back to article 'Quantum fridge' gets close to absolute zero

NIST scientists have demonstrated a solid state refrigerator that sucks energy out of objects using a trick of quantum physics in which hot electrons tunnel through a one-way junction, carrying heat with them. It's been a long project: NIST first demonstrated the use of NIS (normal metal / insulator / superconductor) junctions …


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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Paging Maxwell! Mawell to the white courtesy phone!

    We've found your demon.

    1. tony2heads

      maxwell's demon

      but he's drunk

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: maxwell's demon

        Nah... this guy is using 700 pW / 1.9 cm³ of cooling power, so that can't be him.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Paging Maxwell! Mawell to the white courtesy phone!

        > his free will to do the filtering, thus reducing entropy

        No free will is involved as this is a fully mechanizable procedure. So a Maxwell's Daemon is anything that reduces entropy of a closed system with no expended energy.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

    But - is it as cool as....

    ... The Fonz?

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: But - is it as cool as....

      Not now the sharks have lasers, no.

      1. I Like Heckling

        Re: But - is it as cool as....

        But what if it's the Fonz jumping the sharks with frickin lasers on their heads?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Fuck that is very clever.....

    I mean seriously...

    The mind boggles.

    There is so much clever shit going on, and there is such profound .............

    The selective filtering of electrons... and pulling them and "the heat" with them.... out of a junction....

    Accurately determining the size and surface spheroidal accuracy of electrons......

    The Boson Higgs..... the HUGE nutrino detectors...

    The Hobbit Telesccope

    And on and on and and on it goes....

    1. Avatar of They
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fuck that is very clever.....

      Who down voted you for basically saying science is cool (pun intended)

      Personally I think I want one, but given the photo, could you rest a pint on the copper block and just use it that way?

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Operating conditions?

    Am I right in assuming that this assembly is supposed to operate in a bath of liquid Helium, or similar arrangement? The figure of 700pW of (local?) cooling power is amazing when you consider the amount of heat that must flow into the copper block, even if it were immersed in very cold liquid Helium. Have I got this right?

    1. myob

      Re: Operating conditions?

      It is likely to be operating in an more complicated/ even cooler system than liquid helium. The article says it cooled the copper block from 290 mK, which means they probably used a dilution refrigerator to get there, since liquid helium boils at around 4 K (-269 C).

      1. Gavin King

        Re: Operating conditions?

        I would have though that this would be in a very high vacuum, which is perhaps cooled by a liquid helium device: I know the one that I've played with in the past gets quite easily to ~2.7 K with no trouble, and can be lower if you're both lucky and careful.

        As it turns out, reading the paper itself, it is an Adiabatic Demagnetisation Refrigerator (ADR) that gets it from ~300K to ~300 mK. This is actually quite a cool method (excuse the pun), especially for one who has a bit of a background with cryogenic stuff. I won't bore you with the details, but NASA have a basic primer here:

        and something a bit more technical here:

        which, though a bit space orientated, show the general idea nicely.

        The more interesting part I found was, that to disconnect the ADR once it got to 300 mK, they used what is essentially a piece of brass on a rope. I'd have though it would be far more complicated than that.

  5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    We need a new unit of measurement!

    Will 1 Micropint fit in there?

  6. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Beer fridges are boring

    And to answer the question in the sub-head, yes, the device probably could cool your beer. It might cheaper and more convenient, however, to buy yourself a beer fridge.

    Aww, come on. Where's the fun in that? The very genesis of hacking is to see what you can get away with for no other reason than that you (possibly) can (well, OK, there is actually a very good argument for it).

  7. LarsG

    Amazing technology but utterly useless for cooling a beer.

    Now if they could invent the portable instant beer chiller........ That would be cool.

    1. Justin Stringfellow

      "They" did - google for "Huski" a pen-shaped device that was being patented a few years back. Dunno if it made it to market actually.

