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This cleantech startup just raised £1.3M to make air conditioning tech more climate-friendly


One of the biggest tragedies of climate change is that as the earth warms, the technology that people rely on to stay cool will only make it hotter. Researchers predict that by 2050, the number of room air conditioners on the planet will have quadrupled to 4.5B, making them as common as cell phones. According to World Economic Forum estimations, greenhouse gas emissions from air conditioning will contribute as much as a 0.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century.

Now a cleantech startup called Barocal co-founded by a Cambridge University academic has secured £1.3M funding to hasten the commercialization of its ground-breaking solution for drastically reducing global CO2 emissions. The funding round was led by IP Group along with participation from Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge.

In 2019, Barocal was the only European finalist in the Global Cooling Prize, a worldwide innovation competition aimed at encouraging the development of super-efficient and environmentally friendly household cooling solutions. The competition, which was organised by a consortium led by the Indian government and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), drew 139 teams from 31 countries.

As far as technology is concerned, Barocal’s technique uses innovative solid-state, temperature-changing materials instead of refrigerant gases with high global warming potential (GWP). They’re organic materials that emit and absorb heat at varying pressures when their volume changes. They’re cheap and non-toxic. They are more efficient than fluid refrigerants and are known as barocaloric materials. They are also more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle at the end of a product’s life cycle because they are solids.

Besides that, because the technology can also be used for heating, the University of Cambridge spin-off is now looking into the possibilities of its discovery for household and commercial heating systems, as a low-cost, high-efficiency alternative to expensive air source heat pumps.

“Heating and cooling accounts for 38% of the UK’s CO₂ emissions,” said Dr Xavier Moya, who co-founded Barocal based on his research in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge. “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.

“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.”

The technology was developed as a collaboration between the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials and Metallurgy, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, and the University of Barcelona. Cambridge Enterprise has granted Barocal a licence to use the technology.

Non-vapor compression technology developed by Barocal Ltd, known as Barocaloric cooling technology, has the potential to change air conditioning and make it more environmentally friendly.

Solid-state Barocaloric cooling uses the qualities of solid organic ‘plastic crystal’ materials to produce cooling rather than employing refrigerant gases with a large global warming potential.

Barocal Ltd, co-founded by Dr. Xavier Moya of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy and based on his research commercialises barocaloric cooling technology to satisfy low-carbon refrigeration requirements and provide a unique efficient solution for zero greenhouse warming potential (GWP) cooling. 

This startup competes with the likes of Gree Electric Appliances Inc, Daikin AirConditioning India Private Ltd., and Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., Transaera Inc, M2 Thermal Solutions, Kraton Corporation and S&S Design Startup Solution Pvt. Ltd.

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