Super-heavy electron material as metallic refrigerant for adiabatic demagnetization cooling

Science Advances  09 Sep 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 9, e1600835
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600835

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Low-temperature refrigeration is of crucial importance in fundamental research of condensed matter physics, because the investigations of fascinating quantum phenomena, such as superconductivity, superfluidity, and quantum criticality, often require refrigeration down to very low temperatures. Currently, cryogenic refrigerators with 3He gas are widely used for cooling below 1 K. However, usage of the gas has been increasingly difficult because of the current worldwide shortage. Therefore, it is important to consider alternative methods of refrigeration. We show that a new type of refrigerant, the super-heavy electron metal YbCo2Zn20, can be used for adiabatic demagnetization refrigeration, which does not require 3He gas. This method has a number of advantages, including much better metallic thermal conductivity compared to the conventional insulating refrigerants. We also demonstrate that the cooling performance is optimized in Yb1−xScxCo2Zn20 by partial Sc substitution, with x ~ 0.19. The substitution induces chemical pressure that drives the materials to a zero-field quantum critical point. This leads to an additional enhancement of the magnetocaloric effect in low fields and low temperatures, enabling final temperatures well below 100 mK. This performance has, up to now, been restricted to insulators. For nearly a century, the same principle of using local magnetic moments has been applied for adiabatic demagnetization cooling. This study opens new possibilities of using itinerant magnetic moments for cryogen-free refrigeration.

  • Adiabatic demagnetization refrigeration
  • heavy fermion
  • quantum critical point

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