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Gemini Centre wins award for CO2 refrigeration technology
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Published June 28, 2005

Refrigeration scientists at SINTEF and NTNU have been honoured by an award from the International Energy Agency (IEA) for their contribution to solving the greenhouse problems caused by leaking refrigeration systems and heat pumps.

Senior scientist Petter Nekså and his colleagues at SINTEF and NTNU helped to launch the developments that made this CO2 refrigeration system for supermarkets a possibility – one of the first of its type in the world.
Photo: SINTEF/Svein Tønseth

e award-winning work of the Trondheim scientists has shown that it is possible to use CO2, a natural substance, as the “work-horse” in cooling systems and heat pumps.

The prize was awarded to one of the Gemini Centres set up by the twin institutions of SINTEF and NTNU in the field of applied refrigeration technology, and was recently handed over at an international heat pump conference in Las Vegas.


Avoiding chemicals
Until recently, chemicals that break down ozone were used in refrigeration systems and heat pumps, but in 1987 an international convention agreed to ban the use of such compounds. The chemical industry soon launched a new substance as a replacement, but this turned out to be a powerful greenhouse gas.

This was the background for the decision by SINTEF and NTNU to utilise CO2 instead of other chemicals. When it is used in cooling systems, CO2 does not contribute to the greenhouse effect if it leaks out to the atmosphere, since it is essentially “borrowed” from industrial waste gases that would otherwise have been released to the atmosphere.


“Greener” cars
Using their own in-house refrigeration technology, SINTEF and NTNU were the first to demonstrate that CO2 can be used in vehicle air-conditioning systems without increasing fuel consumption.

The EU is currently drawing up a directive that will require all new vehicle models to have air-conditioning systems that do not contain the chemicals in use today. Vehicle manufacturers already have test cars on the road fitted with CO2-based air-conditioning. SINTEF and NTNU are also members of an EU project that will develop simple, inexpensive CO2 systems for small cars.


When the Japanese bathe
CO2 technology from SINTEF and NTNU is already a hit in Japanese houses, where it is used in heat pumps for tapwater and room heating. The systems are based on patented technology from SINTEF and NTNU, to which the Hydro-owned company Shecco Technology owns exclusive rights. Some 250,000 units have already been sold in Japan, where the authorities estimate than 5.2 million systems will be sold by 2010.


Cooling for stores too
One of the first CO2 refrigeration systems for supermarkets has recently been installed by ICA Tempe in Trondheim. SINTEF and NTNU helped to launch the developments that have made the new system, the first of its type in Norway, a possibility.

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By Svein Tønseth

Research unit in SINTEF:
Energy Processes
SINTEF Energy Research

Refrigeration Engineering