Barocal Ltd, a new spin-out from a University of Cambridge lab and recent finalist in the Global Cooling Prize, is developing a revolutionary solid-state cooling technology. If successful, this radical new approach can provide a cost-effective, efficient alternative to expensive and polluting air source heat pumps used in domestic and commercial heating systems such as refrigeration.

Barocal’s technology uses new solid-state, temperature-changing materials as an alternative to refrigerant gases, which have high global warming potentials (GWP). These low cost and non-toxic organic materials – referred to as barocaloric materials – release and absorb heat at different pressures as they change volume and are more efficient than fluid refrigerants. In addition, their solid state makes them more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle at the end of a product’s lifetime.

The project hopes to eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are extremely potent greenhouse gases used in domestic and commercial heating and cooling systems.

Barocal aims to develop a zero HFC, energy efficient cooling system combined with a new method for precise temperature control, using scientific cooling baths as a demonstrator system. The objectives are to develop barocaloric cooling technology that can precisely cool and control the temperature of fluids and cooling baths used in research and industrial laboratories, and then demonstrate the replacement of gas-compression refrigerants within a small-scale setting.

Dr. Xavier Moya, who co-founded Barocal based on his research in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge said, “Heating and cooling accounts for 38% of the UK’s CO₂ emissions…..So the government’s commitment to a 78% cut in carbon emissions by 2035 means there is a growing need for new low-carbon domestic heating systems.”

Dr. Moya goes on further to explain that current alternatives such as hydrogen boilers and traditional heat pumps present large challenges both in terms of cost and practicality when applied to domestic use. The $1.7m (£1.3m) investment in Barocal was spearheaded by IP Group, which focuses on funding innovations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges such as climate change. Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialization arm of the University of Cambridge, has also contributed to the funding as part of a new sustainability initiative.

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