The History of Refrigeration

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Prehistoric

China

  • ‘Harvest’ of ice and snow, used as a cooling substance

Egypt

  • Night storage of jugs containing water on roof tops

India

  • Discovery of evaporative cooling
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from 3000 BC

Mesopotamia

  • Natural ice for food preservation, storage of ice in snow cellars
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400 BC

Yakhchāls

  • Yakhchāls (from the Arab language, meaning ‘ice pits’) are an ancient type of ice house using evaporative cooling.  The structure had a domed shape and a subterranean storage space used to store ice and food.  Many built during ancient times remain standing today
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38 AD

Rome

  • Emperor Nero had his own squadron of runners between the Albanian mountains and Rome to transport ice-cold desserts made of snow and ice
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70 AD

Pompeii

  • Use of drinks counters and refrigerated counters were detected after the volcanic eruption
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200 AD

China

  • Air conditioning actually has its roots in 2nd century China where an inventor named Ding Huane crafted a manually powered rotary fan
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1558

Italy

  • In his popular science book, ‘Natural Magic’, Giambattista della Porta described a method of chilling ice to temperatures far below its freezing point by mixing it with potassium nitrate
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c. 1600

Wine

  • Long-necked bottles of wine are rotated in a saltpetre solution
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1607

Galileo Galilei

  • Noted that the density of liquids change with temperature fluctuations.  Invention of the liquid thermometer
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1620

London

  • Cornelius Drebbel demonstrated “Turning Summer into Winter” for James 1st of England, chilling part of the Great Hall of Westminster Abbey with an apparatus of troughs and vats
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1755

Scotland

  • Year of the birth of refrigeration technology.  William Cullen produced ice by evacuation of a vessel filled with diethyl-ether (boiling point at 35°C); the description of the cooling effect of evaporating liquids
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1758

United States

  • Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley conducted and experiment to explore the principle of evaporation as a means to rapidly cool an object.  Franklin and Hadley confirmed that the evaporation of highly volatile liquids such as alcohol and ether could be used to drive down the temperature of an obect past the freezing point of water
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1800

England

  • John Dalton established the laws of ideal gases; totla gas pressure as the sum of the partial pressures of individual gases.  This is the basis of the psychometric tables later refined by Carrier and Mollier
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1805

England

  • Oliver Evans designed a compression chiller with ether as the working medium
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1820

England

  • English scientist and inventor Michael Faraday discovered that compressing and liquifying ammonia could chill air when the liquified ammonia was allowed to evaporate
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1834

United States

  • Jacob Perkins developed the first prototype of a vapour compression refrigeration machine using ether as the refrigerant
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    1848

    England

    • William Thompson, or Baron, Lord Kelvin, worked on thermodynamics based on Carnot’s theory of heat in which he introduced the absolute temperature scale later named after him.  Its unit, the Kelvin, is the SI unit of temperature
    • Absolute zero denotes the lowest limit for the temperture that can only theoretically be reached and cannot be fallen below.  The Kelvin scale represents a ratio scale whilst other temperature scales refer to arbitrary zero points
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    1851

    Australia

    • Scotland native, Jim Harrison, produced the first mechanical ice making machine
    • He was later commissioned by a brewery to develop a machine that could cool beer, a device that was subsequently adopted by the meat packing industry
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    from 1851

    United States

    • From 1851 ‘Big Business’ begins ice harvesting in New England (Frederick Tudor) – Spy Pond Ice Harvesting
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    1852

    Joule-Thomson Effect

    • The Joule-Thomson effect refers to the change in temperature of a gas during an isenthalpic pressure reduction.  The temperature of most gases decreases during expansion
    • The Joule-Thomson effect plays an important role in the thermodynamics of gases
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      1859

      France

      • Ferdinand Carré constructed the first ammonia absorption refrigeration plant
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      after 1860

      Ice Making

      • Harvested natural ice begins to be replaced by mechanically produced ice.  Incipient pollution made it impossible to produce clean ice
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        1862

        Russia

        • Dmitri Iwanowitsch Mendeleev is credited with the discovery of the critical point for gases as a thermodynamic state characterised by the equalisation of the densities of the liquid and gaseous phase
        • The differences between the two states of matter cease to exist at this point.  In the phase diagram, the point represents the upper end of the vapour pressure curve
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        1874

