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A cascade electrocaloric cooling device for large temperature lift


Cooling technology that is both compact and flexible is increasingly vital for the thermal management of wearable electronics and personal comfort. Electrocaloric (EC) cooling provides a potential solution, but the low adiabatic temperature change of EC materials has been the bottleneck in its progress. We demonstrate a cascade EC cooling device that increases the temperature change, with enhanced cooling power and cooling efficiency at the same time. The device integrates multiple units of EC polymer elements and an electrostatic actuation mechanism, all operating in synergy. Every two adjacent EC elements function in antiphase (in terms of both actuation and EC effect) to allow heat flow to be continuously relayed from the heat source to the heat sink. The antiphase operation also enables internal charge recycling, which enhances the energy efficiency. Operating at the EC electric field at which the adiabatic temperature change of the material is 3.0 K, a four-layer cascade device achieves a maximum temperature lift of 8.7 K under no-load conditions. The coefficient of performance is estimated to be 9.0 at the temperature lift of 2.7 K and 10.4 at zero temperature lift.

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Fig. 1: A solid-state, cascade-structured EC cooling device.
Fig. 2: Operational mechanism of a four-layer, cascade-structured cooling device.
Fig. 3: Cooling performance of the cascade device.
Fig. 4: Temperature span and cooling effectiveness of the cascade cooling device.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the published article and its Supplementary Information.


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This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research (award no. N00014-19-1-2212).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y.M., Z.Z. and Q.P. conceived and designed the experiments. Y.M. and J.W. prepared EC polymer stacks. Y.M. and H. Wu designed the charge transfer circuit. R.W. built the charge transfer circuit. Y.M. and H. Wang fabricated the devices and performed the measurements. Y.M., Z.Z. and Q.P. analysed and interpreted the data. Y.M. simulated the cascade device performance. Y.M. and Q.P. organized the data and wrote the manuscript, and all authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Qibing Pei.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Brahim Dkhil, Neil Mathur and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs, 1–7, Notes 1–5, Table 1 and refs. 1–5.

Supplementary Video

Video showing successively a unit device actuating at 1.0 Hz, a two-layer cascade device at 2.0 Hz, and a four-layer cascade device at 4.0 Hz. In addition to the electrostatic actuation field applied, all devices are biased with 60 MV m−1 electrocaloric field.

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Meng, Y., Zhang, Z., Wu, H. et al. A cascade electrocaloric cooling device for large temperature lift. Nat Energy 5, 996–1002 (2020).

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