A responsible community, from science to society

IIR newsletter focus, by Philippe Lebrun, President of the General Conference of the IIR
Finding its roots in basic science, refrigeration has developed into a full-fledged engineering discipline and is now a flourishing economic activity and, more important, an essential commodity for the benefit of mankind, as exemplified by the critical role of the cold chain for the reduction of food losses and preservation of health products, the irreplaceable value of cryogenic liquefaction and distillation to the gas industry, the contribution of heat pumps to energy efficiency in residential heating and industrial processes, or the vital part played by air conditioning in high ambient-temperature countries (as well as during heat waves in temperate-climate regions).

Fully conscious of their responsibility to society, and in spite of often diverging particular interests, the numerous actors of the trade in academia, industry and government have been for many years developing technology, improving processes, manufacturing and commercializing better products, establishing and enforcing regulations for public safety and consumer protection, but also addressing global issues involving refrigeration such as sustainable development, atmospheric ozone depletion or climate change, with tangible results. Let me recall the long-term action on the phasing-out and replacement of ozone-depleting refrigerants, initiated with the Montreal Protocol in 1987; within ten years, the refrigeration sector reduced chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) consumption by an order of magnitude, a decisive action to contain the level of chlorine in the stratosphere and initiate the restoration of the protective ozone layer. Pragmatically, this was achieved by several parallel approaches seeking effectiveness while allowing the industry to adapt: transitional replacement of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), development of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), limitation and end-of-life recovery of refrigerant charges, reduction of losses in operation. Confronted to the next challenge of reducing drastically the emission of greenhouse gases (Kyoto Protocol), the refrigeration community has again responded responsibly, by establishing impact estimators based on complete life-cycle analysis of the processes at work, by reducing direct emissions of fluorocarbons, by promoting the use of alternative, environmentally friendly refrigerants (“natural” or synthetic), and also by reducing energy consumption through more efficient processes and optimized control: indeed, the indirect CO2 emissions resulting from the energy (electricity or fuel) used to run refrigeration equipment largely dominate their global-warming impact. The task remains formidable, both in developed countries and among the many peoples of the world who aspire to get better conditions of living, but the refrigeration community is addressing it with seriousness and foresight.

I am proud to be part of this responsible group and active in the IIR, the only independent, knowledge-based organisation covering all aspects and temperature ranges of refrigeration. Please bring your competency and experience to strengthen the knowledge base and enlarge the representativeness of the IIR by becoming a member and contributing to its commissions, conferences, working groups and publications.

Philippe Lebrun
President of the General Conference of the IIR