Scientists from the United Kingdom and Spain have developed a way to replace the organic gases—hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrocarbons (HCs)—used in most conventional refrigerators. These gases are toxic and flammable, and when they leak into the air, they also contribute to global warming.
“Refrigerators and air conditioners based on HFCs and HCs are also relatively inefficient,” said lead researcher Xavier Moya, Royal Society research fellow in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “That’s important because refrigeration and air conditioning currently devour a fifth of the energy produced worldwide, and demand for cooling is only going up.”
To solve these problems, materials scientists around the world have sought alternative solid refrigerants. When put under pressure, plastic crystals of neopentylglycol (NPG) yield huge cooling effects—enough that they are competitive with conventional coolants. In addition, the material is inexpensive, widely available, and functions at close to room temperature. Details are published in the journal Nature Communications.
In the study, Moya and collaborators from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Universitat de Barcelona describe the enormous thermal changes under pressure achieved with plastic crystals. Conventional cooling technologies rely on the thermal changes that occur when a compressed fluid expands. Most cooling devices work by compressing and expanding fluids such as HFCs and HCs. As the fluid expands, it decreases in temperature, cooling its surroundings.
With solids, cooling is achieved by changing the material’s microscopic structure. This change can be achieved by applying a magnetic field, an electric field, or through mechanic force. NPG’s molecules, composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, are nearly spherical and interact with each other only weakly. These loose bonds in its microscopic structure permit the molecules to rotate relatively freely.
The word “plastic” in “plastic crystals” refers not to its chemical composition but rather to its malleability. Plastic crystals lie at the boundary between solids and liquids.
In the future, solid-state refrigeration could lead to more compact and flexible devices compared to traditional ones. Moya is now working with Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialization arm of the University of Cambridge, to bring this technology to market.
The dangers of a high-sodium diet have been well documented, but a new technology devised by scientists from Washington State University could help reduce sodium in processed foods while retaining taste and texture.
A study found that people who drank beverages that contained the low-calorie sweetener sucralose did experience metabolic problems and issues with neural responses but only when the beverage was formulated with both sucralose and a tasteless sugar (maltodextrin).
British scientists have gained new insights into the compound in plants that plays a vital role in the natural process through which plants grow.
In the food industry, botulinum toxin is associated with a severe form of food poisoning caused by improperly preserved food. Researchers have developed a technology that addresses the role of botulinum toxin in both food and cosmetic applications.
A look at consumers’ top food safety concerns in the wake of COVID-19.
Researchers at Alabama A&M, IIT, UGA, and other colleges and universities are modifying their research and teaching methods to conform to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A round-up of equipment and instrumentation to address food safety and quality issues.
Public investment in support of basic and applied research is falling short. IFT has identified research gaps and called for a paradigm shift to drive innovation and value creation, feed the talent pipeline, and maintain global competitiveness.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola Co. said it believes the biggest challenges of the pandemic are behind it, despite the current surge in coronavirus cases in many parts of the United States.
According to the Associated Press, Amazon has debuted a new smart shopping cart called the Dash Cart.
Oatly, maker of oatmilk, has received $200 million in equity led by Blackstone Growth.
Diageo, makers of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, has created a 100% plastic-free and paper-based spirits bottle, made entirely from sustainably sourced wood.
Nespresso has announced a CHF 160 million (approximately $170.5 million) investment to expand its Romont production center in Switzerland to meet increasing consumer demand for its premium coffees and support international development in the coming years.