Haier’s Newest Prototype Is the Future of Refrigeration

Magnets could make your next fridge quieter and more efficient.

Credit: / Johnny Yu

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Haier’s Magnetic Cooler wine fridge didn’t exactly turn heads at CES 2015, but it’s one of the biggest things to happen to the cooling industry in decades. The prototype is slated to be the first consumer fridge to use magnetic refrigeration technology.

This fridge will not use traditional compressors. It releases no hydrofluorocarbons (which contribute to global warming). And it runs more quietly and more efficiently than current fridges.

So how does it work? All of those benefits come courtesy of the magnetocaloric effect. Certain materials heat up in the presence of a magnetic field and cool down outside of it. This fridge uses a core made of magnetocaloric material that switches between hot and cold states. A water-based fluid medium is pumped through the material and a heat exchanger, drawing heat from the inside of the fridge and sending it outside.

BASF, the company that makes the magnetocaloric material, explains the process in this video:

What are the benefits of compressor-free cooling? Astronautics, the company that manufactures the pump mechanism and magnetocaloric core found in this Haier fridge, told us that magnetic cooling uses up to 35% less power than traditional compressors, according to test data gathered during development. More importantly, it’s far quieter than a compressor—the cooling mechanism is just a magnet moving back and forth.

The idea of magnetic cooling isn’t new, and the magnetocaloric effect was first observed by physicists almost a century ago. But this is the first attempt by a manufacturer to mass-produce this technology in a consumer product. If this Haier performs at least as well at keeping food cold as the fridges of today, we could see this becoming the norm in fridges of tomorrow.

That said, the fridge is still in development, so there is neither a release date nor a price. We’ll just have to wait and see.