AskDefine | Define refrigeration

Dictionary Definition



1 the process of cooling or freezing (e.g., food) for preservative purposes [syn: infrigidation]
2 deliberately lowering the body's temperature for therapeutic purposes; "refrigeration by immersing the patient's body in a cold bath"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The process of transferring heat from an object in order to cool it.
  2. The process of preserving something by cooling.
  3. The cooling of the body for therapeutic purposes.

Extensive Definition

Refrigeration is the process of removing heat from an enclosed space, or from a substance, and rejecting it elsewhere for the primary purpose of lowering the temperature of the enclosed space or substance and then maintaining that lower temperature. The term cooling refers generally to any natural or artificial process by which heat is dissipated. The process of artificially producing extreme cold temperatures is referred to as cryogenics.
Cold is the absence of heat, hence in order to decrease a temperature, one "removes heat", rather than "adding cold." In order to satisfy the Second Law of Thermodynamics, some form of work must be performed to accomplish this. This work is traditionally done by mechanical work but can also be done by magnetism, laser or other means. However, all refrigeration uses the three basic methods of heat transfer: convection, conduction, or radiation.

Historical applications

Ice harvesting

The use of ice to refrigerate and thus preserve food goes back to prehistoric times. Through the ages, the seasonal harvesting of snow and ice was a regular practice of most of the ancient cultures: Chinese, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Persians. Ice and snow were stored in caves or dugouts lined with straw or other insulating materials. The Persians stored ice in pits called yahairas. Rationing of the ice allowed the preservation of foods over the cold periods. This practice worked well down through the centuries, with icehouses remaining in use into the twentieth century.
In the 16th century, the discovery of chemical refrigeration was one of the first steps toward artificial means of refrigeration. Sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate, when added to water, lowered the water temperature and created a sort of refrigeration bath for cooling substances. In Italy, such a solution was used to chill wine.
During the first half of the 19th century, ice harvesting became big business in America. New Englander Frederic Tudor, who became known as the "Ice King", worked on developing better insulation products for the long distance shipment of ice, especially to the tropics.

First refrigeration systems

The first known method of artificial refrigeration was demonstrated by William Cullen at the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1748. Cullen used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, which then boiled , absorbing heat from the surrounding air. The experiment even created a small amount of ice, but had no practical application at that time.
In 1805, American inventor Oliver Evans designed but never built a refrigeration system based on the vapor-compression refrigeration cycle rather than chemical solutions or volatile liquids such as ethyl ether.
In 1820, the British scientist Michael Faraday liquefied ammonia and other gases by using high pressures and low temperatures.
An American living in Great Britain, Jacob Perkins, obtained the first patent for a vapor-compression refrigeration system in 1834. Perkins built a prototype system and it actually worked, although it did not succeed commercially.
In 1842, an American physician, John Gorrie, designed the first system for refrigerating water to produce ice. He also conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comfort in homes and hospitals (i.e., air-conditioning). His system compressed air, then partially cooled the hot compressed air with water before allowing it to expand while doing part of the work required to drive the air compressor. That isentropic expansion cooled the air to a temperature low enough to freeze water and produce ice, or to flow "through a pipe for effecting refrigeration otherwise" as stated in his patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office in 1851. Gorrie built a working prototype, but his system was a commercial failure. Alexander Twining began experimenting with vapor-compression refrigeration in 1848 and obtained patents in 1850 and 1853. He is credited with having initiated commercial refrigeration in the United States by 1856.

Vapor-compression cycle

The vapor-compression cycle is used in most household refrigerators as well as in many large commercial and industrial refrigeration systems. Figure 1 provides a schematic diagram of the components of a typical vapor-compression refrigeration system. A much less common definition is: 1 tonne of refrigeration is the rate of heat removal required to freeze a metric ton (i.e., 1000 kg) of water at 0 °C in 24 hours. Based on the heat of fusion being 333.55 kJ/kg, 1 tonne of refrigeration = 13,898 kJ/h = 3.861 kW. As can be seen, 1 tonne of refrigeration is 10% larger than 1 ton of refrigeration.
Most residential air conditioning units range in capacity from about 1 to 5 tons of refrigeration.

See also


Additional reading

  • Refrigeration volume, ASHRAE Handbook, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, GA
  • Stoecker and Jones, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Tata-McGraw Hill Publishers
  • Mathur, M.L., Mehta, F.S., Thermal Engineering Vol II
  • MSN Encarta Encyclopedia
  • Modern Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
refrigeration in German: Kühlung
refrigeration in Spanish: Refrigeración
refrigeration in French: Réfrigération
refrigeration in Indonesian: Refrigerasi
refrigeration in Italian: Refrigerazione
refrigeration in Hebrew: קירור
refrigeration in Dutch: Koeltechniek
refrigeration in Japanese: 冷却
refrigeration in Portuguese: Refrigeração
refrigeration in Slovenian: Hladilni sistem
refrigeration in Serbian: Хлађење
refrigeration in Swedish: Kylning
refrigeration in Chinese: 冷冻

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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