In the Fraunhofer project ElKaWe, researchers aim to replace traditional compressor-based heat pumps with electrocaloric technology for higher efficiency. The milestone achievement is an ultra-efficient circuit topology for voltage converters, reaching over 99.74% electrical efficiency. This breakthrough, utilizing gallium nitride (GaN) transistors, sets global standards and surpasses previous research, enhancing the potential of electrocaloric heat pumps.

Electrocaloric heat pumps, part of the ElKaWe initiative, aim to surpass the 50% efficiency limit of current technology, theoretically reaching 85%. The focus is on power electronics, and the GaN-based multilevel DC/DC converter achieved a remarkable 99.74% efficiency, significantly impacting the overall system's coefficient of performance.
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The increased efficiency in power electronics directly improves the system's coefficient of performance, marking a significant step toward more efficient heat pumps. Dr. Stefan Mönch of Fraunhofer IAF emphasizes the potential for electrocaloric heat pumps to become a more efficient and emission-free solution for heating and cooling.

The electrocaloric effect, where applying an electrical voltage to a specific material heats it, underlies the technology. The efficient power electronics enhance the charging and discharging of electrocaloric capacitances, contributing to the system's overall efficiency. The results have been published in the IEEE Journal of Emerging and Selected Topics in Power Electronics.
ELKaWe Efficieny
Schematic design of an electrocaloric heat pump, which is to be used with efficient GaN power electronics. Source: Fraunhofer IAF