Imagine If Your Fridge Only Needed A Few Hours Of Power A Day?

The Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) recently hosted inventor and world-class innovator Ian Tansley for a talk on how an innovative cooling technology is being used to extend the reach of refrigeration.

Ian’s work has focused on bringing refrigeration to developing countries where there’s historically been an issue with unreliable power sources or even off-grid locations that need to keep product within a closely defined temperature range. Traditional mechanical refrigeration units or ice pack storage is ineffective in these situations.

Ian’s water based “Sure chill” technology addresses this by:

Guaranteeing freeze-free storage – with perishable high value product (in this case critically important vaccines) kept at 2 – 8°C.

Offering reliable cooling without power – with so many facilities having unreliable source of power, this is a pre-requisite to maintain vaccine temperature.

Supplying appliances that don’t require defrosting – with medical staff already stretched, it is important to provide a technology that is as user friendly and effortless as possible.

What is most interesting about this technology is its simplicity. It harnesses a basic property of water. Water is at its heaviest at 4°C as water loses its density when it’s warmed up. Equally ice floats, so we know that it is lighter than water. The refrigerator Ian has developed will cool a water container until the formation of an ice cap with an average temperature of -10°C, leaving the water underneath at a temperature of 4°C.

This system has performed extremely well in the field and has been proven to keep a more constant temperature than traditional refrigeration systems thus making it an ideal application to use in a medical context or with other high value product. It is currently in use in Sub Sahara Africa, India and 44 countries around the world. While it started off developing specialist medical refrigerators, the technology is rapidly being extended to wider pharmaceutical, food and energy sectors.

“Supermarkets need super fridges” says Ian Tansley who was awarded the coveted J&E Hall Gold Medal for practical innovation in RACHP application last year by the IOR. Ian is driven by maximising the opportunities that this technology offers to society:

In reducing vaccine waste. Vaccines become ineffective if frozen and the use of ice lined refrigerators in the past in developing countries has led to high waste levels. UNICEF currently estimates that 137 million vaccine doses are lost or damaged every year due to inadequate storing temperatures.

Improving the global food supply. In Kenya for example 45% of its bean production is wasted due to inadequate refrigeration while it is estimated that an additional 200 million people could be fed by the amount currently wasted in Europe.

Better management of the energy grid network. With an appliance only requiring power for a limited number of hours, homeowners could save on their energy bill. But it could also support a time shift in energy use and a better management of the grid if the refrigerators only draw energy at night, when there is an oversupply.

A clean, simple and robust technology, Sure Chill has the potential to improve health and protect natural resources – helping make refrigeration more sustainable.