1805 is a special year—in that year, the first refrigerator was designed. From there, people have been improving and refining its design and in 1844, physician John Gorrie built a vapor-compression refrigerator / icemaker to cool down the air for his yellow fever patients. The first several generations of refrigerators use ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide as refrigerants; they were later updated to Freon, then to more environmentally friendly refrigerants that we are using now.
Refrigerators certainly play a critical role in the perishable food industry. However, they are also vital to scientific research. As a biology RA, I appreciate how our minus-80-fridge/freezer maintains the competence of the yeast cells and how the minus-20-fridge/freezer keeps the ds-RNAs intact. My fellow chemistry RAs also stressed the importance of low-temperature operation when dealing with explosives. Many astronomical telescopes are also cooled down electronically, using similar mechanisms as those of a fridge. Without the fridging abilities, these experiments would be unimaginable. Just last year, a Colby chemistry team separated an unprecedentedly small structure while operating near the absolute zero, thanks to the advanced refrigerator technologies and chains of chemical reactions.
When we elaborate the importance of refrigerators, we usually focus on their impacts on food industries; however, voluminous scientific research is made possible because of the presence of refrigerators. Besides refrigerators, there are many other kitchen tools staffing in the labs: microwaves to heat up the culture, food bowls to preserve the moist in the microbiological gel, and food wrapping foil to block the ultraviolent light from photosensitive reagents. It’s astonishing how daily life, ordinary kitchen utensils and other items that we have grown used to can create opportunities in edge-cutting scientific research.