This World Refrigeration Day (26 June), our company places special focus on the cold chain, and celebrates just how far cooling technology has come. That there’s been much progress since the earliest low-tech process of trucks delivering ice house-to-house is evident.
But even in the last 10-15 years, advances have been impressive and include everything from highly improved functionality and efficiency of home refrigerators to electric vehicles to transport goods to complex retail layouts defined by varying temperature zones and all manners of containment for high, low, and medium temperature refrigeration. The history of cold chain refrigeration has been a continuum of progress driven by four key influences.
1. Consumer trends
Today, consumers want their foods faster, fresher, perfectly ripe, and in a greater variety— wherever they are. Consumers demand more organic options and fewer preservatives; plus, they have a more sophisticated palate seeking each food to be served at its ideal temperature, which is vastly different from simply frozen, cold, or cool.
Because foods and pharmaceuticals are becoming increasingly specialized, so is the journey along the cold chain. Timing and temperature must be more precise than ever to preserve quality and safety.
Worldwide initiatives to protect the planet took off in 1987 with the Montreal Protocol, which led to the development and use of refrigerants offering zero ozone depletion potential (ODP). In 2016, the Kigali Amendment, phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), drove refrigerant solutions offering significantly lower global warming potential (GWP). Regulatory compliance and a consumer base loyal to green companies has every phase along the cold chain tuned into more sustainable refrigeration.
4. Productivity and the bottom line
For a product to sell it has to be safe and high quality, look appealing, and, ultimately, meet the demands of the above three influences. A refrigeration system must also support a growing business by performing reliably, economically, and efficiently, by meeting capacity and by being easy to maintain.
As part of The Chemours Company, I can confidently say that the chemistry behind today’s and tomorrow’s refrigerants has been developed, and is being innovated, to reflect these influences and support the HVACR industry in making necessary transitions that are smart for the planet and for business. In use across the cold chain today are zero ODP, low GWP hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and HFO blends that offer comparable performance and safety as replacements for HFCs in existing systems. These include R-513A and R-449A for food processing and blast freezing in manufacturing, R-513A and R-452A for refrigerated and frozen transport, and a range of options to help achieve ideal temperatures in warehouse, retail and home storage applications.
Moreover, because companies like Chemours and many OEMs invest in products for new-generation refrigeration, the industry is starting to see a class of A2L refrigerants at work in new systems poised to become the standard in the next 3-5 years. With the latest developments in refrigeration and technology, the cold chain will continue to see more of these types of solutions emerge to achieve the optimum balance of factors including lower energy consumption, emissions, operating costs, optimum performance, reliability, safety, and sustainability—all while providing the flexibility to meet diverse and specialized needs, from farm to fork.
Brandon Marshall, MBA, is North America Marketing Manager — Thermal and Specialized Solutions (TSS) at The Chemours Company. For over a decade he’s built experience and knowledge from the contracting market through manufacturing and possesses the skills to support the challenges of today to create a greener tomorrow. Brandon is passionate about helping the HVACR industry navigate the complex technological and regulatory landscape to further institute the use of new and intelligent systems to reduce the impact on the environment. With this vision, he plays a critical role in bringing the Chemours Opteon™ portfolio of zero ODP, low GWP refrigerants to market and helping the industry transition to high-performing, environmentally compliant solutions.