Project COOLMAT – Innovative materials with a reduced content of critical chemical elements for magnetic cooling technology is financed from the II contest of Applied Research Programme of the National Centre for Research and Development. The project consortium consists of: the Institute of Non- Ferrous Metals in Gliwice (project leader), Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw University of Technology, the Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków, and the University of Silesia. Researchers will examine materials which either do not contain, or contain minimal quantities of the so-called critical chemical elements, which are expensive and available mainly in China. The University of Silesia’s coordinator for the project is Prof. Jacek Szade from the Department of Solid State Physics, Institute of Physics (IP). The IP team will be involved in two tasks related predominantly with identification of electronic structure of new materials both from experimental and theoretical perspective. The electronic structure is one of the fundamental features of each and every material, as it determines such properties as electrical conductivity, magnetism, colour, etc. Identification of the electronic structure of materials which are to be used in magnetocaloric cooling devices is therefore an important part of the project. Experimental research conducted at the University as part of the project involves photoelectron spectroscopy – an advanced research technology which has been one of the principal focus points of experimental physics at the Institute of Physics. The Surface Physics Laboratory, which Prof. Szade co-founded, is equipped with excellent research apparatus, e.g. an UHV (Ultra High Vacuum) cluster tool with a photoelectron spectrometer, as well as a variety of other advanced research appliances and devices. Scientists working in the Laboratory have a bulk of experience in conducting this type of research. Another focus of the Department of Solid State Physics for the past few years has been electronic structure calculations. Properties of the new materials analysed in the COOLMAT project will be modeled thanks to calculations made by dr. Jerzy Goraus.
Application. The project involves conducting research into innovative materials which will be used in new generation cooling appliances, based on the so-called magnetocaloric effect. Cooling devices, including air-conditioners or refrigerators, will utilise a phenomenon which consists in temperature changes of some objects due to changes in the magnetic field. In comparison to currently used refrigerators, such devices offer a range of advantages in terms of their efficiency, energy saving, and environmental friendliness.