'Tank of Cold' is a Cleanleap to cool food and a cooler future

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is a large global professional engineering institution, headquartered in London. The group highlights how mechanical engineers can play an important role in developing a better world for all. One of their goals are to “promote economic growth whilst responding to climate change and the depletion of natural resources.”

To support this goal IMechE have published a number of thought pieces on key issues such as population, adaptation to climate change and geoengineering, food waste and cold chain support (a temperature-controlled supply chain for food) in developing countries. One of the reports A tank of cold: cleantech leapfrog to a more food secure world is discussed in more detail below.

The key message from the report is that about a quarter of food wastage in developing countries could be eliminated with better refrigeration equipment. Also important is that the refrigeration equipment to be implemented needs to green - equipment that is energy efficient and uses refrigerant gases with a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) - reducing the impacts on climate change. This provides an opportunity for a ‘cleanleap’ over polluting refrigeration to a cleaner mode of cooling.

Some of the important issues that are discussed in the report are:

  • Food security and development - As the world's population grows closer to 9.5 billion it’s projected to hit by 2050, the focus on how we are going to feed people is expanding. With some of the highest birth rates in the world in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, this issue is a very pressing one. Ensuring we preserve the current and predicted rate of food produced through refrigeration is a key requirement. Especially with growing populations located in warm areas with a high exposure to the impacts of climate change.
  • Sustainable cold chain infrastructure - IMechE’s report highlights that developing countries have the ability to grow and expand their agricultural resources in a sustainable manner - using renewable energy to provide cooling infrastructure for their produce.
  • Clean tech leapfrogging - The report provides recommendations and case studies on how mechanical engineers could provide solutions for the developing world - to cleanleap over the current cold chain infrastructure in the developed world.
  • ‘Tank of Cold’ solution - In emerging economies there is little existing cold chain infrastructure, which gives the opportunity to cleanleap to a sustainable cold chain. The report discusses in detail building a liquid air based cold economy from the ground up, powered by local renewable energy sources - a tank of cold.

What does it mean for Cleanleap countries?

The report describes a new way of creating a cold chain system that is particularly relevant for emerging economies. This system can be built from the ground up as there is little existing infrastructure and they increasingly improving their ability to harness renewable energy. This creates the opportunity to create a true Cleanleap - jumping over the existing, more polluting systems and directly to a better approach.