A tiny solid-state refrigerator that employs quantum physics in micro- and nanostructures to cool larger objects to extremely low temperatures has been demonstrated by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to the researchers, the device’s cooling power is equivalent to that of a window-mounted air conditioner successfully cooling a building similar in size to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“It’s one of the most flabbergasting results I’ve seen,” project leader Joel Ullom said. “We used quantum mechanics in a nanostructure to cool a block of copper. The copper is about [one] million times heavier than the refrigerating elements. This is a rare example of a nano- or microelectromechanical machine that can manipulate the macroscopic world.”
With further testing and development, the new device may offer a “compact, convenient means” of cooling advanced sensors “below standard cryogenic temperatures” typically achieved through the use of liquid helium, which could enhance their performance in quantum information systems and telescope cameras. Researchers hope to boost the cooling ability of the prototype refrigerator further by building a stiffer support structure and adding additional “higher-efficiency superconducting junctions.”
For more information, visit the National Institute of Standards and Technology.