Showcasing an innovative polyurethane foaming technology for manufacturing the insulation filling of cold appliances (refrigerators and freezers) using cyclopentane as a blowing agent.

Dow Italia (The Dow Chemical Company group), Afros and Crios (Cannon Group), and Federchimica are partners in the Energ-Ice Project funded by LIFE, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects.

The Energ-Ice Project focuses on reducing the environmental impact of energy-using products, such as cold appliances, by taking action at the design stage, where the pollution caused during the product's life cycle can be best prevented.

The project is expected to showcase an innovative polyurethane foaming technology for manufacturing the insulation filling of cold appliances (refrigerators and freezers) using cyclopentane as a blowing agent.

Preparatory study of the ENERG-ICE chemical foam process

The preparatory study of the chemical foam process was instrumental to identify the most suitable PU system characteristics to be processed with reduced in-mold pressure; those conditions were employed for ENERG-ICE technology demonstrations in the Afros-Cannon pilot line. The laboratory work was carried out using the Brett mould equipped with a vacuum device with the objectives to develop the chemistry suitable to the new ENERG-ICE process as well as understanding the pilot plant characteristics needed for domestic appliance cabinets and doors production. The vacuum Brett mould employed is shown in the picture below:

The vacuum Brett mold is a vertical mold of dimensions 200x20x5 cm usually employed in the laboratory development to simulate and predict the behavior of polyurethane foams injected into cabinets and doors; the vertical position is particularly critical for foam flow as it’s the case when refrigerators are injected. The vacuum Brett mold had been designed and employed to process very fast reactive chemistries like those designed for ENERG-ICE; it’s equipped with the possibility to work under a certain degree of vacuum allowing:

  • To evacuate the air entrapped into the mold cavities rather quickly
  • To help the foam homogeneous distribution inside the mold cavity

During the first phase of the project an old Brett mold modified to work under vacuum conditions was used. This old mold, property of Afros-Cannon is shown in the picture below; it was mainly used to prove the concept since it wasn’t built to work under vacuum.

However, it showed some process consistency issues, especially to maintain the vacuum at constant and desired level during the foam injection. Despite several attempts to fix this problem, it was necessary to built a new Brett mold-vacuum equipped offering adequate and consistent process-ability. The new mold is shown in the picture below:

The machine parameters and materials specifications were set and optimized during the experiments; the high pressure machines and equipment used are able to process high viscosity material up to 20,000 mPas.sec and PU foam reactivity with gel time of 15 to 25 seconds.

Pilot plant construction:

The ENERG-ICE pilot plant has been completed in the dedicated area within Afros-Cannon R&D Laboratory; the refrigerator fixture as well as the new Roto-jig fixture were implemented and are regularly functioning for internal tests as well as for refrigerator’s producers (OEMs) trials.

Moreover, a manual operated press for the injection of refrigerator’s doors employing vacuum assisted injection has been installed and operational.

Market replication potential:

The total production in Europe has been drastically reduced in the last 5 years while has significantly increased in Asia which is now having the leading position as Household Appliance total production. Similarly to Europe, the North American production has decreased while Latin America did remain stable. The new global market scenario is reflected in the following table:

Year Europe North America Latin America Asia
2008 27% 12% 14% 47%
2010 17% 7% 14% 62%

However, the potential success and market penetration of the ENERG-ICE project remain almost unchanged since the need to improve the refrigerator’s Energy consumption has become a global requirement for the industry. The table below shows the results of a study from Odyssee/Enerdata: almost 90% of the refrigerators sold in EU-15 in 2009 have energy label above A class, more specifically about 30% of new refrigerators have labels A+ or A++.

The trend towards more efficient refrigerators will continue globally, the ENERG-ICE project has therefore the opportunity to help the industry matching the energy targets with an innovative process while maintaining or improving the environment sustainability.

The market replication potential study was done comparing the initial premises when the project ENERG-ICE was submitted to the EU LIFE+ program, with a reality-check of the new market scenario as it is today.

The information included into this study cover and compare the consumer up-take of high efficiency appliances between 2005 and 2013, with an insight up to 2018.

Nowadays, due to the long lasting global economy crises, hitting particularly Europe and the mature economy countries, the refrigerators production in Europe remained flat without significant growth compared to the original figures reported in the tables below:

Compared to the total sales of 23,337 million units in 2005, the EU-27 demand in 2013 is estimated as 21,638 million units, so basically no growth compared to 2005. Originally, the potential impact on Europe of 10% energy consumption reduction was made assuming 3% market increase every 5 years with a market penetration of the proposed technology over time such as 20% in 2015 and 50% in 2020. The computation was made by simple multiplication of (unit saving x market penetration) as summarized in the following table:

  Forecast parameters (%) Market size – Units (10ˆ3)
Year Size increase Penetration Sales Penetration
2005 0% 0% 21,257 -
2010 3% 0% 21,895 -
2015 3% 20% 22,552 4,510
2020 3% 50% 23,228 11,614

Contrary to Europe, the total production has significantly increased in Asia and India now having the leading position as Household Appliance production. The new global market scenario is reflected in the following pie chart:

In 2010 the global output of refrigerator and freezer reached 173.4 million sets, and the products were sold in nearly 200 countries and regions. In 2010 the global production of refrigerator (freezer) mainly concentrated in Asia, with total output of 119.98 million sets, accounting for 69.2% of the global output. The production in Asia was mainly in China, Thailand, India and South Korea. Europe, including Middle East and Africa, ranked second, with total output of 27.11 million sets in 2010, accounting for 15.6% of the global output. The output of Africa (included in Europe) and Oceania (included in Asia) was the smallest. The total output of the top ten countries took 84.9% of the global output. The country with the largest output was China, reaching 88.17 million sets; Thailand and Mexico ranked the second and third.

