Yesterday I concluded my history of refrigeration with the observation that mainstream cooling technologies haven’t fundamentally changed in 100 years. Given the need for more efficient and cheaper fridges, I suggested that a new idea could yet revolutionise the world of refrigeration – a leapfrog technology perhaps.
Here’s one contender: Sure Chill is a company based in Wales that has developed a radically different kind of fridge. If the power fails, it can maintain an even cold temperature for ten days. This is the kind of fridge you want in a world of renewable energy and potentially variable supply. It’s also much simpler and cheaper than the gas compression technologies used in most fridges.
In fact, it’s so simple that the refrigeration industry thought it was too good to be true. It has taken multiple awards, grants from the Gates Foundation, and endorsement from the World Health Organisation to begin to convince people that it might just be the future. Here’s the basic principle:
Sure Chill has made in-roads into the health sector in developing countries first, including signing deals to cover the whole supply chain for vaccination programmes in Mali, Yemen and elsewhere. It is solving problems in post-conflict or disaster areas where electricity supplies are unreliable or non-existent, including Sudan and Haiti.
As Sure Chill say, “we’ve started with the vaccine cold chain, but we plan to take on the entire cooling world.” The next stop could well be the drinks industry, and the many kiosks that supply sodas across the developing world. Coca-Cola will want this technology. The domestic market across India and Africa is waiting for a solution like this one. And what about shipping and cold storage?
It may be sometime before there is a version on the market in Britain, but perhaps there will be by the time I have to replace our own fridge. For now, this could be one of those breakthrough technologies, like mobile phone banking, that reaches consumers in the West long after it’s commonplace elsewhere.