Current cooling systems in fridges, freezers, shop display counters and air conditioning, etc., are mainly based on gas compression technology. The coolant is pressed together with a compressor and is significantly warmer than the surrounding temperature. The excess heat is discharged into the outside environment via refrigeration coils and the coolant is then released anew. This causes the temperature to drop well below the initial value. To this day, gas compression appliances use fluorinated gas as a coolant. They will no longer be allowed to be used in the EU from 2030 onward at the latest. Newer systems use natural gases that are either explosive, highly flammable or toxic. Aside from that, their aggregates are often noisy and maintenance-intensive.
Magnotherm is offering an alternative. The cooling systems being developed there merely require a solid structure and water for cooling purposes. These systems are therefore safe, efficient and quiet. With technology that was originally developed at Technical University Darmstadt in Germany, the company is the first supplier in the world to be able to install heat exchangers. These are in the form of magnetocaloric cooling units that are cost-efficient and can be configured in various sizes for a variety of applications. The initial markets are refrigerated transportation and refrigerated displays for supermarkets.
Timur Sirman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Magnotherm on the challenges along the way:
What was the motivation for setting up Magnotherm?
Magnetic refrigeration has the potential to usher in a new era for cooling that will make refrigeration much more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. So far, stable and available magnetocaloric materials have failed to make this technology commercially viable. In his dissertation, Max Fries saw a way to innovate refrigeration magnetically and subsequently launched a start-up together with his co-founders.
Why is Magnotherm so important?
No one is waiting around for new technologies, no matter how good they are. It always takes someone to promote the technology and launch it on the market. This is our mission.
What is the technology behind Magnotherm?
The technology is based on the magnetocaloric effect, whereby special metals become hot and cold as a result of magnetization and demagnetization. By using water, heat and cold can be drawn from the metal and then harnessed.
What makes Magnotherm so different from the competition?
Unlike our competitors, we integrate materials science with engineering science. This means that we don’t just make magnetic cooling appliances. Due to our background and expertise, we are able to build them in such a way that the magnetocaloric materials are used optimally.
What was the biggest obstacle during the process of setting up the company?
Apart from the bureaucracy, the biggest obstacle was securing proper funding for the project. Because something like that doesn’t happen overnight.
Was there a point when Magnotherm almost didn’t get off the ground?
Yes, we were in the process of writing a proposal for an EXIST research transfer grant from the BMWi. After we had received feedback on our progress, we realized that we still had a lot to do. But instead of slinking off, we worked through the night until early in the morning and came up with the basic framework for our concept.
What was the most rewarding occasion?
When we drank the first magnetically cooled beer from our prototype!
What does the future hold for Magnotherm?
Our vision is to be the world’s first supplier of magnetic cooling systems and to introduce the enormous potential of this technology to the market.
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