Rethinking Refrigeration

We’ve previously talked about food storage outside of refrigeration, but what about the idea of refrigeration itself? The technology itself has seen little advancement since the invention of Freon in 1928. For those not in the know:

Freon represents several different chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used in commerce and industry. The CFCs are a group of aliphatic organic compounds containing the elements carbon and fluorine, and, in many cases, other halogens (especially chlorine) and hydrogen. Freons are colorless, odorless, nonflammable, noncorrosive gases or liquids […] CFCs, or Freon, are now infamous for greatly adding to the depletion of the earth’s ozone shield.

A couple years ago, Electrolux Design Labs ran a contest for household appliance redesigns. Two of the finalists caught my eye and gave my inner hippie hope for the future, specifically, the Future Gel and Honeycomb models (not their official names, just how I will be referring to them in this article for the sake of being consistent and concise).

The Future Gel (or Bio Robot Refrigerator) prototype, designed by the Russian Yuriy Dmitriev, purportedly:

Utilizes a special gel-like substance that suspends and cools food once inserted.

The Bio Robot Refrigerator mounts on a wall—Dmitriev points out it can be mounted horizontally, vertically or even on the ceiling. The fridge does not have a motor or other traditional technology like most refrigerators—the gel does all the work—so, 90% of the appliance is actual usable space. To use the fridge you basically shove food into it’s biopolymer gel—which has no odor and is not sticky—and it is suspended and cooled until you need it again.

I’m not quite sure how far we are from biopolymer gel, but the idea is fascinating nonetheless.

The other design that intrigued me was Ben de la Roche’s. De la Roche was, at the time of this contest at least, an industrial design student at New Zealand’s Massey University. His design uses the honeycomb pattern found in nature to make a modularized, door-less, open-front refrigeration system which saves energy by only cooling the food that’s put in it. This is accomplished through the modular interface. A traditional fridge is essentially a box that gets really cold, so if you want things (food, flowers, a human head if you’re BBC’s Sherlock, etc) to be cold, you stick it in the box. De la Roche’s design allows the cooling mechanism to be much more targeted so that the entire infrastructure isn’t being cooled unnecessarily when all that’s in it is a case of beer and collegiate hunger. This design implements thermoacoustic refrigeration using nitrogen instead of CFCs.

Prototypes or not, I’m excited about what this kind of thinking can mean for the future. Functional, aesthetically pleasing designs that make our world cleaner and safer is what I’m all about. That and food—daylight savings time coupled with all this fridge talk has thrown me for a loop. I’m hungry.

Fridge Free Food: Kick Your Obsessive Storage Habit & Keep Food Fresher Too
Zero-Energy Bio Refrigerator Cools Your Food With Future Gel
Student Invents Doorless Refrigerator That Saves Energy and Reduces Food Spoilage

Bubble Boy Eat Your Heart Out: Bubble Dome Camping and Living


Have you ever gotten the question, “Do you live in a bubble?” That phrase has always frustrated me personally since it implies that I have no knowledge of topics or of the outside world, but now I fear it NOT!

BubbleTree has developed bubble tents, tree houses, lodges and huts which allow campers and nature enthusiasts alike to enjoy views from the inside of a transparent dome. Similar in design to the containment laboratory used in the new blockbuster film Thor, the spheres have an air renewal system that will keep the user comfortable and full of oxygen while they go about their daily indoor activities.

The very intelligent design of the bubble tent helps reduce noises of the outside world, allowing for the user to get a good night’s sleep, even if the bubble is set up next to roaring waves on a beach front. The inside however is created in such a shape that it will actually amplify noises through echoes, passionate lovers beware. BubbleTree talks about the technique and thought behind theses bubble creations:

Designed by Pierre Stephane Dumas, this approach is based on the following basis: Minimum energy, minimum materials, maximum comfort, and maximum interaction with the environment.

Want a life-sized snow globe? No problem. A 2 room suite with a bathroom while you bird-watch? They have you covered. Bringing your kids along? That bathroom is now a kids room instead. Silly, is it not? Check out some of these fancy French examples of ways these crafty bubble tents can be used! You may be even tempted to use your bubble hut in creative ways at a concert.

My question is when are they going to make these bad boys hover around and provide us consumers with a view of cities and landscapes, maybe with the use of propellers.. oh right, helicopters.

So the next time someone asks you if you live in a bubble, burst THEIR bubble and respond why yes, and the view is extraordinary. Bubble boy eat your heart out.