Human beings love refrigeration - the ability to store perishable food and medical products in a cold environment for long periods of time has made a huge impact on the progression of our species. Refrigeration technology has made great advances since its inception, but has arguably become stagnant since 2005 when census data showed that 99.5% of American households had a refrigerator. Sure, the devices are becoming more sleek and efficient, but the core technology for cooling has more or less remained the same: pumps and compressors. The latest in technological advances for refrigerators is cooing from thermoelectric coolers (TECs) - these devices do not require a standard compression pumps and are gaining traction to help us build a more energy efficient and eco-friendly world.
Through the peltier effect, thermoelectric coolers (TECs) are able to cool many different products both at large industrial scale and for individual consumer needs. The market for refrigerators powered by TECs has been growing steadily for the last 10 years and this is a trend that we expect will continue. Most individuals are surprised by the widespread utilization of TEC refrigerators, so we wanted to showcase a few common uses and ways TEC refrigerators are making an impact on humanity.
Growth in the medical field:
TEC refrigerators are becoming the cooling device of choice in many hospitals, emergency rooms, and research labs. They have low emissions (compared to a traditional refrigerator), offer consistency in storage temperatures, and run at low volumes because they do not require a noisy compressor. Individuals in the medical field need to cold-store all kinds of biomaterials: plasmas, blood/sperm/egg donations, cultures for research and diagnosis, and vaccines to name a few. In these environments, reliability and hygiene are key when it comes to cold-storing these biomaterials. TEC refrigerators are also becoming more widely utilized in the transport sector of the medical field. Individuals in need of organ and biomaterial donations need to have access to the materials as soon as they become available - the bio-materials need to be delivered safely and hygienically in order for the transplant to be effective. Portable refrigeration requires maximum efficiency and a compact TEC system is the best way to handle this for medical transport via land, sea, or air vehicles.
Growth in the consumer market:
We touched on some common applications of TEC and thermoelectric generator (TEG) technology for consumers in an earlier blog post, so we wanted to highlight an important aspect of how TEC refrigerators are making an impact in other ways for third world and developing countries. These refrigeration devices have been an integral part of maintaining healthy conditions for areas where electricity is not as reliable or not affordable for struggling families. These devices provide them reliable, solar powered refrigeration to help prevent food-borne illnesses from improper storage of products like meat and dairy. For more coastal regions, individual families are reliant on seafood for sustenance and income: TEC refrigerators offer these individuals a safe way to transport and store marine produce for sale at market and prevent exposure to potential contamination.
Impact on the future of refrigeration:
In the not-so-distant future, we may see the traditional refrigerator, powered by a compressor that relies on standard electricity for constantly running and cooling, be replaced by a TEC refrigerator in both commercial and consumer settings. They run at a much lower volume without noisy compressors, have lower emissions, and maximize energy efficiency through energy harvesting and the absence of pumps involved in the cooling process. They also have the potential to reduce costs of maintenance and upkeep because they are less prone to issues without requiring a constant supply of electricity. II-VI Marlow will certainly be keeping our eye on this rapidly growing market and doing our part to supply the technological innovation that it needs to thrive.
Curious to find out more about TECs and their impact on refrigeration? Feel free to reach out to our experts.