You may soon be able to reach into the fridge without feeling guilty that you are contributing to greenhouse gases, if a new way to power fridges is adopted.
A solid substance known as plastic crystals offers a greener alternatives to the gases currently used in fridges and air conditioning, experts say.
Fridges cool by compressing gas, forcing it between a liquid and gaseous state – a reaction that takes in heat and gives out cold.
The new system achieves the same feat with the same pressure being applied to the crystals.
This changes their molecular structure, going from a disordered state to an ordered state, which also absorbs heat and creates a cooling effect.
The plastics are are already used in everyday products such as makeup and paints, experts say.
Refrigeration units like fridges and air conditioning currently account for more than a quarter of the world’s electricity usage.
Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Metal Research in Shenyang say that plastic crystals are not only efficient at cooling air, but also use less energy.
In terms of their chemistry, they have a disordered structure, says Dr Bing Li, who spoke to New Scientist, meaning they don’t have a regular lattice formation.
By applying pressure to the plastic, it can absorb energy to become more ordered and hence cool the contents of a fridge.