Non-profit organization Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) has launched the Chill Challenge: Affordable Off-Grid Refrigeration for Developing Countries. This offers natural refrigerant engineers, and others, the chance to help solve a growing problem by developing energy efficient off-grid refrigeration solutions. The deadline for proposals is December 2019.

The goal of the challenge is to help fill the refrigeration “gap” for the 60-150 million homes in developing nations who, over the next 20 years, are projected to acquire electricity via “mini-grids” or solar home systems. The task is to develop refrigerators and community icemakers that are significantly more affordable than units currently available, according to a press release from EWB-USA.

“As many as 2 billion people live without refrigeration,” said Andrew Dowdy, one of the EWB-USA engineers behind the challenge. “It’s more than just a convenience, refrigeration can be an essential service, improving the quality of life for millions of people in a number of important ways, but has largely been an unaffordable option, especially for those that live without access to grid power.”

The challenge will offer up to 10 grants of $25,000-$50,000 to support the development of proof of concept prototypes. Interested parties should submit a proposal outlining their approach to solving the problem.

“We need to re-think off-grid refrigeration in two important ways,” Dowdy said. “First, rather than continuing to try to adapt existing refrigerators to the off-grid market, we need to examine other refrigeration technologies to identify ones that may be more appropriate for off-grid customers and conditions. In addition, we need to rethink our definition of refrigeration to include not only household units but also other solutions such as community-sized ice-makers,” he added.

The challenge includes two specific design targets:

  1. A 150-250 liter refrigerator that can chill 20L water per day from 35°C to 3°C (95°F to 37.4°F). The fridge must cost less than $12 per month to own or operate.
  2. A community icemaker capable of producing 100-1,000kg (220-2205lbs) ice per day, at a cost of $0.03 per kg.

Both units must be suitable for use in remote areas in developing countries and operate on off-grid energy sources.

The challenge is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Open Philanthropy Project. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is a partner in the project, providing technical review expertise and outreach for the challenge.

“Our mission is to lift people out of poverty and reliable, affordable and sustainable refrigeration is a huge step in the right direction,” said Cathy Leslie, EWB-USA’s executive director.

Read more about the Chill Challenge here.

“Our mission is to lift people out of poverty and reliable, affordable and sustainable refrigeration is a huge step in the right direction.” – Cathy Leslie, EWB-USA

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