·The JET machine is a test machine toward the design of a “fusion reactor” which will make lots of heat energy for making electricity. All electricity in power stations is made by steam driving generators round and round. The steam can come from boilers burning gas, coal, or oil, or from a nuclear reactor. Fusion is a new and better form of reactor using nuclear fusion which is the process keeping the sun hot. This is “changing” by fusion all the hydrogen into helium in the sun which will go on for millions of years yet.
We use refrigeration systems to keep things cold in fridges (and freezers) and to keep buildings cool with air conditioning. These systems that we use now need a lot of electricity to keep them switched on, and use some chemicals that contribute to global warming. As a result, we would like to find alternatives that don’t use less nasty chemicals and don’t need electricity (which usually comes from fossil fuel power stations that release lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere).
My work is looking at a refrigeration system that just needs something hot to make it work (no electricity at all). The hot thing could either be heat from the sun or heat from some machines that would just be wasted otherwise. And the system can work with something as simple as water and silica gel instead of the nasty chemicals that are used now.
If we can improve the performance of this sort of system, we can reduce costs and put it in a wider range of places. Places that have a lot of sunshine are already very suitable for solar refrigeration, and they often don’t have any other way of keeping things cold because there is no electricity.
So hopefully this technology will have a big impact on how we keep things cold and give a lot more people access to fridges and air conditioning.