Cool Guys Gathered in the United States Capital

Chun-cheng Piao


Senior Research Manager



After 30 years, International Congress of Refrigeration, ICR, returned to the United States of America. The nation has the largest air-conditioning and refrigeration industry in the world. International Institute of Refrigeration, IIR, headquartered in Paris, is the largest international organization for the people who are involved in air-conditioning and refrigeration. IIR hosts the  International Congress every 4 years. On Aug. 17-22, 2003, the 21st International Congress of Refrigeration was held in Washington DC, USA. Every ICR has a theme for the event, and this yearfs theme was gServing the Needs of Mankindh. There were over 750 participants from more than 50 countries, according to the congress organizer. More than 400 papers were presented, and covered an extensive area of interest.

One interesting point is that the number of participants from Japan was reduced dramatically, compared to several years ago. In contrast, there was a tremendous increase of the participants from South Korea and China. It really seems to reflect the economical growth in these regions.

The high quality plenary sessions started every morning with an amazing short film about the cool history, and was followed by carefully selected key note lectures by well recognized experts in his/her area. The plenary sessions were so successful the conference hall was filled early morning! There were also 13 short courses held during the congress.

The following key themes were covered in papers and posters presented during the congress:

- Refrigerants: new applications for CO2

- Refrigeration systems: improvement of energy efficiency

- Refrigeration of foods: safety and quality

- Refrigerated transport: new developments

- Air conditioning: performance and health issues

- Heat pumps: equipment and applications

- Cryogenics: systems and components.

As compared to previous congresses, the interests related to refrigerants and their systems have changed from HFCs, the alternatives to CFCs, to natural working fluids, namely carbon dioxide. At least 25 papers were dedicated to CO2, and covered a wide range of interest, from thermophysical properties to component and system development. The CO2 system has been under development for about the last 10 years. In spite of its inherent low performance for high ambient temperature applications, CO2 systems have begun to see some success in certain applications, such as, CO2 heat pump hot water heater and CO2 mobile air-conditioning system. The secondary loop system for refrigeration system in supermarket or storage warehouse has received great interest also. For the components, the micro channel aluminum heat exchanger seems to be the most promising choice, and various types of expanding devices are also received tremendous attention. It seems, still many issues have to be addressed to find not only a cost effective way but also an environmentally friendly way to compete with HFCs, non natural working fluids, systems, especially for the air-conditioning applications. Maybe the best solution to solve this dilemma is another governmental regulation.

The CHP, combined cooling, heat and power, and/or heat activated systems became popular, in this congress. Driven by the deregulation and energy saving demands, the distributed power system become a realistic solution, and waste heat driven systems, such as desiccant and absorption systems, are under the spot light once again. More than 26 papers are dedicated to absorption and cogeneration systems. There was even a short course dedicated to the absorption system. The president of Broad, a newly succeeding Chinese manufacturer, appeared to give a presentation of his full product line. Appreciating the Chinese rapid economic growth, the Broad company, comes from nowhere, has become the largest absorption chiller manufacturer in China, today. Its products line covers capacities from several tons to several hundred tons. Considering the miserable absorption chiller market in the US, integration and optimization of the whole cogeneration system seems to be the key issue to achieve success in the market. Moreover, it seems Asian countries are more interested in CHP systems and energy saving technologies than the United States, the largest energy consumer in the world. The low energy price policy is now becoming a barrier for introducing new technologies into the United States.

The entire congress was very well organized, no surprises, no dark horse. The next one will be in Beijing in 2007. I@hope there will be some surprises beside Chinese cuisine and adsorption manufactures. I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Reinhard Radermacher and Dr. Yunho Hwang of CEEE, University of Maryland, for their valuable comments.