Research ArticlePHYSICS

Heat flowing from cold to hot without external intervention by using a “thermal inductor”

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Science Advances  19 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaat9953
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat9953


The cooling of boiling water all the way down to freezing, by thermally connecting it to a thermal bath held at ambient temperature without external intervention, would be quite unexpected. We describe the equivalent of a “thermal inductor,” composed of a Peltier element and an electric inductance, which can drive the temperature difference between two bodies to change sign by imposing inertia on the heat flowing between them, and enable continuing heat transfer from the chilling body to its warmer counterpart without the need of an external driving force. We demonstrate its operation in an experiment and show that the process can pass through a series of quasi-equilibrium states while fully complying with the second law of thermodynamics. This thermal inductor extends the analogy between electrical and thermal circuits and could serve, with further progress in thermoelectric materials, to cool hot materials well below ambient temperature without external energy supplies or moving parts.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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