Rankine 2020 conference highlights opportunities and challenges for the future

The IIR Rankine 2020 – Advances in Heating, Cooling and Power Generation conference was organised by the Institute of Refrigeration UK (IOR) as an ambitious 5-day online event running across July 27-31.  It incorporated over 90 speaker presentations, organised in 20 chaired sessions and 14 hosted cross topic debates sessions called “coffee lounges”.

The virtual event attracted nearly 200 delegates in total, actively sharing the latest research in refrigerants and system design, and innovation compressors and components. Speakers and delegates discussed the challenges and opportunities of linking the worlds of Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning and Heat Pumps (RACHP) and the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) to address the need for more sustainable heating and cooling.


Conference Chair, Andy Pearson, in his closing session highlighted some of the challenges the conference identified which included the slow adoption of new technologies by end users, the need for greater systems integration thinking and skill shortages experienced in both fields.  For the RACHP community of researchers and innovators, it was clear that it is environmental concerns that are driving developments. However, it is more the rapid development of technology and the need to understand the requirements of different refrigerant fluids that present some of the biggest challenges for specialists in ORC.


The conference attracted three world renowned keynote speakers:

  • Eckhard Groll of Purdue University on next-generation cooling and heating,
  • Mark McLinden of NIST on r-evolution in refrigerants,
  • Vincent Lemort of University of Liege on trends and future prospects for ORC.

Each gave an exceptional overview of their topic – running out of time to answer all of the questions that flooded in from across the globe.  


The achievements of young researchers were also recognised at the event with a high level of student attendance and the presentation of prizes for the three top papers:

  • Junyoung Kim of Purdue University on Scalability of Chemical Looping Heat Pump Technology
  • Carlos Mateu-Royo of Universitat Jaume I on Semi-empirical Evaluation of HCFO-1224yd(Z) as a Replacement for HFC-245fa in High Temperature Heat Pumps
  • Brede Hagen of Norwegian University of Science and Technology on Gradient Based Design Optimization of a Radial Inflow Turbine


Inspite of this being a virtual event, delegates from many different countries and time zones were able to connect in many ways and encouraged to exchange ideas with some of the leading experts in their field. The coffee lounge debates became the stage for lively discussion and interactive polling on key issues.  A 3-minute-Thesis session gave five researchers the chance to present on-going research to a global audience and get valuable feedback to inspire their next steps.


With all technical sessions recorded, those who took part have been given repeat access to all presentations and papers until the end of this year – just one of the advantages of having an on-line rather than in-person event.

If you missed the conference but want to find out more about why the work of William Rankine on the Organic Rankine Cycle is still relevant today, a freely accessible recording of speakers celebrating the great scientist’s Life and Legacy is available from the IOR website at ior.org.uk/events.  


Rankine 2020 was a fitting opportunity to celebrate the lasting influence of Rankine and the future potential for ORC and refrigeration, on the occasion of his 200th anniversary.  The IOR conference team is now looking forward to the 200th Anniversary of Lord Kelvin’s birth coming up in 2024.