Refrigerators are invented for a reason: by keeping the food cold, it helps them stay fresh longer. But since the machine requires electricity to work, it becomes unavailable in areas which do not have access to electricity.
Now students from the University of Calgary in Canada think they have found the solution by developing a fridge which works without any electricity.
“We thought it would be good to decrease the amount of food waste in the world, and we came up with this design because it’s easy to build and the materials are relatively cheap,” one of the students, Michelle Zhou, told CBC News.
“Anywhere from a quarter to half of the world’s food goes to waste every year, and in rural populations – about 70 percent of the people in rural Africa don’t have access to electricity,” another team member, Jorge Zapote, said.
Photo via University of Calgary
Called the WindChill Food Preservation Unit, the device is also portable. It works by connecting an air tube to an evaporation chamber, further connected to a sealed refrigeration chamber which contents are cooled through process of evaporative cooling.
Warm ambient air passively draws in through the funnel, being fed into a pipe buried underground. This already starts to cool down the air before it’s fed into coiled cooper pipe that’s been immersed in water in the evaporation chamber.
Screengrab from CBC News
The air inside is being chilled by the water evaporating around the pipe. And before it enters the refrigeration chamber, it has to be fed back to the underground first.
There is also a small, solar-powered fan which helps in the evaporation process. That is the only electricity it needs for the fridge to work.
While the design is still in its early stages – the temperature in the refrigeration chamber has to be consistent at 4.5deg Celsius to keep food from spoiling – the students believe that their device are beneficial towards communities with no electricity.
The WindChill Food Preservation Unit won the grand prize in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge in 2015’s student category. The task of the participants is to come up with improvement to the global food system inspired by nature. The winning team took inspiration from coral, kangaroos, bees and elephants – which have something to do with siphoning air and keeping things cool underground.
Source: Science Alert