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The Importance Of Refrigeration Technology History Essay

Info: 3103 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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The refrigeration technology is an important technology in that it slows down the growth of bacteria. In doing this, it lowers the risks of diseases. This is because bacteria exist all around us including in the foods that we eat. When the bacteria are supplied with enough nutrients and favorable climatic conditions, they grow rapidly and hence can cause illnesses. Refrigeration technology comes in hardy to stop the rapid multiplication of the bacteria and this is a benefit to the society in that its chances of falling ill from Bacteria illnesses are reduced (Bauer, 1998)

Historical roots behind refrigeration.

The very first artificial refrigeration known was the demonstration presented at the University of Glasgow by William Cullen in 1748. This discovery however was not use for any practical purpose. The first refrigerator was designed by Oliver Evans, an American inventor in 1748. But the first practical refrigerator was built in 1834 by Jacob Perkins. This refrigerator used vapor in a vapor compression cycle. John Gorrie an American physician built a refrigerator in 1844 based on Evans design. This refrigerator was built with the aim of making ice to cool the air for the yellow fever patients that he was treating. Carl Von Linden, a German engineer patented, in 1976 the process of liquefying gas but not the refrigerator (Burstall, 65). Gas liquefaction is the basic part of refrigeration technology. The first refrigerators were made of wood cabinet and a compressor that was cooled with water. Steel and porcelain cabinets emerged in 1920s to replace the wooden refrigerators which were less effective. The evolutions of the refrigerators continue to improve in the 50s and 60s and they became better to suit the needs of the customers. Automatic ice makers and automatic defrost were added in the refrigerator with the aim of making them user friendly and reduce the maintenance. The modern day refrigeration technology is aimed at making the refrigerators more environments friendly (About.Com)

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The refrigeration process has not stopped evolving. The early refrigerators of 1800 used toxic gas like ammonia, methyl chloride and sulfur dioxide as the refrigerant. These were used up to 1929. In the 1920s, there are many fatal accidents which occurred. This was caused by the leaking of methyl chloride from the refrigerators. It was after this that 3 American corporations embarked on intensive research to come up with a less dangerous method of refrigeration. Their efforts led to the use of Freon which became a standard for all refrigerators. Freon was changed in 1996 and it was replaced with HFC 134a. This was done so as to comply with The Regulatory Clean Air Act. The replacement was done because HFC 134a was less injurious to the environment and the Ozone as compared to Freon. The effectiveness of HFC 134a was just the same as Freon and the users of refrigerators did not notice any difference.

The table below shows the milestones achieved in the refrigeration technology.



1000 The Chinese cut and stored ice

500   Egyptians and Indians made ice on cold nights by setting water out in earthenware pots


1700 In England, servants collected ice in the winter and put it into icehouses for use in the summer

1720 Dr. William Cullen, a Scotsman, studied the evaporation of liquids in a vacuum

1805 Oliver Evans of Pennsylvania, compressed ether machine, the machine is never built

1820 Michael Faraday, a Londoner, liquefied ammonia to cause cooling

1834 Jacob Perkins, ether vapor compression cycle, Ice Making Machine

1844 James Harrison of Australia invents compressed ether machine

1850 Edmond Carre of France, invents an absorption process machine

1852 William Thomson & James Prescott cooling increases in proportion to the pressure difference

1855 Dr. John Gorrie builds compression refrigeration system based on Faraday’s experiments.

1856 James Harrison commissioned by a brewery to build a machine that cooled beer.

1859 Ferdinand Carre of France, developed the first ammonia/water refrigeration machine

1871 Carl von Linde of Germany published an essay on improved refrigeration techniques

1873 Carl von Linde first practical and portable compressor refrigeration machine was built in Munich

1874 Raoul Pictet of Switzerland, a compressor system using sulfur dioxide instead of ammonia

1876 Carl von Linde, early models he used methyl ether, but changed to an ammonia cycle

1878 von Linde starts Lindes Eismaschinen AG, (Society for Lindes Ice Machines), now Linde AG

1881 Edmund J. Copeland and Arnold H. Gross start Leonard Refrigerator Company

1894 Linde developed a new method (Linde technique) for the liquefaction of large quantities of air.

1894 Linde AG installs refrigerator at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland

1895 Carl von Linde produced large amounts of liquid air using the Thomson-Joule effect

1901 Patent # 665,814 issued January 10, for a Refridgeator (Ice Box) invented by Henry Trost.

1911 General Electric company unveiled a refrigerator invented by a French monk. Abbe Audiffren

1913 Fred W. Wolf Jr.of the Domelre Company (DOMestic Electric Refrigerator)

1914 Leonard Refrigerator Company renamed Electro-Automatic Refrigerating Company

1915 Alfred Mellowes starts Guardian Frigerato to build first self-container refrigerator for home use

1916 Servel models compressors were generally driven by motors located in the basement

1916 Henry Joy of Packard Motor Car Co. purchased the Fred W. Wolf refrigerator rights

1918 Guardian Frigerato purchased by General Motors and renamed Frigidaire

1918 Electro-Automatic Refrigerating Company renamed Kelvinator

1920 there were some 200 different refrigerator models on the market.

