Whenever we think of green technology, most of us always look forth to the production (and usage) of clean electricity from renewable sources of energy. Though power as a component is very important for running our gadgets and every day appliances, sustainability does not always equate to this magnitude of power. As a matter of fact, it involves a much greater scope, which in itself is comprised of multiple facets all related to the achievement of the same end – that is energy efficiency. In relation to this, Dutch industrial designer Jo Szczepanska has contrived the Outback Cooler concept. It is basically a food cooler which utilizes the effect of passive solar power for its intrinsic mechanism (thus, not requiring any electrical system).
Envisaged as a hassle free, user friendly food cooler, the adroit system will mainly cater to the outdoor campers and hikers across the harsh environments of the Australian desert. According to the designer, the mechanism of this outdoor contraption utilizes natural evaporation for the main effect of cooling. This naturalistic system is based upon the much touted pot-in-pot refrigerator mechanism, which in itself requires zero electricity usage.
Better known as Zeer (in Arabic), the rudimentary form of this ‘pot-in-pot’ mechanism was used in way back in antiquity, in the Egyptian Old Kingdom (circa 2500 BC). Finally, Sudanese lecturer Mohammed Bah Abba re-discovered it in its modernistic iteration, and made it available on a large scale to the public.
The basic set up of the system involves a clay pot within a larger clay pot (as the name suggests). A layer of wet sand is kept between the two pots, while a wet cloth cap (with straps, as in the case of Outback Cooler) covers the dual pot container. The mechanism involves the passive heating of this container by the incoming solar energy (in form of sun rays). Due to this solar energy, the inner pot (with the food containers) gets heated, and thus the process of evaporation occurs. With evaporation, the hot air from these containers is given to the surrounding wet sand layer, while cold air (or at least cool air) from the sand enters (cycled) into the inner pot, to fill up the vacuum. Thus, the inner vessel with the food is kept cool by natural evaporation.
As for functionality, even ocean water can be used for wetting the sand layer. The food can be kept from being contaminated by using a glazed surface on the inner wall of the food containers. But the predicament can lie with humid weather conditions. In such a climate, the scope for natural evaporation becomes much lesser, and hence the Outback Cooler may perform poorly.
Coming back to the core practicality of Outback Cooler, the device is both portable and easy to use. According to the designer, in a dry weather, the simplistic technology allows for food to be stored for up to 20 days without use of any external power sources. Moreover in a way, such concepts prove that ‘green’ technology isn’t always about some highfalutin mechanism. Sometimes ‘back to basics’ approach can also do sustainable wonders.