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Nature. 2019 Mar;567(7749):506-510. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1042-5. Epub 2019 Mar 27.

Colossal barocaloric effects in plastic crystals.

Author information

Shenyang National Laboratory (SYNL) for Materials Science, Institute of Metal Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, China.
J-PARC Center, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Tokai, Japan.
Division of Chemical Engineering, Department of Materials Engineering Science, Graduate School of Engineering Science, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.
Hunan Key Laboratory of Super Microstructure and Ultrafast Process, School of Physics and Electronics, Central South University, Changsha, China.
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering Program, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.
Synchrotron X-ray Group, Research Center for Advanced Measurement and Characterization, National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Sayo, Japan.
SPring-8, Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute, Sayo, Japan.
Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced Research, Beijing, China.
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), Lucas Heights, New South Wales, Australia.
National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center, Hsinchu, Taiwan.
Shenyang National Laboratory (SYNL) for Materials Science, Institute of Metal Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, China.
School of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China.
School of Mechanical and Power Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.


Refrigeration is of vital importance for modern society-for example, for food storage and air conditioning-and 25 to 30 per cent of the world's electricity is consumed for refrigeration1. Current refrigeration technology mostly involves the conventional vapour compression cycle, but the materials used in this technology are of growing environmental concern because of their large global warming potential2. As a promising alternative, refrigeration technologies based on solid-state caloric effects have been attracting attention in recent decades3-5. However, their application is restricted by the limited performance of current caloric materials, owing to small isothermal entropy changes and large driving magnetic fields. Here we report colossal barocaloric effects (CBCEs) (barocaloric effects are cooling effects of pressure-induced phase transitions) in a class of disordered solids called plastic crystals. The obtained entropy changes in a representative plastic crystal, neopentylglycol, are about 389 joules per kilogram per kelvin near room temperature. Pressure-dependent neutron scattering measurements reveal that CBCEs in plastic crystals can be attributed to the combination of extensive molecular orientational disorder, giant compressibility and highly anharmonic lattice dynamics of these materials. Our study establishes the microscopic mechanism of CBCEs in plastic crystals and paves the way to next-generation solid-state refrigeration technologies.


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