        United States

        • The York company founded in York, Pennsylvania as a manufacturer of ice machines to replace ice transport from the Great Lakes
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          1876

          Carl von Linde

          • Carl von Linde developed the first reliable vapour compression machine with NH3 as the refrigerant
          • First patent for a refrigeration machine with ammonium as the refrigerant

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          1876

          London

          • The first artificial ice rink opens in London
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            1880

            Germany

            • Franz Windhausen responsible for the first construction of a compression refrigeration machine based on carbon dioxide

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            1885

            United States

            • James Trane opens a plumbing and pipe-fitting shop in La Crosse, WI
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              1895

              Carl von Linde

              • Linde was one of the first to liquify large quantities of air using the Joule-Thomson effect and is based on the counter current method.  Linde paved the way for low-temperature physics and for separating the air compnents by fractional distillation

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              1898

              Hydrocarbons

              • At the end of the 19th century, the first halogenated hydrocarbons were produced by direct fluorination (Moissan) and electrophilically catalysed halogen exchange (Swarts)
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              1901

              Willis Carrier

              • American inventor, Willis H. Carrier built what is considered to be the first modern electrical air conditioning unit.  In 1902 he installed his first air conditioning system in the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company in New York
              • His invention controlled both temperature and humidity which helped maintain consistent paper dimensions and ink alignment at the printing plant

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              1904

              Richard Mollier

              • Introduction of the term ‘enthalpy’ or formerly named ‘heat content’, as the sum of the internal energy of the system and the product of pressure p and volume V of the system.  Representation and calculation methods of the chiller process
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              1906

              Air Conditioning

              • Stuart W. Cramer of Charlotte, North Carolina was exploring ways to add moisture to the air in his textile mill.  Cramer coined the term ‘air conditioning’, using it in a patent claim he filed that year as analogous to ‘water conditioning’, then a well known process for making textiles easier to process
              • He combined moisture with ventilation to ‘condition’ and change the air in the factories, and thus controlled the humidity
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              1911

              Willis Carrier

              • Development of centrifugal compressors for large air conditioning capacities
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              1913

              Domestic Refrigaration

              • The first refrigerator for domestic use was introduced in Chicago
              • The first industrial production of R11 and R12
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              1920

              General Electric

              • General Electric used hermetic compressors in the series production of domestic refrigerators
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              1923

              Expansion Valves

              • E. Diffinger obtained a patent on the first embodiment of a thermostatic expansion valve
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              1930

              Compact Air Conditioners

              • The production of small, compact air conditioners begins in 1930 with the invention of synthetic refrigerants, based mostly on a chloroflurocarbon (CFC) chemical, safer refrigerators were possible for home and consumer use
              • Refrigerants R12, R22, R13, R11, R113 and R114 came onto the market.  At the time, these refrigerants were considered to be less harmful than those that had been in common use previously
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              1931

              United States

              • Manufacturing comany Servel of Evansville, Indiana used capilliary tubes as a throttling device
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              1932

              Willis Carrier

              • American Willis Carrier builds the first practical heat pump
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              1933

              United States

              • The first automobile air conditioning systems were offered for sale
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              1933

              Carrier Air Conditioning

              • The Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America developed an air conditioner using a belt-driven condensing unit and associated blower, mechanical controls and evaporator coil
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              1936

              United States

              • Belgium born American chemist Albert Henne, co-inventor of CFC refrigerants, synthesises the refrigerant R134a.  In the 1980’s this would be hailed as the best substitute fo the ozone-depleting CFCs
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              1938

              Air Conditioning

              • The first window air conditioner with Freon as the refrigerant is launched on the market
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              1944

              Absorption Machines

              • The first absorption refrigerator wiht the working material pair H2O/LiBr is manufactured
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              1945

              Portable Air Conditioning

              • Robert Sherman of Lynn, Massachusetts invented a portable in-window air conditioner that cooled, heated, humidified, dehumidified and filtered the air
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              1949

              Canada

              • The first ground-coupled heat pump was documented in a test house at the University of Toronto
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              1955

              Turbo Compressor

              • The Borsig company builds an axial turbo compressor for ammonia with a refrigerating capacity of 12,000kW
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              1958

