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Quality Digest


Exergyn Improves Solid-State Refrigerant Technology

Pioneers new shape-memory alloys

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2023 - 11:01

(Exergyn: Dublin) -- With global surface temperatures soaring past highs not seen for millennia, the need for climate-friendly cooling has never been greater. Increasingly frequent events directly linked to climate change are drawing attention to the damaging effects of traditional refrigerant gases in heating, cooling, air conditioning, and refrigeration products. Exergyn, a leading technology firm, is on track to mitigate these issues by deploying its unique solid-state cooling technology based on shape-memory alloys (SMAs). 

Backed by Mercuria, one of the world’s largest integrated energy and commodities groups, and Lacerta, a fund investing in companies dedicated to solving key issues related to the transition, Exergyn’s SMA solid-state cores are zero global warming potential (GWP), nontoxic, nonflammable, cannot leak, and open up new possibilities for leaps forward in energy efficiency and clean cooling. A sustainable product for a circular economy, the cores are so durable they can outlast the equipment in which they are used and be reused in new equipment. 

Exergyn solid-state refrigerant technology

“We are now producing SMA material with performance factors beyond anything that has been achieved before in the SMA domain,” says Exergyn co-founder and CEO Kevin O’Toole.

A typical coefficient of performance (COP) for shape-memory alloys, which measures useful heat output relative to mechanical work input, usually falls within the high single digits in steady-state operation. However, Exergyn has created a material with an impressive COP of 20-25 (with the potential to exceed 30 in specific conditions), all while maintaining material stability across a temperature range as high as 60°C (140°F) for a single blend. This major advancement brings Exergyn one big step closer in bringing SMA as a viable alternative to replace hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are among the world’s most potent greenhouse gases, thousands of times more powerful in warming the planet than carbon dioxide.

Exergyn’s latest prototypes are undergoing testing in the lab as its team continues to iterate next-generation advances, seeking to shrink its footprint and open additional markets for exploration, encompassing many heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) product categories and other industrial sectors that would benefit from solid-state cooling technologies.

“As such, we are gaining significant interest from end users and manufacturers across a wide range of markets, both where traditional heating and cooling technologies will be rendered obsolete, but also in entirely new domains,” O’Toole says.

Climate-friendly cooling

Air conditioning and refrigeration underpin modern life—sheltering homes and businesses from the summer heat and preventing food and medicines from spoiling in the sun. A generation ago, air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers invested in innovation to replace the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants destroying the stratospheric ozone layer that shields Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Now the ozone layer is on a path to recovery, and air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers are investing yet again in innovation—this time, to replace hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants.

Refrigerant regulation

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adopted in 2016, kick-started the race to replace HFCs by requiring increasingly stringent domestic laws and regulations around the world to restrict both the upstream supply and downstream use of HFCs with high GWP. Replacing HFCs can prevent up to 0.5°C (33°F) of projected warming by 2100, according to a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

By 2025, most HFCs will be prohibited in new air conditioners and refrigerators in Europe, the United States, and other developed markets. By 2030, the supply of new HFCs will be a fraction of what it is today. By the mid-2030s, high GWP HFCs will all be gone from developed countries, with developing countries following soon after.

But many of today’s substitute refrigerants, although lower in GWP, are toxic and flammable and, as such, raise serious health and safety risks. They also leak from equipment and require end-of-life recovery, imposing costly maintenance burdens on home and business owners. And they create technical barriers for manufacturers seeking to improve the energy efficiency of their equipment, which saves customers money and protects the climate by reducing energy use.

“Exergyn’s solid-state refrigerant technology is the kind of breakthrough the Kigali Amendment was intended to create,” O’Toole says. “We can help mitigate the causes of climate change by replacing HFCs and many less-than-ideal substitutes, and we can help protect people from the ravages of a rapidly warming world.”

Technology transitions

Exergyn’s technology is outside the scope of the fast-growing web of laws and regulations facing manufacturers rushing to provide climate-friendly cooling solutions for a rapidly warming world.

As more and more governments clamp down on HFC production and use, and as existing substitutes prove unwieldy and risk provoking further regulation on health and safety grounds, Exergyn is ready to represent the future of air conditioning and refrigeration.

“We were pleased to host a delegation of senior government officials and leading climate scientists from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) in March 2023 at our facility in Dublin to show them what saving the climate looks like up close,” O’Toole says. “We’re now headed to the Montreal Protocol meetings in October in Nairobi, Kenya, to respond to the growing interest among regulators and technical experts in how Exergyn’s solid-state refrigerant technology can accelerate the implementation of the Kigali Amendment and the global transition from HFCs it is driving.”


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