Cooling and refrigerating is taxing the environment and accounts for close to one-fifth of the world's energy budget.
Today these techniques rely largely on vapor compression, which while cheap, has limited efficiency and uses refrigerants that are greenhouse gases.
New cooling material doesn't fatigue
Aiming to come up with an alternative that is environmentally friendly, researchers at the American Association For The Advancement of Science were able to develop new cooling materials thanks to a 3D printer.
Researcher Huilong Hou and a team of colleagues created a high-performance solid-state elastocaloric cooling material by synthesizing a nickel-titanium-based elastocaloric metal. Elastocalorics is a material that when under stress transfers heat. The material tends to fatigue after repeated cycles of heat pumping. Their work was published in the journal Science.
The scientists used laser directed-energy deposition (L-DED), which is a type of 3D printing, to make the material. Through their work, they found the fusion of a nickel-rich blend of nickel and titanium powders gives them the structure that improved the properties of the material.
The material is now exceptionally fatigue resistant, with it standing up to more than one million elastocaloric heat-pumping cycles, the researchers said in a press release highlighting the results of their work.
3D printing ushering all sorts of advancements
New elastocaloric matierals isn't the only thing scientitsts are developing with 3D printers. They are printing out organs and concrete bridges. Earlier this fall, Vertico, the Netherlands-based 3D printing company along with the University of Ghent joined forced to print a concrete bridge from a 3D printer. The new technique builds concrete structures by depositing a specially designed concrete mixture layer by layer. According to Vertico, this process eliminates the need for expensive molds and more importantly provides more form freedom to structures.
Meanwhile BIOLIFE4D, the biotech company in Chicago recently announced it has successfully demonstrated the ability to 3D bioprint a mini human heart. The mini heart was printed with the structure of a full-sized heart, including four internal chambers. It replicates partial functions of a full-sized heart which the researchers said was the closet anyone has gotten to producing a functioning heart via 3D bioprinting.