Cool Shite. Literally.

The video above is actually a bit old (given in 2007), and it has already been in the news a while ago, but the invention that’s being talked about popped up again recently in Esquire Magazine’s Best and Brightest 2008 feature.  You can read the Esquire article here.  The video’s short – maybe 3 and a half minutes.

What’s the invention?  It’s a very portable refrigerator (8 lbs) that doesn’t require electricity to work – it uses fire instead.  I know, right?  Fire powers a cooling system.  Isn’t science amazing??  The other thing that’s great about the invention is that it’s relatively affordable – as low as $25 each.

The idea to build a cooling system that doesn’t require electricity to operate has been around for a long time.  Adam Grosser – the speaker in the video – mentions some dude who first came up with the idea of the Intermittent Absorption Refrigerator as far back as 1858.  In the 1920s and ’30s, there was a refrigerator called the Crosley IcyBall, which ran on kerosene instead of electricity.  And in the 1930s, Einstein and his colleague Leo Szilard came up with another design for a no-electricity fridge.  In fact, many RVs today use absorption refrigerators (RV = recreational vehicle…you know, those big things you take with you on long road trips and/or camping).

Perhaps one of the simplest and most elegant examples of a non-electrical cooling system was invented by a Nigerian man named Mohammed Bah Abba.  He invented the Pot-in-Pot, which was named as one of Time Magazine’s Inventions of the Year, back in 2001.  The principles behind the way the Pot-in-Pot works are also not new, and have been used before, but Mohammed was able to reinvent the system and scale up production in such a way as to provide tens of thousands of people in his community with a simple, affordable way to preserve their food for longer periods of time.  By doing so, he has transformed life for many in his community, especially for women, many of whom now have time to go to school instead of spending their days selling their food before it spoils.  You can read more about Mohammed and his invention here and here.

So why all the hoohah now?  If these ideas have been around for such a long time, and stuff has already been made, then why am I telling you about this now?  Cuz I think it’s friggin’ cool doggonit!  😉  Plus, the refrigerator presented in the video is potentially world-changing if they can get everything to work out.  By having such a portable, affordable, non-toxic refrigerator, it changes everything with regards to delivering much-needed medicines to the parts of the world that need it most.  There is also a lot of interest in these systems now because of concerns about climate change.  People are currently working on ways to power these types of refrigerators with solar energy, for example, instead of electricity or the burning of fuel.

Interested in reading about how this all works (more or less)?  Go here. But for those who would like the super-short SparkNotes version (or Cliff Notes for those who’re old school like me), here’s the gist: The driving principle behind all these types of refrigeration is the evaporation of a liquid to cool things. Our very own bodies use this principle all the time – we call it “sweating.” How exactly does sweating cool us down? Well, a liquid won’t evaporate unless it gets hot enough, and to do that it needs to absorb energy. The energy that sweat absorbs comes from our body heat. So, since we lose some of our body heat when our sweat evaporates, we end up feeling cooler (even though it might not seem like it on really hot days). Anyway, that’s the same idea behind refrigerators, except there are a lot of details that need to be worked out – like safety (because the liquids that evaporate easily also tend to be explosive and/or toxic), recycling the liquid (so that you don’t have to keep adding more), energy efficiency, etc.

Neat, huh?  For all you science, techie geeks out there…fear not.  Ima represent yo.  Holla!  😉


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3 Responses to “Cool Shite. Literally.”

  1. AJ Says:

    Thanks for the refrigerator story. Interesting stuff.

  2. Ashley Says:

    that is like freakin awesome!!
    Heck yeah I’d buy one!!
    Gotta save the planet right.

  3. Emma-Lu Says:

    So nifty! I will be ordering one for my new flat x

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