CSU Energy Institute to help with solar-powered refrigeration

Researchers at Colorado State University’s Energy Institute are helping Rebound Technology build a solar-powered refrigeration system for use in developing countries.

The Boulder-based company received a $1.375 million grant from the U.S.A. International Development agency (USAID) to produce a prototype of its SunChill refrigeration system and test it in Mozambique.

“It’s Rebound’s idea and technology,” said Dan Zimmerle, a CSU researcher working on the project. “Our role is really technical support. We will help them with system modeling, constructing a prototype, testing and deploying in early field tests.”

The SunChill technology harnesses heat from the sun and uses it to separate two materials that, when mixed again produce a cooling effect and chill vegetables enough to extend their shelf life and keep them fresher longer.

Kevin Davis, Rebound’s chief executive officer, said the system works much like a chemical ice pack athletes and others use to treat injuries.

“When you crunch those ice packs, a chemical mixes with a fluid and produces a coolant,” Davis said. “SunChill operates on the same principle except that our system is designed to work in a closed loop, rather than a one-time use.”

Rebound designed the system to work in developing countries where there is little access to the electricity needed to operate conventional refrigeration. The SunChill system is portable and requires no electricity.

“If you can cool fruits or vegetables within an hour and a half of coming out of a field, they will last much longer,” Davis said.

The Energy Institute agreed to provide technical support after reviewing the project. Zimmerle said Rebound’s approach is novel and aligns with the Institute’s mission.

Researchers with CSU’s Energy Institute are known for adapting or developing new technologies to improve everyday life in developing countries. Recent projects include designing clean-burning cookstoves and two-stroke engine conversions with low emissions.

They also are working with RTI International and others to develop a waterless toilet that converts human waste into burnable fuel and disinfected, non-potable water.

“This project makes sense and fits in with what we do at the Energy Institute,” Zimmerle said.

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