Tag Archives: Technology

Chilling Out – The Cans that Cool Themselves

A new way of chilling drinks
Source: Pixabay

Keeping things cold has always been the main goal of the food and beverage industry. Refrigeration and the cold chain are vital in keeping food edible, and drinks chilled to just the right temperature for consumption. For decades though, scientists have been looking for ways to chill drinks without refrigeration.

At first it seemed like an impossible task until someone actually did it.

Now, the thought of grabbing an ice cold drink straight out the bag and settling down for a good game of Blackjack is no longer a pipe dream. In the future you won’t need a fridge to keep your drinks cool, and the days of popping things in the freezer in an attempt to chill them faster will be long gone.

A Chilly Revolution

More than 20 years ago, the science of self-chilling cans came about. One of the pioneers in the field was Mitchell Joseph who wanted to design a can of beer that could rapidly cool itself upon activation. After trial and error, he achieved his goal using a heat exchange system powered by HFC-134a gas. While the concept worked, HFC-134a is a destructive greenhouse gas 1400 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Despite the hitch, scientists were encouraged by the results and set out to refine the process and make it environmentally friendly.

Today, we can see the fruits of their labour with the Chill-Can and similar products. Rolling out in stores across the world, The Chill-Can is a self-cooling beverage can that can cool its contents without the need for refrigeration. When it was first tested, the cans could reduce the temperature of the liquid by 15 degrees Centigrade within 2 minutes.

Considering the average room temperature is around 22 degrees, the liquid would drop to a frosty 7 degrees, which is more than cold enough to be thirst quenching.

The Lowdown On the Chill Factor

So, how does this technology actually work?

The cans, cups and other similar products are all designed with a heat exchange system running through the centre of the product. The most common type is a small cylinder with a valve on the bottom of the can.

When pressing a button at the base of the can opens the valve, pressurised carbon dioxide is released through the cylinder and out the bottom. The rapid expansion of the gas creates a cooling effect on the cylinder, which then rapidly cools the liquid surrounding it. After 2 minutes, the liquid has cooled down by a massive 15 degrees. This same system can be used for anything from sodas to beer, ice coffee or just about any drink that needs to be chilled when consumed.

Chilled About the Environment

Doing away with conventional coolers
Source: Pixabay

But what about the environmental repercussions?

Aren’t we just pumping more CO2 into the air with all these new cans? The good news is that the carbon dioxide used in the cans is reclaimed from other processes, which make CO2 as a by-product. So essentially, the same amount of gas is being released into the atmosphere; it is just bottled up before it does.

The Chill-Can and self-chilling products actually have a positive impact on the environment, as they would require no refrigeration in-store. Less refrigeration means less electricity usage, lower carbon emissions and less greenhouse gasses entering the atmosphere.

A Can-Do Attitude

Aside from the environmental aspects, self-chilling technology is creating an entire product market in 3rd world countries where electricity and refrigeration is an issue. They are also ideal for sports facilities, outdoor markets, camping, hiking and park facilities where refrigeration is not easy to come by. As the technology expands and improves, the price will slowly come in line with regular cans and cups.

The aim here is to change the perception of how drinks should be sold in the first place, and only refrigerate beverages that need to be kept cold at all times, such as milk and drinking yoghurt. Huge strides have been made in this respect and some of the larger supermarket chains have started stocking self-chilling cans. It is just a matter of time before they become ubiquitous throughout the world, and we all have a little more chill in our lives.

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Tech in Clothing – Wearables in the Most Real Sense

Levi’s Project Jacquard in action
Source: theinspirationroom.com

Some are still coming to terms with the fact that virtually everyone on earth is carrying around a powerful computer in their pocket. Mobile phone technology, once the stuff of ridicule having users carry around hefty “bricks,” has leapt forward so fast that it defies belief. Now, powerful, portable computers are the order of the day, and it’s incredible. We can access our emails from anywhere, play at an online casino in the palm of our hand, and surf the web on a mobile phone that’s only a bit bigger than a credit card!

Just how far can it go, everyone is asking? And the answer is obvious; instead of carrying around our technology in our pockets, why not simply wear it? But wearable technology already exists, doesn’t it? In the form of smartwatches. No, we’re talking about technology built right into your clothing. It’s the science fiction future we read about becoming reality, and if you thought portable computers was impressive, take a look at some of the stuff you could be soon wearing.

Water Repellent Clothing

We’ll get to the clothing with built in computers in a second, but let’s first talk about clothing that utilises new water repellent technology. A waterproof jacket, you say, there’s nothing special about that, we’ve had raincoats for centuries… No, what we’re talking about here is a jacket that literally pushes water off its surface in a way that may make your jaw drop. The Apex Flex GTX is a jacket that will not allow water, any water, to settle on it’s surface. The fabric will remain clear of even a single drop of water, always.

The secret is a waterproof coating known as GORE-TEX, and yes the name is perhaps a bit over the top, but what it can achieve is truly impressive. The flexible, ultra-waterproof substance applied to any surface means that that surface is staying dry, no matter what. The down side? The price, of course. The Apex Flex GTX is not cheap. But as with all emerging tech, as it becomes more mainstream it may see a price reduction as demand increases.

Smart Clothing

And here we have, at last, a jacket that syncs to a smartphone, and allows the user to control smartphone functionality with gestures. Titled as the Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard, this piece of clothing is said to be threaded with multiple strands of smart fibre. What smart fibre is, is anyone’s guess, but what it allows the user to do is operate a synced mobile phone via arm gestures. For example, pausing a song playing on the phone is as simple as giving the jacket wrist a little tap.

It sounds cool, but one can’t help that the system could get very confusing. After all, the smart jacket will surely not tell the difference between intentional, and unintentional movements. One assumes that there are measures in place to prevent this, but that remains to be seen when the jackets start becoming common. Will they though, at a cost of $350 for a denim jacket?

Advanced Apparel Exploration

And now we get to the truly wacky stuff. What makes a piece of clothing high quality, you ask? Decent fabric, strong stitching, and quality work? Wrong. What makes clothing high quality is creating it from a single strand of unbroken fabric. Wait, what? Why?

Adidas has created a system that weaves clothing from a single strand of fabric, in what sounds to be a very complicated process. And, although very proud of this and willing to explain in detail how the process works, Adidas is less quick to explain why it is beneficial in any way.

Either way, the technology for this now exists, although looking at the clothing created in this fashion; one wonders why they caused such a fuss. Called the AAE 1.0, it looks very much like a t-shirt, and nothing more.

Nanotechnology

The above is just scratching the surface of technology that exists right now. But where might such technology go in the future? Nanotechnology. It’s probably a word some are aware of, given its appearance in many science fiction stories. But nanotechnology is no longer science fiction, and will soon be appearing in our clothing.

What is it? Engineering on a molecular level, with potential that is all but mind bending. Fancy a flexible fabric that is as tough as steel? Or how about a transparent, flexible substance, that is bulletproof? It’s theoretically possible, with nanotechnology. In it’s infancy now, Nanotex, an existing company, is working to make these things possible, so the future of wearables is still one that we need to get ready to explore.