1922 Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters introduce absorption process refrigerator

1923 Kelvinator held 80 percent of the market for electric refrigerators

1923 AB Arctic.begins production of refrigerators based on Platen-Munter’s invention

1925 Electrolux purchases AB Arctic and launches the “D-fridge” on the world market

1925 Steel and porcelain cabinets began appearing in the mid-20s

1927 first refrigerator to see widespread use was the General Electric “Monitor-Top” refrigerator.

1930 first built-in refrigerator is launched by Electrolux

1931 Dupont produced commercial quantities of R-12, trademarked as Freon

1931 the first air-cooled refrigerator introduced by Electrolux

1932 Gibson, then owned by Frank Gibson, manufactured its own line of refrigerators.

1934 an innovation, the Shelvador refrigerator, was introduced by the Crosley Radio Corporation

1936 Albert Henne synthesizes refrigerant R-134a

1937 more than 2 million Americans owned refrigerators.

1939 refrigerator with one section for frozen food and a second for chilled food, introduced by G. E.

1946 Mass production of modern refrigerators didn’t get started until after World War II.

1947 GE two-door refrigerator-freezer combination

1955 80% of American homes now have refrigerators

2005 A domestic refrigerator is present in 99.5% of American homes

 Table 1. Source: The Great Idea Finder

Is refrigeration an old or a new technology.

Refrigeration is an old technology that started a long time ago. Refrigeration concept can be said to originate from the prehistoric times. During this period, man found that the meat he had hunted lasted longer when stored in the cool areas of the cave or when packed in snow. The early man found that when he stored his game in cold temperatures, it lasted for long. He therefore hunted excess game which he kept in cold temperatures and he would eat this meat when the food was in short supply. As the early man progressed, he started using ice which he harvested in winter to use in summer. Ice was also harvested from lakes and rivers to be used for the purpose of refrigeration.

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Adding chemicals like sodium and potassium nitrate to water so as to lower its temperatures was the next stage in the history of refrigeration. It is recorded that this method was used to cool wine in 1550. The use of mechanical refrigeration started in the last quarter of the 19th century. This evolution was a long slow process (Trevor, 1978)

Has refrigeration led to any type of social change?

The refrigeration technology can be said to have a great impact to women in particular. This is because women are viewed as the domestic worker (Cowan, 137-138). Though this mentality has changed in the modern world, there is still the thought that the domestic world belongs to women. The refrigerators can be seen to symbolize the freedom of house wives. They have saved women from preserving foods in the old fashioned ways of salting, smoking or dehydrating. The air conditioning has contributed immensely to the development of the hot and humid areas both socially and economically. This has been achieved through creation of habitable environments with desired temperatures and humidity levels in office buildings and private homes (Barbara, 2003)

Benefits of refrigeration to the society

Refrigeration has changed the lifestyles of the society in various ways. One can buy food for a whole week without fear of it getting spoiled after refrigeration. Cooked food can also be stored for long without getting spoilt. Salting of food as a method of preservation is long forgotten. The food preserved using this method did not even last for a long time. One can also get a cold drink during the hottest summer and this seemed like a dream before refrigeration wad invented. Fruits, vegetables and even flowers can be kept fresh for a long period of time with refrigeration. The modern life is in the fast lane. This has called for most people to be working for long hours or working two jobs. In homes both partners may be busy for up to a whole week and hence no time for everyday cooking. With refrigeration, they can cook as much food as possible when they are free and storing it in refrigerators and they can eat it throughout the week. This saves them much time which could have been wasted ion cooking after work. With refrigeration, the temperature of the food is lowered and thus the food can be kept for long to be used later without getting spoiled (Shephard, 29)

Refrigeration is also widely used for the purposes of air conditioning in homes, public buildings and restaurants. It is also used for refrigeration of foodstuffs in restaurants and also in large storage warehouses. Refrigerators have become very common in the United States. Most American homes started using refrigerators a long time ago. More than 80 % of the rural American and more than 90% of urban American homes used owned a refrigerator by the year 1950 (Historychannel.com)

Refrigeration is also used commercially and in manufacturing industries. It is used to liquefy gases including oxygen, nitrogen, propane, and methane. It is used to compress and condense water vapor in compressed air purification. This process is aimed at reducing the moisture content of compressed air. In industries like petrochemical, refineries and chemical plants, refrigeration is important as it is used for the maintenance of certain chemical processes and reactions at low temperatures. An example is in the production of high octane gasoline component where the alkylation’s of butanes and butane is done at low temperatures (Noor, 2009)

Refrigeration is therefore a vital technology in many sectors of the economy like the dairy industry, the meat industry, fish and pork industry and also in the fruits and vegetables sector. In the non food sectors, refrigeration is used in school laboratories to store chemicals, samples and cultures. It is also the technology that is used to preserver corpses in morgues.

