Lighthouse project ElKaWe

Electrocaloric heat pumps

In the lighthouse project »ElKaWe«, six Fraunhofer Institutes under the direction of Fraunhofer IPM are working on the development of electrocaloric heat pumps for heating and cooling. Today, heat pumps work almost exclusively based on compressor technology. Electrocaloric heat pumps promise significantly higher efficiency and do not require harmful refrigerants. As part of the project, the scientists are developing ceramic and polymer-based electrocaloric materials and are working on an innovative system concept that enables particularly efficient heat dissipation.

Work in the project is intended to demonstrate that electrocaloric heat pumps have the potential to replace compressors in the long term. Heat pumps are an important component of the energy revolution, as they ensure optimized space heating and hot water generation. Powered by electricity generated from renewable sources, they form the missing link between electricity and heat generation. However, the number of heat pumps for air conditioning in buildings is growing slowly because compressor-based heat pumps are economically inefficient. In cooling technology, the gradual ban on refrigerants within the framework of the European »F-gas Regulation«, which aims at reducing fluorinated greenhouse gases, also makes alternative technologies desirable.

How does an electrocaloric heat pump work?

If an electric field is applied to electrocaloric materials, the electric dipole moments in the field are aligned. This additional order is accompanied by heating of the material according to the laws of thermodynamics. The resulting heat is dissipated via a heat sink so that the material cools down again to the initial temperature. If the electric field is removed, the order is reduced and the material cools down to a temperature below the initial temperature  – again in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. Now it can absorb thermal energy from a heat source. The effect is reversible. In this way, a cycle can be set up that functions as an efficient heat pump for cooling or heating.


PCIM Europe, Nuremberg, May 10–12,.2022

At the PCMI-Europe conference, Stefan Mönch from Fraunhofer IAF will be presenting a poster with research finding from the ElKaWe project:  

»A GaN-Based DC-DC Converter with Zero Voltage Switching and Hysteretic Current Control for 99% Efficient Bidirectional Charging of Electrocaloric Capacitive Loads«

(Stefan Mönch, Michael Basler, Kareem Mansour, Rüdiger Quay, Richard Reiner, Patrick Waltereit, Fraunhofer Institute IAF, D; David Bach, Kilian Bartholome, Roland Binninger, Fraunhofer Institute IPM, D; Sylvia Gebhardt, Christian Molin, Fraunhofer Institute IKTS)

Trade Fairs | Conferences

Chillventa , October 11–13, 2022

At the world’s leading exhibition for refrigeration technology we will be presenting research findings from the ElKaWe project. Further information will follow prior to the event.


Weitere Informationen

Caloric Systems

We are conducting research into magnetocaloric, elastocaloric and electrocaloric systems for cooling and heating.