Cambridge University tech spin-out secures £1.3m investment

Dr Xavier Moya, Barocal co-founder and a researcher in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy

A University of Cambridge spin-out has secured £1.3m in funding to accelerate commercialisation of its novel CO2 emission-cutting technology.

Zero-carbon refrigeration pioneer Barocal’s innovative technology negates the need to use refrigerant gases, which have high global warming potential. Instead, Barocal utilises new solid-state, temperature-changing plastic crystals.

Cheap and non-toxic, these organic materials release and absorb heat at different pressures as they change volume. When the flexible crystals are squashed in a pressurised chamber, they heat up. When the pressure is released, they cool down, cooling the air around them.

This effect, known as barocaloric cooling, is more efficient than fluid refrigerants. Plus, because the crystals are solids, they are easier to recycle at the end of their lifetime, making them more environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, because Barocal’s technology can be used for heating purposes, the university spin-out plans to develop its technology so it can be used for domestic and commercial heating applications.

“Heating and cooling accounts for 38% of the UK’s CO₂ emissions,” said Dr Xavier Moya, Barocal co-founder and a researcher in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “So the government’s commitment to a 78% cut in carbon emissions by 2035 means there is a growing need for new low-carbon domestic heating systems.”

Moya added: “Current alternatives, such as hydrogen boilers and traditional heat pumps, are expensive and not practical for many homes. Barocal’s revolutionary new heat pump, based on non-vapour compression technology, holds the promise of a cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly solution for domestic and commercial heating systems as well as air conditioning and refrigeration.”

Barocal’s £1.3 million investment was led by IP Group plc, which focusses on funding innovations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Cambridge Enterprise – which is part of the University of Cambridge and supports academics, researchers, staff, and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact – participated in the funding as part of a new sustainability initiative.

Over the next four years, the initiative will support at least 15 of the university’s spin-outs and start-ups working on technologies that will rapidly cut emissions of global warming gases.

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