Penn State researchers are investigating electrically induced heat effects of some ferroelectric polymers. "This is the first step in the development of an electric field refrigeration unit," says Qiming Zhang, professor of electrical engineering. "For the future, we can envision a flat panel refrigerator. No more coils, no more compressors, just solid polymer with appropriate heat exchangers."

Conventional cooling systems rely on the properties of gases to cool, and most systems use the change in density of gases at changing pressures to cool. The coolants commonly used can be harmful to people and the environment. The researchers looked at ferroelectric polymers that exhibit temperature changes at room temperature under an electrical field, and reported a change in temperature of about 22.6 degrees F. The flexible polymers can be used for heating and cooling.

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