Emmanuel Defay

Emmanuel Defay

The electrocaloric efficiency of ceramic and polymer films


Voltage-driven thermal changes known as electrocaloric (EC) effects are large in ferroelectric thin films near the Curie temperature, where entropic electrical phase transitions may be reversibly driven by electric fields DE that approach the high breakdown fields generically associated with thin films. The thermal changes in a single film are small, but macroscopic assemblies of ferroelectric films in the multilayer capacitor geometry have been proposed for cheap, environmentally friendly and energy efficient cooling applications. However, candidate EC materials have hitherto only been analysed in terms of EC performance, i.e. the change in isothermal entropy DS, the isothermal heat Q, and the change in adiabatic temperature DT. Surprisingly, the corresponding electrical work W that is done when charging and discharging the host EC capacitors has been neglected. Therefore we introduce here electrocaloric efficiency h to describe the ratio of reversible electrocaloric heat to reversible electrical work under isothermal conditions. This figure of merit permits a comparison of EC materials that does not depend on details of any refrigeration cycle, i.e. the type of cycle, the hot and cold temperatures of the EC material, and the sink and load temperatures. We investigate in detail 350 nm-thick films of the prototypical electrocaloric ceramic PbZr0.95Ti0.05O3 (PZT) with Pt electrodes, and 0.4 - 2.0 ┬Ám-thick films of the prototypical electrocaloric polymer poly(vinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene) (55/45 mol%) [P(VDF TrFE)] with Al electrodes. For these films near their respective Curie temperatures, the electrical data that were used to predict large and nominally reversible EC effects, are used here to calculate the nominally reversible electrical work, yielding h = 3.0 for the ceramic and h = 7.5 for the polymer. We subsequently use the Landau theory of phase transitions to reveal the presence of non electrocaloric edge layers that increase the work, and to reveal the role of a previously observed complexity in the polymer phase transition of ref. 3. In a wider study, we find that ceramic and polymer films possess overlapping efficiencies, and therefore both classes of material may be attractive for applications despite previous indications. More generally, optimising h should in future guide the selection of electrocaloric, elastocaloric and magnetocaloric materials for novel cooling devices that are energy efficient.


to the European Conference on Materials and Technologies for Sustainable Growth website.

ECo MaTech will be held in Bled (Slovenia) from 19th to 21st of September 2013.

Eco MaTech is the third edition of a conference that started in 2009. The aim of ECo MaTech is to gather representatives of academic and R&D institutions, industry, governmental agencies and civil society to:

- present their work, ideas and products, 
- increase fruitful exhanges between all the actors involved in sustainable growth technologies, 
- increase the networking with sustainable growth professionals, 
- establish a general discussion platform on sustainable growth.


The conference excursion will take you to the Alpine lake Bohinj (http://www.bohinj.si/en) and waterfall Savica (http://www.burger.si/Slapovi/Bohinj/Savica/uvod_ENG.html).
A farewell party will follow the lake trip by a boat. Comfortable shoes are recommended.

Only cash is exepted for on-site payment.

The poster panels are 1m wide and 2m high. The standrad A0 size posters are recommended (841mm:1189mm).