The use of ammonia as a refrigerant has been around for approximately 160 years, dating back to its first use in France in the 1850s. It first appeared in the United States in the 1860s when it was used for artificial ice production. Its popularity as a refrigerant increased during its usage in block ice, food processing and warehousing, and chemical production facilities. Eventually ammonia refrigerant was used in ice arenas and air conditioning units. Today, ammonia refrigerant is used in air conditioning for the International Space Station and Biosphere II, a man-made controllable environment. Its latest uses are a testament to the growing popularity of ammonia refrigerants.
This increased usage can be attributed to a number of reasons. A. Bruce Badger, president of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR), talked about some of those reasons. “Ammonia is a natural refrigerant that is non-ozone depleting and does not contribute to global warming, which makes it an ideal refrigerant for use in large industrial applications,” he said. “These applications include large-scale food and beverage processing, cold storage warehouses, district cooling, the pharmaceutical industry, and recreation facilities (ice rinks).”