What is it with the refrigeration industry?

Posted on

It's posted a lot online, that companies need to create "value" for its customers. But what about value for the industry as a whole? I work for a small company in the south of Denmark, where we (primarily) develop interface- and control modules for the refrigeration container industry. We're owned by a larger German corporation, who happens to produce compressors for the aforementioned industry.  As we're a sub-contractor, we can't directly influence the direction in which the industry should go, and (sort of) have to adapt to the desires of our customer.

For those of you who know how refrigeration systems work, great! For those of you who don't, I'll try and explain it briefly. A refrigeration system, works by exploiting the properties of a refrigerant that changes phase (it changes from liquid to vapor to liquid ... you get the idea). When a liquid changes from a liquid to a gas, it "absorbs" heat, which can then be transferred in a gaseous state, before being released again, when the gas re-condenses into a liquid. This cycle is then repeated, over and over again. This way of "refrigerating", have been known for the past 100 years, and have barely changed a bit.

About 100 years prior to the invention of refrigeration systems, as we know them - a Frenchman named Jean Peltier discovered, that when a current passes through a closed electric circuit, heat can be absorbed on one side, and dissipated on the other. However, little research have been put into the research and refinement of this idea since. Think about it, rather than having a refrigeration system, where you constantly have to use energy, on changing the state of a refrigerant, increase the pressure, etc., you could have a refrigeration system almost without mechanical parts. No moving parts, no leakages, no expensive compressors. All you input, is electrical current, the rest happens by itself. Thermoelectric Refrigeration, ladies and gentlemen.

"But why haven't we embraced this technology yet?". The main reason, is that it is less efficient, than conventional refrigeration. Generally, the efficiency is roughly half that of conventional refrigeration. However, considering, that almost no research have been put into developing this technology, 50% efficiency, is alarmingly high. Annually, the refrigeration society hosts several conferences, workshops, expos, and what have you not, but little is done, in terms of radically changing the way we see refrigeration systems.

Think about it, a refrigerator, that is silent.. Runs off of electricity, potentially "clean" electricity. To me, it seems like a low-hanging fruit, that no one wants to pick. Someday soon, somebody will, and they will change the way we refrigerate, for ever! That's value!

All the best,
/Rasmus