Photo credit: Stephen Boxall / ZERO-G www. gozerog .com
A team of engineers from Purdue University, Air Squared Inc., and Whirlpool Corporation give us a first hands-on look at their prototype zero-gravity fridge that could one day be used by astronauts in space. Most of the canned and dried food that astronauts consume during missions has a 3-year shelf life, and this project, funded by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, hopes to provide a supply of food that could last up to 6-years. Read more for a video and additional information.
The microwave-sized fridge basically cools food using a vapor-compression cycle, similar to the ones used here on Earth, but without the need for oil, thus removing concerns about the liquid flowing where it shouldn’t in a zero-gravity environment. To test this fridge while still on Earth, the team used a ZERO-G plan, which performed 30 parabolas including Martian, lunar and micro gravities.
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We want to have a refrigeration cycle that is resistant to zero gravity and works to normal specifications. Our preliminary analysis clearly shows that our design allows gravity to have less impact on that cycle,” said Eckhard Groll, a professor and head of Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering.