Refrigerants are powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gases
Today’s Video of the Day from the University of Kansas describes Project EARTH, a collaborative effort by four universities to design technology that can separate and recycle HFC refrigerant mixtures.
The refrigerants used in cooling systems like air conditioners are powerful greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Common refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have a global-warming potential this is about 2,000 times greater than the carbon dioxide in vehicle emissions.
With millions of tons of HFCs in use around the world, researchers based at the University of Kansas School of Engineering are investigating ways they can be collected and recycled without accelerating climate change.
“We’re going to look at how to separate hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant mixtures so the low-global-warming potential (GWP) components can be re-used and the high-GWP components converted into new products that are safe for the environment,” said KU Professor Mark Shiflett, who is leading Project EARTH.
“In your house, these would be the refrigerants in your air conditioner such as R-410A. It’s actually a mixture of two components – one of the components has a relatively high global-warming potential called HFC-125, and the other one, called HFC-32, does not.”
“However, they are very difficult to separate because they form what is called an azeotropic mixture. Today, that refrigerant would have to be incinerated to dispose of it, and our goal is to be able to separate those two refrigerants back into their pure components and be able to reuse HFC-32 in new low-GWP products, and the other, HFC-125, we are working on converting it into a lower global warming potential product that is safer for the environment.”
Video Credit: Shiflett Research Group | University of Kansas