              Compressors

              • Alf Lysholm develops a twin-screw compressor
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              From 1960

              Societal Expansion

              • Refrigeration allowed new settlement patterns to emerge and new areas to be developed that were not on a natural channel of transport such as a river, valley trail or harbour
              • Refrigeration has given opportunities to early settlers to expand westward in the US and into rural areas that had been unpopulated
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              1970

              Energy Crisis

              • 1970 saw the introduction of special oil and gas boilers.  The energy-saving movement started in Europe with, for example, car-free days
              • Since the first oil crisis, solar water heating and heating support develop into the standard of environmentally conscious buildings.  Heat pumps and heat recovery systems are increasingly used
              • Surface heating systems (underfloor, wall and ceiling heaing) are being installed more and more because of the low system temperatures making use of heat pumps economical
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              From 1970

              Environmental Awareness

              • In the 1970’s some compounds of refrigerants that were widely in use by then were found to be reacting with atmospheric ozone, an important protection against solar ultraviolet radiation
              • Their use as a refrigerant worldwide was later curtailed in the Montreal Protocol
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              1977

              CFC Ozone Hypothesis

              • Sherwood Roland & Mario Molina discovered that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could deplete Earth’s atmospheric ozone layer, which blocks the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays
              • The CFC Ozone hypothesis was confirmed the following year with the report of the ‘Ozone Trend Panel’
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              1978

              Vienna

              • The ‘Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer’ is adopted
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              1987

              The Montreal Protocol

              • The Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer becomes a multilateral environmental agreement and a binding treaty under international environmental law
              • It was adopted on 16 September 1986 by the Parties to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and is a concretisation of this Convention
              • It came into force on 1 January 1989
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              1988

              IPCC

              • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) as an intergovernmental institution to summarise the state of scientific research on climate change with the aim of providing a basis for science-based decision-making without recommending action
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              1995

              Ban on CFCs

              • The production and use of CFCs in new plants is banned in large parts of Europe
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              1995

              Climate Change Convention

              • The first UN conference ‘Climate Change Convention’ held in 1995
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              2000

              Ban on HCFCs

              • The production and use of HCFCs in new plants is banned
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              2000

              Top 10

              • In 2000, air conditioning and refrigeration is named among the 10 greatest mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century
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              2003

              Oil-Free Compressors

              • Introduction of oil-free compressors based on magnet bearings with improved part-load efficiencies
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              2005

              Kyoto Protocol

              • The Kyoto Protocol is an additional protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted on 11 December 1997 with the aim of climate protection
              • The agreement, which entered into force in 2005, for the first time set binding targets under international law for greenhouse gas emissions
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              2006

              Eurovent

              • Since autumn 2006, Eurovent Certification has been assessing the performance of chillers according to the ESEER (European Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)
              • Whereas previously the performance at full load was decisive, the operation of the units at partial load conditions is now also taken into account
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              2009

              EcoDesign Directive

              • The EcoDesign Directive is a directive under European law that sets the requirements for the environmentally sound design of ‘energy-related products’ (ErP) in the common internal market of the European Union
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              2014

              IPCC

              • 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC
              • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has led to ongoing adjustments in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, especially in regards to refrigerants
              • New trend : Use of natural refrigerants
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              2015

              F-Gas Regulations

              • The new F-Gas Regulation deals with the environmental impact of certain fluorinated greenhouse gases and applies from 1 January 2015
              • Refrigerant charge quantities will no longer be weighted in kilograms, but according to their global warming potential (GWP)
              • It aims to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) in the EU by 60% between 2005 and 2030
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              2019

              Kigali Amendment

              • The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is an international agreement to gradually reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)  It is a legally binding agreement designed to create rights and obligations under international law
              • The Montreal Protocol was originally created to preserve and restore the ozone layer and was an agreement to phase out certain ozone depleting gases
              • HFCs were used instead to replace the substances banned in that agreement because they have zero impact on the ozone layer.  However, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases that may contribute to climate change
              • The Kigali Amendment adds HFCs to the list of chemicals that countries promise to phase out
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              2021

              Today

              • Today’s air conditioners, while operating on the same fundamental science as developed in the 1930s, incorporate advancements in vapour compression, diagnostics and controls, electronic sensors, materials and energy efficiency