As the global average temperatures keep on rising, unprecedented heat waves are pushing up global demand for cooling. This increased pressure on the energy grid could actually make the situation much worse, unless cleaner cooling technologies are developed, and fast. Any increased demand on fossil fuel energy is bad news for the planet, but if we keep depending on it for our ever increasing cooling needs, we risk creating a vicious circle that could very well exacerbate global warming.
British inventors are taking up the challenge and the UK is fast becoming a “hotbed” for cooling technology innovations. According to experts in the field, with sustained increase in demand over the foreseeable future, the green cooling tech market could be worth well over £100 billion annually within the next decade or so.
Amateur inventor Peter Dearman’s supermarket chiller truck is part of this new wave of cooling tech innovations. The truck, developed at a garage in Bishop’s Stortford, replaces the traditional, high-polluting diesel engine with a tank of liquid nitrogen (at -200C or -328F) for its primary cooling needs. The truck also includes a secondary electric cooler which uses a radical design that harnesses the expanding potential of liquid nitrogen as it warms back into a gaseous state.
The truck is undergoing testing at Sainsbury’s at present, along with another much simpler prototype created by Perpetual V2G, a Lampeter, Wales based company, which uses secondary electric batteries instead of the diesel powered coolers.
Meanwhile, the leading hotel chain Marriott are falling back to the tried and tested cooling capacity of water to reduce power bills without riling up their guests. By switching off air conditioners for short duration at peak load times, they are able to reduce power consumption considerably. And the guests are left none the wiser since the water inside the pipes can retain the low temperatures for extended periods with minimal increase in heat. Even if the gains are marginal, they are still significant enough to warrant widespread implementation in offices as well as homes. After all, in the war on waste, every little helps.
Water is again at the center of an innovative new refrigerator design to come out of Wales. The Surechill has created a fridge clad with plastic sleeves filled with water. The water is frozen using regular electricity when supply is available. The ice then keeps the contents of the fridge cool even when the power supply is cut off. Advanced models currently under manufacture in South Africa and India can provide cooling in the absence for up to two weeks and are intended to be used primarily for the safe storage of vaccines.
Innovation, be it at the individual or enterprise level, alone cannot sustain this movement into the future. The existing market is dominated by traditional cooling technologies and without sustained support from the government, these innovations may not last for long. There are some positive indications from Whitehall and Westminster, with nearly £50 million allocated for innovation into smart technologies. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is responsible for identifying and investing in such cooling tech innovations.
As ably demonstrated by British innovators and businesses, it is not ideas that are in short supply. What is required in concerted political will, industry-level cooperation and a wider, more comprehensive road map to reduce our dependence on fossil energy and create a sustainable, greener and cleaner cooling technology industry.