While self-contained refrigerated display cases using hydrocarbon refrigerants like propane are gaining traction in the North American supermarket industry, they are constrained by the legal charge limit of 150g.
However, a new technology called magnetic refrigeration is being groomed for self-contained cases that would not by themselves be able to function with only 150g of refrigerant.
In June, Cooltech Applications, Strasbourg, France, a provider of magnetic refrigeration, struck a deal with refrigerated display-case manufacturer Structural Concepts, Muskegon, Mich., under which Structural Concepts will incorporate the technology in some of its cases (see ‘The Next Refrigeration System?’ Accelerate America, September 2016).
At the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference, held in New Orleans on 11-14 September, Viktor Anderson, vice-president of operations for Structural Concepts, said the company is working on incorporating the Cooltech system into its cases.
Structural Concepts’ open-air, medium-temperature, large capacity cases – used in supermarket and foodservice applications – do not lend themselves to propane refrigeration “because of the charge limits,” said Anderson.
At this point, Structural Concepts is “looking at doing more of a prototype unit at this point and proving it out; [the magnetic system] needs to be smaller and have more output,” he said. “We wanted to get in on the ground floor and understand the technology and how to apply it.”
But even at this early stage, Anderson acknowledged that there are some “green-oriented” food retailers using self-contained refrigeration that are “very interested in this technology,” though he declined to name the chains.
According to Cooltech, its magnetic refrigeration units offer cooling power of 200 W-700 W, and are 30%-40% more efficient than R404A cooling systems, while carrying a higher price tag than propane alternatives. They employ a gadolinium alloy, which heats up when subjected to a magnetic field, and cools down when removed from it, cooling a water/glycol mixture.
Cooltech hopes to complete its first U.S. supermarket installation in the next 12 months, and expects its first European installation by the end of the year, said Vincent Delecourt, Cooltech’s director of sales and marketing, at the FMI Connect show in June.
French retail giant Carrefour has just installed Cooltech's magnetic cooling beverage display cabinet at its head-office restaurant for a four-week trial period.