Barocaloric materials for zero-carbon heat pumps

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics


Heating and cooling are essential to our lives. We rely on them for comfort in our homes and vehicles, and businesses need heating and cooling for productive workplaces and industrial processes. Taken together, space and process heating and cooling represent the biggest contribution to the UK's energy consumption, and the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Heating is primarily provided from burning natural gas, whereas cooling is primarily provided from compressing volatile fluorinated gases. However, these conventional technologies are neither efficient, not friendly to the environment.
Barocaloric effects are reversible thermal changes that occur in mechanically responsive solids when subjected to changes in pressure. These effects are analogous to the pressure-induced thermal changes in gases that are exploited in current heat pumps, but they promise higher energy efficiencies and obviate the need for harmful greenhouse gases.

We aim at developing an energy-efficient barocaloric heat pump based on novel barocaloric hybrid composite materials that combine the best properties of organic barocaloric materials, namely extremely large pressure-driven thermal changes, and the best of inorganic barocaloric materials, namely high thermal conductivity and low hysteresis.

A technological transformation of this magnitude will require the development of bespoke economic and policy strategies for its successful deployment. Therefore, we aim at developing a fully integrated bespoke economic and policy strategy that will support the innovation of BC heat pumps through to commercialisation.

The achievement of heat pumps that operate using barocaloric materials instead of gases will permit decarbonising heating and cooling, provide energy independence, and enable the UK to become the world leader on this emerging technology.


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