Ushering in a new era for cooling technology: Our investment in MAGNOTHERM
Cooling isn’t just a luxury — it’s essential for our daily lives and the global economy. From keeping our food fresh to creating comfortable environments in our homes and workplaces, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Moreover, manufacturing, research, and data centers rely heavily on precise cooling conditions, making the industry a critical part of technological advancement. The steadily increasing demand for cooling systems is driven by higher global temperatures — that it perpetuates — and an ever growing middle-class that can now afford cooling. The share of fridges in Chinese households increased from 7% to 95% between 1995 and 2007 to name just one example. The life we live without cooling is unimaginable.
What is less known though is the massive impact cooling has on our planet and particularly our climate. Around 10% of global emissions can be attributed to cooling. This roughly equals the emissions of the USA, and comprises 5 times the total emissions of the global aviation industry. Current cooling technology has been around for 100 years: vapor-compression refrigeration that uses gases, so-called refrigerants to cool. It comes with two major problems, as well as myriad safety issues. First, these systems are highly energy inefficient. Global cooling consumes 1.800 TWh of energy annually which equals 36 times the annual energy consumption of New York City. By 2060, cooling is expected to overtake the energy consumption of heating. Second, the refrigerants used, mostly HFC gases, have a much higher global warming potential and are up to 4,000 times more potent than CO2 (meaning 1t of emissions of such a gas contributes 4,000 times more to climate change than a 1t of CO2 emissions). Through leakage, these refrigerants can accumulate in the atmosphere. Such accumulation will add an additional 27% to the predicted global temperature rise by 2050, which corresponds to a 0.4 degree Celsius increase. So far all other possible refrigerants have been discarded on the basis of toxicity, ozone depletion, flammability or other problems.
The solution: Magnetocaloric cooling
Fortunately, there’s a solution on the horizon: magnetocaloric cooling. This innovative technology uses magnetic fields to cool materials without the need for harmful refrigerants, making it not only more environmentally friendly but also much more energy efficient. Compared to gas-based cooling, it is fully environmentally friendly (no need for refrigerant gases!), completely safe and much more energy efficient. Magnetocaloric cooling systems could reach a coefficient of performance — the main KPI for cooling performance representing the energy needed in relation to cooling output — of 8 or 9 compared to 2 or 3 achieved by the majority of present-day cooling systems. Now is the time to fully commit to commercializing magnetocaloric cooling. The urgency stems from the pressing need to address energy emissions and costs, as well as recent regulatory changes. The excessive energy consumption of cooling systems presents sustainability and economic challenges across industries, particularly with energy prices skyrocketing. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, over 50% of the energy consumption can be attributed to cooling alone. Furthermore, the Kigali Amendment, a global regulation passed in 2019, mandates the phasing out of HFC gases by 2047 due to their high global warming potential.
Magnetocaloric cooling is not only a valuable solution for current cooling needs but it also has the potential to play a pivotal role in the transition towards a cleaner future. In the transportation of hydrogen, for example, cooling is a critical process that is both energy-intensive and expensive. The adoption of magnetic cooling technology could lead to a 30–40% increase in energy efficiency, making it a viable and economically feasible option.
And now, thanks to the work of the brilliant team at MAGNOTHERM, this technology is becoming a reality. Their special refinement and coating processes have made magnetocaloric materials more reliable, efficient, and cost-effective, enabling them to offer cooling systems for commercial fridges to supermarkets that are 40% more energy efficient than traditional fridges and free of any global warming refrigerants. The potential energy savings are enormous — operationalizing just 10,000 of these fridges could power 25,000 German households for a year, significantly decreasing energy costs.