As the Earth's average temperature continue to rise, those of us in already-warm climates may find ourselves increasingly tempted to crank up the A/C. But traditional air conditioners are huge consumers of energy: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential air conditioning accounts for 16 percent of all household electricity use in the United States.
One day in the not-too-distant future, magnetic air conditioners may help us keep our homes cooler inside without making temperatures hotter outside. A traditional air conditioner works by changing a liquid refrigerant to a gas (absorbing heat from the outside air in the process), then compressing and cooling the gas to convert it back to a liquid. Magnetic air conditioners take an entirely different approach to cooling, using magnets instead of compressors and refrigerants to cool the surrounding air.