You know the drill: the temperature shoots up, the central air-conditioning goes on full-blast, and your electric bill climbs into the stratosphere. A new “smart” metal developed by researchers at the University of Maryland could change all that by increasing the efficiency and reducing the emissions of air-conditioning and refrigeration systems by up to 175%.

The “thermally elastic” alloy, which is supported by a $500,000 grant from the US Department of Energy, works like a traditional compressor-based system, but uses far less energy. The University of Maryland team explains, “The approach is expected to increase cooling efficiency 175 percent, reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 250 million metric tons per year, and replace liquid refrigerants that can cause environmental degradation in their own right.”

There is still plenty of work to be done before smart metals can be deployed. Prototype testing begins soon, and after that, there is a long road to commercial production. But considering that air-conditioning systems represent the largest portion of home electric bills during the summer, the sooner this technology is released, the better.

+ University of Maryland