    2. jake Silver badge

      @Lars G

      Maybe not "instant", but if you spin a beer container longitudinally in ice without agitating it, it'll cool down from 75F to drinking temperature in a hurry (a couple minutes, in glass bottles). Faster if you salt the ice (under a minute in alumin(i)um cans). Note that you want the water to drain, actual ice contact is important.

      Or, if you're not in a hurry & enjoy sillyness:

    3. Piro

      Just buy "compressed air" cans

      Obviously without any actual air in them, but regardless, hold the can upside down, spray beer can liberally.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Pity this isn't on Herschel

    Not sure how long this kit lasts, but what a pity Herschel's finite life may have been improved with this.

  9. Crisp Silver badge

    Overclockers are rubbing their hands with glee

    I'd worry about frost build up on the processor though.

  10. Michael Kean

    At last...

    I knew we were due to invent the Reverse Cycle Microwave...

  11. AceRimmer1980
    Thumb Up

    This will go next to the DB9 fridge

    for the LaFerrari.

  12. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Can cooler?

    Come now folks, as a physicsy person I can state without fear of contradiction that it's obvious this thing will not cool your beer!

    Well technically it could but I'd challenge anyone to detect a 40mK temperature difference between fractions of average pints in a pub ... for tis all the machine achieved ...

    In fact the differential between bottom of the pint and the top is probably much more than a degree or so ... until you put your clammy mitts around it at which point it's warming massively and the convection currents increase.

  13. Silverburn

    printer ports?

    I'm interested in why it's got what looks like old skool LPT printer ports on the right side. The mind boggles as to how near zero temperatures will make this print server(?) work any faster.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: printer ports?

      Maybe the theory is it must make them go faster, since they couldn't possibly go any slower?

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: printer ports?

      I doubt there is a standard interface for a one-of-a-kind experimental quantum cooling device operating on a principle never before demonstrated. So they probably used whatever was lying around the laboratory parts bin.

      1. Grikath Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: printer ports?

        Yup.. They may be obsolete in the IT world, but the good old connectors still do a stellar job whenever you want to hack/hook up stuff quickly.

    3. Brunnen-G
      Thumb Up

      Re: printer ports?

      Upvoted from an old dot matrix printer driver programmer.

  14. Chris Miller

    Why would you want to chill beer?


    1. Piro

      Re: Why would you want to chill beer?

      It can be refreshing on a hot day, but in the main, if you can't drink it at room temperature, it's probably swill.

      That doesn't mean you shouldn't chill your beer from time to time, though!

      1. Magani

        Re: Why would you want to chill beer?

        "..., if you can't drink it at room temperature,..."

        Presumably spoken by someone who's never lived in a place where room temperature can be 35°C or more.

        I'll have my beer (and wine) chilled, thank you.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Why would you want to chill beer?

      Because your beer should be at cellar temperature (12 - 14 centigrade), not room temperature. If you doubt this, I challenge you to drink a pint of cask ale that has been kept at an ambient (summer) temperature for a week or so and tell me how it tastes.

  15. tony

    Can't see the missus wanting that in the kitchen, she'll want something overpriced.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      It's not white for a start.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Steve Knox

        Sorry, Eadon, can't do that with a Surface

        Apple's patented it already.

  16. Katie Saucey

    I wonder..

    ..if anyone has been double-dog-dared to stick their tongue on it yet

  17. johnwerneken
    Thumb Up

    Seems not long ago this was Science Fiction

    Michael Flyyn's Firestar series has a main character of considerable wealth with a quantum frdge...20 years ago, about.

  18. mhenriday

    «When a voltage is applied across the sandwich,

    the hottest electrons tunnel across the insulator into the superconductor. As they do make the journey, the electrons carry heat and vibrational energy with them.

    So where's the quantum physics in that, you might ask.»

    Naive as I am, I have always regarded «tunneling» itself as a quantum phenomenon. Are Richard and the Reg claiming that it can now be explained by classical, pre-20th century physics ?...


  19. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Scientists are different from you and I


    Uses quantum something something, whatever. El Reg drops Boffin Bomb, again. etc., etc., etc.

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