The use of environmentally damaging gases in air conditioners and refrigerators could become redundant if a new kind of heat pump lives up to its promise. A prototype, described in a study published last week in Science1, uses electric fields and a special ceramic instead of alternately vaporizing a refrigerant fluid and condensing it with a compressor to warm or cool air.

The technology combines a number of existing techniques and has “superlative performance”, says Neil Mathur, a materials scientist at the University of Cambridge, UK.

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