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What is a Solar Refrigerator?

Haven Esme
Haven Esme

A solar refrigerator is a cooling appliance that is operated completely with energy harnessed from the sun. A solar refrigerator can store food, medications, and other products that require cold temperatures. For decades people have used electrical compressors to power their refrigerators, but engineers are learning that solar power can keep the refrigerator running just as well as electricity can.

The idea for a solar refrigerator first occurred to an engineer named Otto Mohr in 1935. He wanted to create a refrigerator that wouldn't require any energy other than exposure to sunlight for two hours per day. He was able to describe all of the correct components needed to build the solar refrigerator and make it work. Since that time, more engineers, scientists, and researchers have all developed prototypes based on Otto Mohr's original work.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

With a solar refrigerator, the parts of the refrigerator - the compressor, condenser, and other components don't change. The only thing that changes is how the energy is supplied to the refrigerator. Instead of using an electrical system it uses solar power. Scientific American Magazine referred to solar refrigeration as a hot idea for cooling. According to the magazine, Mexican fishermen have been using solar refrigeration for years to keep ice cold enough to properly store fish.

The way a refrigerator keeps food cool is through the process of evaporation. When a liquid turns into a gas, it absorbs heat and makes the temperature lower. In most electrically-powered refrigerators, this is achieved by the electric motor powering a compressor, which turns the refrigerant gas into a liquid. When the pressure is removed, the refrigerant turns back into a gas and absorbs heat.

In a solar refrigerator, the refrigerant is replaced with ammonia or lithium bromide mixed with water. The heat of the sun is used to increase the pressure of the gas, which turns into a liquid, just like in an electric refrigerator. When the heat is removed, the liquid evaporates and lowers the temperature.

Scientists believe that solar refrigeration can be a great investment for the developing world. It could allow small villages to store medication and food without electricity. The Solar Turbine Group is also trying to bring emerging nations the innovation of solar refrigerators. For example, a health clinic in Iraq converted their entire facility to solar power and are able to use solar power to keep vaccines and other medications refrigerated. These nations will be able to eliminate food borne illnesses and store crops in an efficient manner so that they can get better prices and stimulate their local economies.

Solar refrigeration has huge prospects in the marketplace in developing countries. Countries in the Southern hemisphere have a huge need for solar refrigeration. For this reason, solar firms are finding that refrigerators will play a prominent role in their stability and growth.

Refrigerators in most parts of the world use electrical power. This saps a vast amount of energy from power plants. Electrical refrigeration is a huge energy drainer but solar refrigeration can bring relief to the electrical grid and provide a less expensive energy alternative. As the world makes greater strides to reduce man's carbon footprint, electrical power is slowly being replaced by greener and cleaner energy. Solar power refrigeration is a great idea that has been long coming.

Discussion Comments


At what cost are solar refrigerators available?


Governments are entirely too focused on depleting all of our natural resources. For this reason, the unlimited possibilities of renewable energy will continue to stay on the back burner.


Why isn't there a massive use of this brilliant technology and what about its effectiveness?

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