Feeds

'Quantum fridge' gets close to absolute zero

But will it cool a beer?

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.