What are Natural Refrigerants?
Natural refrigerants are naturally occuring substances which have no Ozone Depletion Potential and very low or zero Global Warming Potential.
The very first refrigeration systems ever built used natural refrigerants such as Ammonia (NH3), Hydrocarbons (HCs) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). After the invention of CFCs in 1929, the industry all but forgot these original gases, but the Montreal Protocol in 1987 changed all of that, forcing the large chemical companies to invent the alternative Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases.
Although HFCs do not directly deplete the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases. These gases are regulated by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and increasing pressure from subsequent regulations and emissions trading systems will force the industry to go back to the same roots that it started from.
However, this time engineers will be far better prepared to deal with the technical challenges of toxicity and flammability posed by these environmentally benign gases, and their public acceptance will inevitably grow as environmental awareness grows.
The following pages provide an overview of their characteristics and applications.
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