WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Refrigeration research often involves scientists and engineers studying theoretical concepts, testing the limits of physics, running computer models, and creating prototypes of equipment that hopefully can be mass produced in a cost-effective manner.

But through it all, Ron Vallort, president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), hopes those doing the research keep in mind the humans who most need to benefit from refrigeration advancements.

"We may find ourselves amazed and a bit self-congratulatory about how well refrigeration works, and how vital refrigeration is to the world," he told attendees at the Compressor Engineering Conference and Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Conference at Purdue University. "But we also find ourselves taken aback by the tasks that still lie ahead of us."

That involves, he said, improvements to the cold chain to better reach regions and people not well served by refrigeration.

"As the world's population increases, the dynamics of food supply and storage versus population will be crucial. With the population currently increasing at a rate of 77 million people per year, mostly in areas where food deficits already exist, the burden is on us to be the technological link in the cold chain.

"We need to advance refrigeration technology to enable all the people of the world to enjoy the benefits of refrigeration."

He noted that ASHRAE has some 100 technical committees covering a wide range of topics. "But through it all, I encourage our committee members to ask themselves this question when discussing research, programs, or information: How does this impact our industry and the public?"

Vallort pointed out that the need for refrigeration extends beyond food supplies to include medical care.

"Refrigeration is a vital part of the infrastructure necessary to deliver vaccines worldwide, especially to areas like Sub-Saharan Africa where the need is great. Thousands of lives around the world have been saved by vaccines for diseases such as polio, measles, chickenpox, and hepatitis."

He called on ASHRAE members and others within the industry "to participate in worldwide programs to update HVACR technology, such as working with engineers in developing or war-torn countries.

"We should encourage institutions to construct more hands-on technical facilities for the training of technicians and operators of refrigeration systems.

"We can target research programs that benefit people living in countries with limited funds and technology.

"Refrigeration needs to be revitalized to better serve the needs of the world. We need to seek the best in refrigerants, efficiency, cost reduction, reliability, and energy utilization for all types of refrigeration: industrial, transport, and domestic. Heating and air conditioning will also have to be enhanced to make inhospitable land inhabitable."

Publication date: 07/12/2004