The Science Behind How Refrigerator Containers Work

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refrigerator containers

In its simplest form, a refrigerator is a cold box. But there has to be more to it than that. Otherwise, any styrofoam cooler containing a bag of ice could be considered a refrigerator.

It is very difficult to reach a specific temperature with bags of ice. It would be even more difficult to maintain that temperature over a period of time. Other factors include:

  • Maintaining temperatures for a lot of items
  • Transporting those items over long distances
  • Insulating from external temperatures outside the box

There is clearly a lot of science that separates a proper refrigerator container from a block of ice. In addition to the science, engineering and regulatory compliance are huge factors in choosing the perfect refrigerator container.

If you happen to be in the market for a refrigerator container, here is some basic information about how it all works:

Refrigerator Container Basics

One shipping and freight informational resource describes the workings of a refrigerator container in the following way:

Reefer containers are bottom air delivery units designed to distribute chilled air from the floor, via specific T-shaped decking, with the advantage of producing a consistent and uniform flow of air across the entire shipment, powerful enough to ensure a perfect air exchange with the goods.

The science of refrigeration is not really different from the refrigerator you have at home. It serves a very similar purpose. It has to maintain safe temperatures for items such as fruits, meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, and dairy.

The biggest difference is that refrigerator containers have to do a lot more of it. And they have to do it in transit. They also have to deal with other non-food items such as medicine, biological samples, flowers, and film.

Meeting the additional challenges presented by the size and mobility of the containers is where the science and engineering come in.

Reefer Power

Like your home refrigerator, refrigerator containers (reefers) need a lot of constant power. Temperatures must be maintained at all times.

When in transit over road or rail, reefers are powered by diesel generators attached to each container. In this way, the containers can be cooled from -65C to 40C. While powered systems are common, there are alternatives.

Cryogenic Cooling

Frozen carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen are cryogenically frozen gasses used to cool refrigerator containers without the use of external power. As long as there is frozen gas in the system, the container stays cool.

This is a long-used option for rail and air transport and allows for 17 days of transport. But full-size intermodal containers set up for cryogenic cooling can maintain their temperatures for up to 30 days at a stretch. This easily allows for transport by sea.

Built to Last

You do not have to buy the most recent tech for great results. These units are built to last.

There are plenty of second-hand refrigerator containers that will serve your needs just as well for many years to come.

The science behind refrigerator containers means you will always have plenty of options for expanding the reach of your business.

Between the various power and cooling methods in new and used containers, the only hard choice you will have to make is what part of the world you are ready to expand to next.