Researcher Tušek wins additional ERC funds for elastocaloric technology research

Ljubljana, 5 March - Jaka Tušek, a researcher at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, has received EUR 150,000 in additional ECR funds to upgrade his research of elastocaloric cooling and heating technology, a breakthrough technology that could help fight the greenhouse effect, and to transfer it into everyday use.

Tušek developed the technology part of his first ERC project, SUPERCOOL, for which he received EUR 1.4 million for researchers at the start of their careers.

The new project, E-CO-HEAT, is based on the basic research of elastocaloric technology from SUPERCOOL, which expired at the end of 2023, the faculty said on Tuesday.

Elastocaloric technology could replace vapour-compression technology, which is old and relatively ineffective and "one of the main causes of the greenhouse effect".

As part of SUPERCOOL (Superelastic Porous Structures for Efficient Elastocaloric Cooling), Tušek's team developed a prototype of an elastocaloric regenerator for cooling and heating.

It was "the first device in the world to demonstrate sustained dynamic performance and record-breaking cooling and heating characteristics", the faculty said.

The device's specific properties surpassed all caloric cooling devices built so far. "It is fatigue-resistant and achieves 100 watt of heating/cooling power and a 30 kelvin temperature range."

As part of the new project, which will last a year and a half, the researchers will first develop a prototype upgraded with more efficient elastocaloric materials and then test it in real industrial conditions.

"Together with patent protection for the most innovative solutions of the developed prototype, these improvements will form the basis for the first steps towards commercialising elastocaloric technology and bringing it closer to the market," Tušek was quoted as saying.

He also highlighted the growing need for cooling worldwide - given the International Energy Agency estimate, the number of AC devices will rise from 1.6 billion today to 5.6 billion by mid-century. At this rate, energy use for cooling will exceed total energy use for heating in 2060, while exceeding it by over 60% by the end of the century.

Tušek has become the sixth lead researcher of an ERC-funded project in Slovenia who has received additional funds for his project, and the second at his faculty.