Refrigeration accounts for 17% of the global electric consumption.

An alternative to standard gas compression refrigeration is a system based on the magnetocaloric effect which consumes only about half as much power. The effect has been known since 1917 but, until now, has only been demonstrated in laboratories and in some ultra-low temperature cryogenic applications. Magnetic fridges have been nowhere near as effective as conventional fridges and too bulky for common use.

Now, a French company, Cooltech Applications, has released a commercial magnetic refrigerator which maintains a temperature of 2 to 5°C and can be used in a medical refrigerator, a wine cellar, a professional refrigerator or a plug-in display case.

The magnetocaloric effect is a change in the temperature of a material by exposing it to a magnetic field. Magnetocaloric materials can be put through a cycle of magnetization and demagnetization, a water coolant pumped through them and heat transferred from the interior of the fridge to the outside air.

Cooltech Applications says that the lack of a gas compression system means the fridge consumes only half the energy of a standard fridge, produces less noise and vibration, requires less maintenance and involves no potentially polluting refrigerant gases.