History of the Refrigerator and Freezers
William Cullen's Design
Before mechanical refrigeration systems
were introduced, people cooled their food with ice and snow, either found
locally or brought down from the mountains. The first cellars were holes
dug into the ground and lined with wood or straw and packed with snow and
ice: this was the only means of refrigeration for most of history.
Refrigeration is the process of removing
heat from an enclosed space, or from a substance, to lower its temperature.
A refrigerator uses the evaporation of a liquid to absorb heat. The liquid,
or refrigerant, used in a refrigerator evaporates at an extremely low temperature,
creating freezing temperatures inside the refrigerator. It's all based
on the following
- a liquid is rapidly vaporized (through compression) - the quickly expanding
vapor requires kinetic energy and draws the energy needed from the immediate
area - which loses energy and becomes cooler. Cooling caused by the rapid
expansion of gases is the primary means of refrigeration today.
The first known artificial refrigeration
was demonstrated by William Cullen at the University of Glasgow in 1748.
However, he did not use his discovery for any practical purpose. In 1805,
an American inventor, Oliver Evans, designed the first refrigeration machine.
The first practical refrigerating machine was built by Jacob
Perkins in 1834; it used ether in a vapor compression cycle. An American
physician, John Gorrie, built a refrigerator based on Oliver Evans' design
in 1844 to make ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. German
engineer Carl von Linden, patented not a refrigerator but the process of
liquifying gas in 1876 that is part of basic refrigeration technology.
Note: Improved refrigerator designs were patented by African American
inventors, Thomas Elkins (11/4/1879
U.S. patent #221,222) and John Standard
(7/14/1891 U.S. patent #455,891).
Refrigerators from the late 1800s
until 1929 used the toxic gases ammonia (NH3), methyl chloride (CH3Cl),
and sulfur dioxide (SO2) as refrigerants. Several fatal accidents occurred
in the 1920s when methyl chloride leaked out of refrigerators. Three American
corporations launched collaborative research to develop a less dangerous
method of refrigeration; their efforts lead to the discovery of Freon.
In just a few years, compressor refrigerators using Freon would became
the standard for almost all home kitchens. Only decades later, would people
realize that these chlorofluorocarbons endangered the ozone layer of the
of Sealed Refrigeration Systems
One hundred years ago, refrigeration
engineers began to search for a permanent solution to the problem of leaky
History of the Refrigerator
From the History Channel, a cool,
simple outline of the "History of the Refrigerator".
"At some point, perhaps in fourteenth
century China or seventeenth century Italy, it was discovered that the
evaporation of brine (salt water) absorbed heat and therefore a container
placed in brine would stay cold." This short essay discusses the highlights
of refrigerator history.
A mixture called chemogene (consisting
of petrol ether and naphtha) was patented as a refrigerant for vapor compression
systems in 1866. Carbon dioxide was introduced as a refrigerant in the
- The Physics Handbook
The term "refrigerator" was coined
by a Maryland engineer, Thomas Moore, in 1800. Moore's device would now
be called an "ice box" -- a cedar tub, insulated with rabbit fur, filled
with ice, surrounding a sheetmetal container for transporting butter from
rural Maryland to Washington, DC.
How Refrigerators Work, written
by Marshall Brain of How Stuff Works.
Refrigeration Research Museum (1890 - 1960)
invented the refrigerator? When was it invented?
The Freezing Process
Freezing food involves lowering
its temperature to below 0º C, resulting in the gradual conversion
of the water present in the food into ice.
The history of ice cube trays.
- Once Used To Keep Fridges Cool
Drying & Freeze Dried Foods
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