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TED2007

Adam Grosser: A mobile fridge for vaccines

Filmed:

Adam Grosser talks about a project to build a refrigerator that works without electricity -- to bring the vital tool to villages and clinics worldwide. Tweaking some old technology, he's come up with a system that works.

- Venture capitalist
Adam Grosser is a general partner at Foundation Capital -- and a refrigeration visionary. Full bio

This is a work in process,
00:13
based on some comments that were made
00:16
at TED two years ago
00:19
about the need for the storage of vaccine.
00:20
(Music)
00:24
(Video) Narrator: On this planet,
00:25
1.6 billion people
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don't have access to electricity,
00:28
refrigeration
00:30
or stored fuels.
00:34
This is a problem.
00:38
It impacts:
00:40
the spread of disease,
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the storage of food and medicine
00:46
and the quality of life.
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So here's the plan: inexpensive refrigeration that doesn't use electricity,
00:52
propane, gas, kerosene or consumables.
00:55
Time for some thermodynamics.
01:00
And the story of the Intermittent Absorption Refrigerator.
01:02
Adam Grosser: So 29 years ago, I had this thermo teacher
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who talked about absorption and refrigeration.
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It's one of those things that stuck in my head.
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It was a lot like the Stirling engine:
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it was cool, but you didn't know what to do with it.
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And it was invented in 1858, by this guy Ferdinand Carre,
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but he couldn't actually build anything with it
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because of the tools of the time.
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This crazy Canadian named Powel Crosley
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commercialized this thing called the IcyBall in 1928,
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and it was a really neat idea,
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and I'll get to why it didn't work,
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but here's how it works.
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There's two spheres and they're separated in distance.
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One has a working fluid, water and ammonia,
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and the other is a condenser.
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You heat up one side, the hot side.
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The ammonia evaporates
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and it re-condenses in the other side.
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You let it cool to room temperature,
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and then, as the ammonia re-evaporates and combines with the water
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back on the erstwhile hot side,
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it creates a powerful cooling effect.
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So, it was a great idea that didn't work at all: it blew up.
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Because using ammonia you get hugely high pressures
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if you heated them wrong.
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It topped 400 psi. The ammonia was toxic. It sprayed everywhere.
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But it was kind of an interesting thought.
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So, the great thing about 2006 is
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there's a lot of really great computational work you can do.
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So, we got the whole thermodynamics department
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at Stanford involved --
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a lot of computational fluid dynamics.
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We proved that most of the ammonia refrigeration tables are wrong.
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We found some non-toxic refrigerants
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that worked at very low vapor pressures.
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Brought in a team from the U.K. --
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there's a lot of great refrigeration people,
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it turned out, in the U.K. --
02:33
and built a test rig, and proved that, in fact,
02:35
we could make a low pressure, non-toxic refrigerator.
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So, this is the way it works.
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You put it on a cooking fire.
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Most people have cooking fires in the world,
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whether it's camel dung or wood.
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It heats up for about 30 minutes, cools for an hour.
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Put it into a container
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and it will refrigerate for 24 hours.
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It looks like this. This is the fifth prototype. It's not quite done.
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Weighs about eight pounds, and this is the way it works.
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You put it into a 15-liter vessel, about three gallons,
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and it'll cool it down to just above freezing --
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three degrees above freezing --
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for 24 hours in a 30 degree C environment. It's really cheap.
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We think we can build these in high volumes for about 25 dollars,
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in low volumes for about 40 dollars.
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And we think we can make refrigeration
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something that everybody can have.
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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About the Speaker:

Adam Grosser - Venture capitalist
Adam Grosser is a general partner at Foundation Capital -- and a refrigeration visionary.

Why you should listen

Adam Grosser is a venture capitalist, working with startups that are exploring new ideas in data communications, electronics and energy management. With a background in engineering and entertainment, he enjoys looking for opportunities that map over a few of his passions -- which also include greentech.

His passion for a sustainable solution to refrigeration -- for storing food and medicines -- led to the project he describes in his 2007 TEDTalk. 

 

More profile about the speaker
Adam Grosser | Speaker | TED.com