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Fridge Powered by Heat Invented at Stanford



We have been talking a while ago about refrigerators that needed no electricity or that were powered by the Sun, through evaporation, helping poor countries with a cool place to keep their food. Now, venture capitalist Adam Grosser teamed up with some Stanford scientists to create refrigerator that really doesn’t need to be plugged in anything but the Sun.

They built a device having the size of a thermos containing a refrigerant that get triggered by heat. So, if you want to keep something cool, you have to heat it first, and then let it cool down. Interesting idea, especially if it will be sold for only $50, as Grosser says.

Imagine you could leave it in the Sun or put it on a camp fire to cool your things. More details would still have to be released for the world to fully believe this really happens (or maybe a live demo). It makes sense on the one hand, energy from heat is used to cool down a chamber. It’s nothing weird at a first glance, but it still leaves you open-mouthed.

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  1. Frank Mancuso — great idea. On the Science Channel a year or two ago (and later Planet Green for a bit), there was a series called “Invention Nation” where, on one episode they spotlighted a Vermont firm that does what you describe for their clients (but the clients appeared to be commerical enterprises, though maybe anyone could hire them).

    In addition, you might check out


    As you’ll read there, Sunfrost used a similiar method, but rather than piping air like the Vermont firm does, the refrigerant itself was exposed to the outside during colder weather, and one of their units was bought by Rocky Mountain Instititute. Unfortunately, they state there wasn’t a very big demand, so they don’t do this anymore . . .

    Lastly, an article in HOME POWER in 1998 described a successful project in Lineville, Alabama where solar heat compressed a refrigerant (anhydrous amonnia — a somewhat dangerous one) and created huge ice-cubes in the inventor’s icebox. Neat — and from heat . . .

  2. Hi Eric,
    Great invention,
    I have invented several product ideas, including a pair of inline skates that converted into ice-skates. As I was developing the working proto-types, the skates “magically” appeared on the shelves of sports authority. I have two very sound ideas that I believe have a market place. I have working prototypes on both. I have done a patent search already but have not patented them yet. Is there a way to get these ideas in front of a manufacturer or a prospect investor without the expense of a patent and without the risk of having my ideas used? I know the importance of insuring that a market exist for my product, and one of the ways is to show the product, how can I safeguard my ideas? Thanks a bunch, Mauricio

  3. This technology could certainly be useful in a number of developing areas (particularly at this low price). I would think this technology may find a wider market though as this device could be used for recreational activities like camping and as a backup refrigeration device during electrical outages.

  4. Along the lines of one laptop per child comes the idea of an inexpensive refrigerator that could help more than a billion people who have no access to electricity.

  5. This is an updated version of the Icyball, which was commonly used in some rural parts of the US and Canada before electricity made compressor fridges and freezers more available.

  6. From WIKIPEDIA – Absorption refrigerator – is a refrigerator that utilizes a heat source (e.g. solar, kerosene-fueled flame) to provide the energy needed to drive the cooling system…
    Absorption cooling was invented by the French scientist Ferdinand Carré in 1858.

    So…what’s new?

  7. Sometimes things seem to have potential. Heat and cold drive our weather. Speaking of cold I always thought you or the company that makes your refrig could have a insulated PVC pipe to the outdoors connected to the refrig. A thermostatic door can open as the outside air temp drops allowing it to enter and cool and even freeze the refrig. Considering the refrig uses most of the electrisity we buy if we could cycle the use of its compressor by 10% or 20% we would see real savings plus help reduce greehnouse gas. I think I’ll do it to my refrig its about 18% out.


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