USA: Home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has introduced a new insulation technology which is up to 66% thinner and allows up to 25% more refrigerator capacity than conventional foam.
The new insulation, dubbed SlimTech, is described as a significant step forward in refrigeration technology, providing a more compact alternative to polyurethane foam. It is also said to create better temperature stability and could increase energy efficiency by up to 50%.
SlimTech employs a proprietary material that is vacuum-sealed within the door or sides of the refrigerator itself. It is said to reduce the wall thickness by up to 66% – allowing for up to 25% more capacity inside the refrigerator.
According to Whirlpool, the material used in SlimTech insulation technology also has the potential to be recycled, and says it is working to map out a path to reclaiming the material at a refrigerator’s end of use. While Whirlpool has not revealed the identity of the material, the company does hold a number of insulation patents based on silica-based materials.
“For years low recyclability due to polyurethane foam has created a significant barrier to making refrigerators more sustainable and reducing environmental impact,” said Pamela Klyn, Whirlpool Corporation executive vice president of corporate relations & sustainability. “This is an extremely important leap forward on the journey to a more circular approach to home appliances. Implementation of SlimTech insulation marks the beginning of the end for foam insulated refrigerators.”
Other potential benefits would include the ability to increase the thickness of SlimTech insulation to reduce thermal conductivity and allowing a refrigerator to be up to 50% more energy efficient.
Whirlpool claims that the SlimTech insulation can keep food fresh for longer by reducing temperature swings from door openings by cooling up to 30% faster.
Refrigerators with SlimTech insulation will be built at Whirlpool’s operation in Ottawa, Ohio. The company has invested $65m in the plant.