Detrimental effects of refrigeration to the society.

The refrigerant used in refrigerators has a negative effect on the environment. Though the use of CFC has been banned, some manufactures may sell the old stocks of refrigerators which use CFC. These are detrimental to the ozone layer. The HFCs being used on modern refrigerators are strong green house gas emitters. Though they do not harm the ozone, they destroy the environment that we live-in. Refrigeration contributes to the global warming. Though HFCs were seen as the solution to refrigeration, it has a very high potential of global warming. This contribution is due to direct emissions of the refrigerant gases. Most of these emissions are due to leakage of the refrigerant into the environment either due to poor maintenance and containment. Freon was seen as been safer to the consumer though it had negative impacts on the environment. Clean Air Act was passed in 1990 and it restricted use of CFCs. Many industries had no other choice than to be forced to phase out CFCs in their products (Gopalnarayanan, 19)

Refrigeration as a symbol of growth.

Refrigeration has allowed many families and industries to keep food fresh for long periods of time. It is a symbol of growth in that most families are small and they occupy a small piece of land and hence there is no space for keeping livestock and growing different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Also most modern families live in towns and cities where there are no gardens for growing fruits and vegetables or keeping animals. This does not therefore mean that because these families are limited by these factors, they cannot enjoy a varied and balanced diet. Supermarkets have stocked all types of me4at, eggs, vegetables and eggs in their refrigerated shelves. These customers come and buy the same and stock it in their refrigerators. The fish, poultry, dairy products and vegetables can be kept in the same space of the refrigerator within the kitchen.

Refrigeration is an important symbol of growth and societal progress in that the society can enjoy a variety of salads, fruits and vegetables all year long without having and tilling their own garden. The society can also enjoy dairy products without having their own dairy animals, meat products without owning beef cattle, egg products without rearing their own poultry and all kinds of fish without having a fish pond all year round. Also other types of foods from far off countries are madder available to the society. These food products are shipped or delivered by air under refrigeration.

Refrigeration allows purchase of goods in large scale and in bulk. With regard to economies of scale, this saves on money. It has become possible to enjoy ice cream which may have been produced from abroad unlike in the past where ice cream was eaten on the spot at the place of manufacture. Through refrigeration world trade has been opened up and refrigerated goods from one country can be easily market in another without the fear of spoilage.

Refrigeration technology has acted as a source of employment to many people. The direct employees include the refrigeration experts, technicians; mechanics and installers. These are mainly people employed by air conditioning, plumbing and heating contractors and companies. Indirect employment involve people in other sectors e.g. in shops that sell the refrigeration equipments, dairy farmers, fishermen and fruits and vegetable farmers.

How government institutions helped shape refrigeration.

Government as a regulator- the government through the Environmental Protection Agency has set standards for monitoring and regulating refrigerant leaks. There are other regulations and strict standards that have been set by the government regarding green house emissions from the refrigerants. The government has identified CFCs, HCFCs, and PFCs as ozone depleting gases (ODS) and also global warming gases and has therefore prohibited their use as refrigerants. These are the gases commonly used for HVAC and in AC units. Many US states have increased the demand for a detailed refrigerant reporting requirement (Stouffer, 1998).

Government as consumer- many government buildings, both central and federal government, is installed with air conditioners, refrigerators and other heating and cooling systems that use the refrigeration technology. Also government hospitals and other governmental organizations are installed with refrigeration systems. This is evident that the government is a major consumer of the refrigeration technology.

Is refrigeration an example of deterministic technology or socially constructed technology.

In my opinion, refrigeration is a socially constructed technology. Refrigeration does not determine the human actions but rather it is the human actions that have shaped refrigeration. The need for fresh products has resulted into the invention of the refrigeration technology. Human beings actions are such that they are very busy either in work places or in school and hence have no time to cook fresh foods every day. This has led to the development of the refrigeration technology. With its development, the human beings are now able to cook more food whenever they are free which they can refrigerate and eat them for a long period of time.


Refrigeration can be said to the process of heat removal from substances. It is done with the aim of lowering the temperature of the substance and maintaining that low temperature. Refrigeration in food is done to reduce the risk of bacteria survival. Bacteria are responsible for most of the illnesses. The technology of refrigeration can be said to have started a long time ago. Its evolution is still continuing as we seek to find the best refrigerant that can be safe to us and to our environment. Refrigeration has been associated with a lot of benefits in our homes and in the society at large. Many homes in the United States are now equipped with a refrigerator.

Important words used :refrigerator, fridge, fridgerator, refrigeration, Carl Linde, Carl von Linde, William Cullen, Oliver Evans, Fred Wolf, Linde, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, James Prescott Joule,  invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, CFC, HCFC, ODS,AC, HAVC.


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