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Developing a kind of blend with ammonia would reduce toxicity


A phase change material releases or absorb sufficient energy at phase transition to provide useful heat or cooling, mostly used in solar cold storage.

Interacting with Thermal Control Business Update, Harshal Surange, Director and CEO, ACR Project Consultants told that we design cold storage and cold storage facilities and are engaged as turnkey designers. Revealing further he said, we do not engage in execution, but are involved only in design aspects as project consultants. About market trends in refrigeration, he says it has been steadier and even through lockdown, it was fairly steady. 


PCM and refrigeration technologies in cold chain

 Typically, main two refrigerants being used are ammonia and Freon. The ammonia is used mostly for cold storages. The other category, which includes HFCs and HFO, is termed as Freon. It usages is prevalent in India, but over a period of time that will be phased down. The Baseline figure is 2022 to 2024. And after that, from 2028 the phase down will run till 2040. In India, we will be phasing down the Freon, basically HFCs.


The phase change materials are mainly utilised in the dairy sector for refrigeration. This sector witnesses sudden jumps. At any point of time, you may realise that enough milk is coming in and everything happens very quickly. So, a lot of refrigeration is needed. Basically, the entire cold chain is revolving around either pharma or perishables. But, the change appears to be more relevant to the dairy kind of industries. Mostly, other industries have the set system.


Phase change materials are into much demand recently, because they are being used a lot in solar cold storage. Solar storage gets only eight hours of sunshine, so you can generate power for use only during that period. And, the same materials are used to maintain the cooling. The remaining original change is more useful for the smaller or the unitary kind of requirements. Take vaccine for instance. There are ice packs or PCM batteries, and you can put them in that box. It keeps cooling for smaller and unitary requirements where it’s very useful, but not for the larger projects where other measures are required.


Refrigeration equipment for cold storage 

Because of emerging need to preserve vaccines, cold chain has been gaining much importance. The vaccine cold chain always existed. Of late, it has gained much prominence because of Covid. A lot of companies have come up with small facilities for localised vaccine storage. Only smaller versions make more sense like the freezer or the refrigerator. There are certain vaccines, which of course are not allowed in India, but certain vaccines such as the Moderna and Pfizer require -700 C which is trickier to attain. However in India, we do not require them .


In a transportation system, units are not designed because they come in standard packages. For projects, we actually design everything. How big should be the coil, what should be a service area, what is the airflow etc., are all to be designed. In these transport refrigeration systems, they are pre-designed. So, we just have to select a given range depending upon the commodity, where it is likely to be used, and what temperature is required therein. Also, it is needed to know what energy efficiency we can attain, given the insulation thickness of the container. Once the temperature is attained, however, more energy is required to maintain the temperature.


Innovative products for next generation refrigeration

 During the period, a little before Covid, we came up with the DX ammonia system, which is a direct expansion of ammonia with air cooled condensers. The air cooled ammonia basically was something which was never attempted in India before. Probably in the majority regions of the world also, it was never done. And, India is the first one to do that at a global level. It was planted in Solapur which is still running on air-cooled condensers. It has been about four years now that the plant has been operational and it has been working well. Besides toxicity issues, there is no problem. We are now realising to develop a kind of a blend with ammonia, where the toxicity would be reduced. This we had heard about five to seven years back. So far, no update has been there. If something like that can happen, then it will open plethora of new opportunities.

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