Ever wondered how your refrigerator works?


Before refrigerators as we know them were invented they used to be a box that was topped up with ice regularly in order to keep food cool. At the beginning of the 20th century Frigidare launched their first electronic fridge for households. They had sold 200,000 models by 1926 and had to build a new factory in order for them to keep up with demand!

The bare bones of what a refrigerator does is push hot air outside the unit in order to keep the contents cool. The most common way of doing this is by tubes that are filled which a chemical liquid (refrigerant) which boils when the air pressure is reduced. Once it has boiled it turns into a vapour which then absorbs energy. This is the process that transfers energy from the inside of the fridge to the outside, therefore keeping the contents cold.

The liquid, or refrigerant, is constantly changing from liquid to gas with the help of a pump which changes the air pressure in the coils that are found at the back of the fridge. These coils are called the compressor. At the end of the compressor there is a valve called the expansion valve which opens to let some refrigerant back into the coils. This part of the refrigeration unit is called the evaporator.

The refrigerators that we use today have not changed that much in the last one hundred years however the chemicals that are used have done in order for the to become more environmentally friendly. Although the last one hundred years have not seen too much development it is likely that in the next one hundred years refrigerators will look completely different. One development that is currently being worked on is the use of magnets to make the magenetocaloric effect. This is the use of magnets to change temperature when a magnetic field is created. At the moment this is only used in refrigerators in laboratories but they are looking to make this technique more practical for the home.

There are always developments in the refrigeration world especially when it comes to the refrigerant they use to make the more environmentally friendly so the next few years will be interesting to see what they come up with next!

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