow from a colder object to a warmer object, further dropping the temperature of the colder object. The team reported that the process cooled down the nine-gram piece of copper that was heated to a hundred degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius below the room temperature.

Mass Cooling Without The Use Of An External Power

While the experiment demonstrated only a 2-degree Celsius difference compared to the ambient temperature, the researchers believe that the process could allow cooling to up to -47 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved with a perfect Peltier element, which has not been invented yet.

"With this very simple technology, large amounts of hot solid, liquid or gaseous materials could be cooled to well below room temperature without any energy consumption," said Professor Andreas Schilling from the University of Zurich.

The researchers admitted that large-scale application is still not possible since the ideal Peltier element does not exist. Instead, the team believes that their study is a proof-of-principle that challenges the traditional understanding of how heat flows.

The researchers described their experiment in a paper published by Science Advances.

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