Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Cool solutions for energy-efficient refrigeration

Energy efficiency is a core component of the EU's strategy to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to use less energy. Towards that end, an EU-funded project has developed an energy-efficient form of insulation for refrigerators.
Cool solutions for energy-efficient refrigeration
In order to tackle climate change and secure Europe's energy future amid dwindling fossil fuel supplies, EU Member States have agreed on ambitious goals. The European Union's 20-20-20 targets seek to achieve a 20 % reduction in GHG emissions and raise the share of renewables to 20 % of the energy mix. In addition to reducing emissions through the use of renewables and cutting consumption, another vital method is through greater energy efficiency. That is why the third target is to improve energy efficiency by 20 %.

In homes, as well as in the retail and transport sectors, refrigeration is a major consumer of energy. Conventional insulation materials (such as foam) are inexpensive, but they do not provide ultra-high levels of thermal insulation. In contrast, vacuum-insulated panels (VIPs) are highly efficient but suffer from significant disadvantages in smaller applications due to edge leakage losses. This is even more pronounced in three-dimensional (3D) systems, such as refrigerators.

The EU-backed ELATION project developed an innovative, ultra-high performance, low-cost, lightweight insulation material for refrigerators and refrigerated vehicles to address these challenges. The insulator has the same insulation properties as VIPs but is more cost comparable to conventional insulation.

The project, which was financed by the Sixth Framework Programme's (FP6) SME sub-programme, developed a number of prototypes. It also created a vacuum and heat-sealing chamber for testing the design. Thermal performance of the new design was compared to delivery boxes with conventional VIPs and foam insulation.

Not only did the prototype achieve an insulation factor close to the target, but it was cheaper to produce than a 3D box made of VIPs. This means that the new technology would be attractive to producers and consumers alike.

The ELATION consortium has already approached a number of potential partners to commercialise their insulation methodology. However, they plan to complete the patenting of the technology first before they go any further with its commercialisation.

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