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Nature. 2004 Jun 24;429(6994):853-7.

Reduction of hysteresis losses in the magnetic refrigerant Gd5Ge2Si2 by the addition of iron.

Author information

  • 1Magnetic Materials Group, NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, MS-8552, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, USA. virgil12@nist.gov

Erratum in

  • Nature. 2004 Aug 12;430(7001):810.
  • Nature. 2005 May 26;435(7041):528.

Abstract

The magnetocaloric effect is the change in temperature of a material as a result of the alignment of its magnetic spins that occurs on exposure to an external magnetic field. The phenomenon forms the basis for magnetic refrigeration, a concept purported to be more efficient and environmentally friendly than conventional refrigeration systems. In 1997, a 'giant' magnetocaloric effect, between 270 K and 300 K, was reported in Gd5Ge2Si2, demonstrating its potential as a near-room-temperature magnetic refrigerant. However, large hysteretic losses (which make magnetic refrigeration less efficient) occur in the same temperature range. Here we report the reduction (by more than 90 per cent) of these hysteretic losses by alloying the compound with a small amount of iron. This has the additional benefit of shifting the magnetic entropy change peak (a measure of the refrigerator's optimal operating temperature) from 275 K to 305 K, and broadening its width. Although the addition of iron does not significantly affect the refrigerant capacity of the material, a greater net capacity is obtained for the iron-containing alloy when the hysteresis losses are accounted for. The iron-containing alloy is thus a much-improved magnetic refrigerant for near-room-temperature applications.

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