Refrigeration is a crucial part of modern life: It keeps our meat fresh, our vegetables crunchy and our sodas cold. Our love of chilled produce has an environmental cost, however.
Fridges and freezers all over the world contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Greenpeace has described HFCs as "highly potent greenhouse gases" that "contribute significantly to climate change."
"In established countries, 70-80 percent of your food gets to your home in a refrigerated cold chain, where 95 percent of homes have refrigeration," Tony Atti, the CEO of Phononic, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. He went on to state that this required "a great requirement of electricity" and had an impact on the environment.
In October, almost 200 countries agreed to a "landmark deal" to cut emissions from HFCs. The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, said the deal could help "prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century."
"That legislation, or at least agreement to that legislation, is staggering," Atti said.
"Now, refrigeration companies and original equipment manufacturers have to find an alternative refrigerant," Atti added. "What's shocking to us is they're transitioning from a global warming emitting refrigerant to the same one used in your lighters – it's flammable."
Durham, North Carolina based Phononic are using solid-state technology to transform the way we think about refrigeration. Their Evolve refrigerator is a compressor free, pharmacy grade refrigerator and freezer and uses the SilverCore system.
This SilverCore technology uses 'phononic heat pumps' to scale and amplify the output of thermoelectric cooler devices.
"If you were to stand at the top of a mountain and yell, you would hear an echo of sound," Atti explained. "Well, a phonon is an echo of heat. And when a semiconductor manipulates an echo of heat, it leaves one side of the chip hot (and) one side of the chip cold as you drive current through that chip."
According to the business, the Evolve refrigerator contains a natural refrigerant which absorbs and transfers heat energy via an embedded system of tubing, carrying the energy towards the solid state heat pump, after which it moves into the surrounding environment. Phononic claim their system results in cost-effective, quiet, and reliable refrigeration.