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A French startup creates eco-friendly heat pumps using Hi-Fi speakers

Heat pumps are a new alternative to gas and oil furnaces that have become popular in the residential heating industry as a result of the ongoing climate and energy crises. However, refrigerants are necessary for their air compression systems. These hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in air conditioning systems, are among the most powerful greenhouse gases.

Equium, a French deeptech business founded in 2017 that has received €5 million, is working to create a greener alternative. The company has created a new acoustic heat pump core for this purpose.

So-called acoustic heat pumps (AHPs) may provide all the heat a home needs without the use of harmful refrigerants. Instead, its workings are based on thermoacoustics, which is the meeting point of thermodynamics, acoustics, and fluid mechanics.

In the middle of the Mediterranean, the technological centre is moving in.

An electric high-fidelity (Hi-Fi) speaker creates an acoustic wave through tubes filled with helium, a neutral and non-toxic gas that speeds up the transmission of sound, and so is essential to the operation of the core. By compressing or expanding the gas, the acoustic wave generates heat or cold, depending. It stays contained inside the machine, keeping it quiet.

Equium claims that its heat pump produces no greenhouse gases and is constructed entirely of recyclable materials, resulting in a negligible environmental impact. Energy savings and total cost are said to be maximised, while the machine’s ecological mode of operation replicates the effectiveness of a standard heat pump.

The modulation of the pump plays a significant role in this, allowing the user to adjust the volume of the speaker to get the optimum level of power output. The system has a lifetime of roughly 30 years, which is nearly twice that of a traditional heat pump, and is simple to instal and requires no maintenance.

The AHP’s benefit, according to the company’s creator Cédric François, is a 50% reduced CO2 impact and a 20% lower energy use for a given cost and size.

In an effort to foster the growth of an acoustic HP sector in France, Equium plans to offer its acoustic cores to relevant businesses there. Arkteos, a regional manufacturer and the startup’s key partner, will handle the first integration. The business is now doing trials in the field, and plans to release the product to the public in 2024.

French firm BlueHeart Energy faces competition from a single rival, BlueHeart Energy of the Netherlands. However, it is hoped that the potential of thermoacoustics to transform heat pump technology will be recognised by more businesses.