The WindChill: A Portable & Electric-Less Refrigerator Inspired By Nature


Those lucky enough to own a fridge definitely take the technology for granted. Just think what life would be like without a food refrigeration unit. You’d never be able to preserve a meal’s lifetime and constantly worry if any food you own is fit to eat.

On the flip-side, try to put yourself in the shoes of those in poorer countries who never have access to a refrigerator or like modern conveniences. Unlike us, poorer populations in developing nations can’t just grab a meal from a restaurant, nor can they store food they do have for a longer duration with a fridge. Without a means to refrigerate foods, impoverished peoples have less time to consume foods that are already limited in accessibility.

A team of students at the University of Calgary have developed a technology to fix this food-related issue, creating a refrigeration unit that doesn’t even need electricity like a common fridge. Dubbed the WindChill Food Preservation Unit, the technological innovation won the University of Calgary students first prize in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a contest where teams need to create new products based on ideas and practices found in nature.

Taking aim at the issue of “food stores spoiling in areas with poor access to electricity,” as described in the team’s project overview, the WindChill is a recreation of methods used by animals, with the device’s operation broken into three distinct steps.

First, the WindChill takes in surrounding warm air and funnels it into a pipe, like coral and termites. The second step, inspired by elephants, kangaroos, and bees, has the collected air travel into an “evaporation chamber” where a fluid evaporates and so cools the air in the pipe itself. The final step involves the cooled air travelling into a cooling chamber where food is kept, a process taken from meerkats and other burrowing creatures.

The result is a small, portable refrigeration unit that requires zero electricity and costs very little to build, thus making it quite useful in impoverished areas where there is little to no access to electricity and food is scarce. For a better look at the WindChill, watch the team’s competition submission below.

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