Brazilian manufacturer Embraco, owned by Nidec Global Appliance since 2019, is seeing a growing demand for variable speed hydrocarbon compressors (VCC) in medical and scientific refrigeration, driven by the need for energy efficiency, low noise and very tight temperature control.

“We have noticed that [medical] refrigeration equipment manufacturers and end users are looking for solutions that reduce energy consumption and noise, since these applications have to stay on 24/7, and that can be obtained with VCCs,” said John Prall, Technical Support Engineer for commercial refrigeration at Nidec Global Appliance.

The company has been working to improve its position in medical and scientific refrigeration since 2011, when it started producing compressors for ultra-low temperature applications requiring temperatures down to -80°C (-112°F). It now has a portfolio of hydrocarbon solutions, including compressors using R290 (propane), R170 (ethane), and R600a (isobutane).

VCCs can provide stable cooling, and achieve the set temperature up to 20% faster than fixed speed compressors, reducing the energy consumption by up to 40%, said Embraco-Nidec in a press release. They are also 15-20% more silent than equivalent fixed speeds.

The ability to keep stable cooling is critical in the medical refrigeration area. Not only are there significant potential financial losses from spoiled medicine like vaccines, but it can also risk patients’ health – a significant selling point in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Test samples for COVID-19 must be kept in the temperature range of 2°C to 8°C  [35.6°F to 46.4°F],” said Prall.

Apart from the ability to deliver the required cooling capacity, while maintaining “rigorous” temperature control, Embraco-Nidec also sees improved startability of VCCs as a plus in areas with unstable electricity grids.

“The improved startability, even under voltage fluctuation, guarantees the compressor will keep the goods refrigerated in moments when fixed speed compressors (also known as on-off) would not,” the company said.

Prior to its acquisition by Nidec in 2019, Embraco entered into several collaborations with OEMs, to develop new solutions for the market. In 2015, it collaborated with a “leading” medical cases manufacturer on developing an ultra-low temperature freezer able to save up to 47% in energy use, compared to a solution with a fixed speed compressor. This solution uses an R290/R170 cascade system and patented controls.In 2018, Embraco entered into another partnership, developing an under-counter refrigerator for clinical samples and medical products using R600a. The refrigerator uses a VCC and a quiet electronically commutated fan motor. The result was a 55% reduction of environmental impact, due to lowered CO2 emissions, and tight temperature control, the company said.

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