Heat pumps based on the vapor compression cycle account for a significant portion of energy use around the world. However, growing demands for energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies have created a need for new space conditioning approaches. Novel systems which use elastocaloric material have shown potential to replace traditional vapor compression due to high energy efficiency and use of environmentally friendly, solid-state refrigerants.
The solid-state refrigerants exhibit the elastocaloric effect, a phenomenon that occurs when metal alloys experience stress-induced reversible phase transformations resulting in latent heat release or absorption. Prototypes built in the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering have utilized the active elastocaloric regeneration (AER) operating method to develop high temperature gradients between the ends of a regenerative heat exchanger made of tubular elastocaloric material.
Though this schema significantly increases the temperature span developed by elastocaloric cooling devices, the current heat pump design leads to temperature degradation as a result of conduction along the length of the tubes in the regenerator. The novel regenerator concept presented in this work mitigates that issue by using short, thermally insulated tubes layers which also enables fluid flow over external surface areas of the material.