Feeds

'Quantum fridge' gets close to absolute zero

But will it cool a beer?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NIST scientists have demonstrated a solid state refrigerator that sucks energy out of objects using a trick of quantum physics in which hot electrons tunnel through a one-way junction, carrying heat with them.

It's been a long project: NIST first demonstrated the use of NIS (normal metal / insulator / superconductor) junctions for cooling back in 2005. However, it's taken this long to scale the device up from the micron scale into the device shown below:

NIST's superconducting fridge

NIST's quantum refrigerator

In this image, the “quantum fridge” is on the green circuit board, and it cooled the copper block down to cryogenic temperatures. In the demonstration, they used 700 pW of cooling power to cool the 1.9 cm3 block from 290 mK (milli-Kelvin) to 256 mK. The researchers' next target is to achieve base temperatures of 100 mK.

The copper block, according to project leader Joel Ullom, is around a million times the mass of the refrigerating elements.

The 48 cooling elements are sandwiches of normal metal separated from a superconductor by an insulator. When a voltage is applied across the sandwich, the hottest electrons tunnel across the insulator into the superconductor. As they do make the journey, the electrons carry heat and vibrational energy with them.

So where's the quantum physics in that, you might ask. The trick is this: to select the properties of the materials so that the NIS junction is energy-selective: only electrons with the right quanta of energy are permitted to cross the insulator into the superconductor.

As the researchers note in the abstract to their paper in Applied Physics Letters, “previous devices using this cooling principle fell short of general-purpose refrigerators since they could not be coupled to arbitrary payloads.”

And to answer the question in the sub-head, yes, the device probably could cool your beer. It might cheaper and more convenient, however, to buy yourself a beer fridge. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.