Sounds Cool!
November 9, 2005 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Sounds Cool! Thermoacoustic refrigeration research at Penn State has been sponsored by Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream company. The aim? To produce an efficient yet environmentally friendly ice cream freezer...[more inside]
posted by paulsc (17 comments total)
Ten years of research (including a brush with an FBI investigation into grant fraud by some program managers) and demonstration projects such as the frankenfridge are finally leading to patent applications and initial steps towards commercialization of the technology. And for the do-it-yourselfers, and high school science fair set, there is a demo kit.
posted by paulsc at 2:43 PM on November 9, 2005

Cool post!
posted by luckypozzo at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2005

I'm looking forward to asking if anyone has any opinions on Thermoacoustic refrigeration the next time things get stale at a dinner party.

This was pretty neat. I couldn't help wondering, though, what happens if the protective soundproofing fails and this thing starts rupturing the ear drums of everyone on the block.
posted by docpops at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2005

Just think -- some day, every college freshmen will come to school equipped with a 173dB mini-fridge.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:07 PM on November 9, 2005

docpops - the sound, iirc, can only be generated in the special "loud sound generating chamber". if it's damaged the acoustic properties change enough to keep it from making your ears bleed.
posted by boo_radley at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2005

Cool to see a green solution at PSU that didn't come from the West side eco-hippy community. When I lived there the Center for Sustainability regulars were all about promoting the living machine and sustainable living in general. They must be infiltrating the engineering department.
posted by chowder at 3:21 PM on November 9, 2005

Wow, Bob Smith (one of the principal researchers) is an old friend of mine. I haven't really kept up and didn't know that their research had become so practical. Thanks for posting this.
posted by octothorpe at 3:33 PM on November 9, 2005

Chowder, when you say "lived there" did you mean PSU or West College? I used to live at West College and North Gill. I wasn't an eco-hippy, I lived there because the rent was cheap and my place was close to the Hammond Building.
posted by Fat Guy at 3:49 PM on November 9, 2005

So, Maxwell's Demon does his job by screaming?
posted by hank at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2005

So...just how much energy is required to power say your average 25 cubic foot Fridge then?
posted by aaronscool at 3:57 PM on November 9, 2005

My apologies if my comment rubbed you the wrong way Fat Guy. I lived in State College in the West side of the town for a few years. I didn't mean to imply that everyone who lived on the West side of town was a hippy but that was and, I think, still is where most of those folks live. I think it's true that most people who live on the West side of State College, PA are of the non-hippie persuasion.

I should have posted the same info about the living machine and Center for Sustainability without adding my personal commentary. Duly noted.
posted by chowder at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2005

I first learned about this while reading Gregg Easterbrook's football column, The Tuedsay Morning Quarterback (search the page for "experimental refrigerator"), way back in August. If only I had know then it was FPP worthy. According to Easterbrook, it generates 173 decibels, nearly as much as the space shuttle does when leaving its pad.
posted by ChasFile at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2005

This is really kickass. So, dear engineery-geeks in the crowd, can you explain something to me? How much power would something like this draw? More or less than your average household fridge? (Presuming you could DIY-kit-it out).

I'm curious because we'd like to live off-grid when we finally find the right land, and keeping things cool is one of the great energy sucks in your average house. Think this could run with some sort of solar energy/inverter action? I was looking at some other options, but this is cooler...pardon the pun.
posted by at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2005

Yum. Resonant Macrosonic Synthesis in action.
I've been waiting for this to take off and see Tim Lucas become the new Dean Kamen. But with less scooter silliness. Maybe they'll have a Stirling vs. Acoustic engine fight. Fight!

I love that they're using it for commercial refrigeration first - as long as they don't call it the iScream or something.
posted by bartleby at 5:17 PM on November 9, 2005

1) ...what happens if the protective soundproofing fails and this thing starts rupturing the ear drums of everyone on the block.

2) How much power would something like this draw?

1) Apparently, the thing will probably explodes, so you don't have to worry about it.

2) See above link.
posted by dsword at 6:19 PM on November 9, 2005

"So, Maxwell's Demon does his job by screaming?"
posted by hank at 6:53 PM EST on November 9 [!]

hank, I love the mental image you've given us here. Now _that's_ funny!

"...How much power would something like this draw?..." posted by at 8:09 PM EST on November 9 [!]

bitter-girl, I think the Penn State info says that the current efficiencies of the thermoacoustic process are about 20-30% lower than conventional phase change compressor systems. But I think part of the commercialization effort would be directed to improving efficiency, and the thermoacoustic process does have potential for "part duty cycle" operation, unlike traditional compressors, which cycle on and off, pulling bigger spikes of power during start. So, there maybe some advantages for thermoacoustic systems in "off grid" applications, because they wouldn't require battery storage and inverters capable of delivering the big surge loads demanded by conventional compressor motors.
posted by paulsc at 6:33 PM on November 9, 2005

Thanks, paulsc -- I'd read about the lower efficiency, but didn't know how it might translate in a stored-power system such as off-grid solar power, etc.

I've seen some mods that use the heat generated by the coils of a traditional fridge to heat hot water for the home...wonder if you could build a big ol' system that would allow you to (similarly) use thermoacoustics for both. Now that would be cool...pardon the pun.
posted by at 6:54 PM on November 9, 2005

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