However, the market replication potential for ENERG-ICE remains almost unchanged due to the increased energy legislation demands globally. It has to be resized based on the geographies of interest and the top producer strategies to match the new regulations. This exercise will be part of the after-life communication plan.

As of July 2012, only Class A+ and above refrigerators and freezers can be sold in the European market, while from July 2014 it will be for Class A++ and above only. The required improvement is significant, so ENERG-ICE project maintains its original attractiveness becoming a realistic opportunity to help the industry matching the new energy targets with an innovative process while improving the environment sustainability.

The following graph available from CECED (the European Association of Appliances Producers) shows an historical view of the refrigerators and freezers consumer uptake in terms of high-efficiency cold appliances. The numbers on the bars indicate the units in million. As can be seen, only class A+ refrigerators are present in 2013, and only class A++ and A+++ refrigerators will survive in 2017. The penetration of the high efficiency classes is significantly accelerated by the EU Community energy legislations; the order of magnitude of the required improvement is significant, technology innovation is the sole way to match it. We believe ENERG-ICE can give the Appliance Industry a great contribution from insulation material point of view.

Final results of industrial validations of ENERG-ICE technology

  • 10 validation trials with real performed
  • 5 global domestic appliance manufacturers involved
  • 390 injection trials performed

More than 240 Laboratory tests performed (for each of those, foamed refrigerators were anlyzied in terms of polyurethance foam properties and cabinet stability)

  • 66 Reverse Heat Leakage (RHL) tests performed (RHL measure the polyurethane energy efficiency)
  • 6 ENERG-ICE polyurethane formulations developed and compared
  • 2 different Blowing Agents employed, Cyclo-pentane and a New Generation 4 Blowing Agent with low Global Warming Potential (GWP)

The extensive industrial validation work run at the ENERG-ICE pilot plant allowed demonstrating the feasibility of the ENERG-ICE technology to insulate domestic refrigerators and freezers while obtaining the following results against current polyurethane foaming technologies available in the market:

  • 8% RHL improvement with Cyclo-pentane blowing agent
  • 11% RHL improvement with new Generation 4 new blowing agent having low GWP

In both cases foam mechanical properties and long term stability were maintained.

These results fully match the original project target of improving the insulation efficiency up to 10% vs. best available reference of the market. It’s a great achievement giving a path forward for future additional improvements for the cold appliance industry.

ENERG-ICE doors were also produced validating the suitability of this technology for the domestic appliance industry segment. The following table lists the domestic appliance producers (customers) participating to the various ENERG-ICE industrial validation trials performed at THE Afros-Cannon pilot plant and the refrigerator’s model utilized:

The first demonstration took place in July 2010, the last one in November 2012.

The picture below shows the results achieved in terms of RHL by refrigerator producer (customer):

The RHL improvements expressed IN % on the Y axis is the average gain measured for both compartments (refrigerator and freezer) of the refrigerator model foamed with ENERG-ICE polyurethane formulation. The doors used to perform the RHL were collected form the current customer production, so produced with reference insulating materials. The green section on the columns of the graph bars reflects the door contribution if foamed with ENERG-ICE polyurethane system.

Some information about the Energ-Ice Project Partner Companies is available below: 

Dow Italia - Dow Italia is a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. It operates in Italy through five production facilities offering a broad range of chemical products and services to the Italian and European Market. These include polyurethanes systems, polyester polyols, ion exchange resins for water treatment, styrene butadiene latex for the paper industry. Dow Italia produces specific polyurethane (PU) systems tailored for the refrigeration industry and used by refrigerator producers to manufacture PU foams for appliance insulation. After the banning of CFC-11, Dow carried out research on blowing agent solutions resulting in the development of several patents and technologies.

The Dow Chemical Company - Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology with the “Human Element” to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2010, Dow had annual sales of $53.7 billion and employed approximately 50,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 188 sites in 35 countries across the globe. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted.

More at: www.dow.com.

Afros is the Company of the Cannon Group entitled to the development of Polyurethane Technologies. Located 20 km north of Milano, Italy, Afros manufacture mixing and dispensing equipment, moulding lines and ancillary devices for discontinuous Polyurethane foaming applications. An intense R&D activity - carried by a dedicated staff in modern laboratories - regularly provides new technological solutions to this important sector of the polymer-processing industry. Afros was founded in the early 1960's by Leonardo Volpato and Carlo Fiorentini, and reached in less than 20 years to the position of World leader in PUR equipment. It gave birth in the 1980's to a number of dedicated sister companies, and can be considered the mother-Company of the Cannon Group. The company is currently operating according to a Quality System in conformity to ISO 9001 standards.

More at: http://www.afros.it/en/

Crios is the Company of the Cannon Group specialised in dedicated manufacturing solutions for the Refrigerator & Thermal Insulation industries. Located 20 km south-west of Milano, Italy, Crios conceive, design and supply Polyurethane foaming lines and custom-made plants - complete of plugs and ancillary equipment - for:

  • Domestic Refrigerators and Freezers
  • Commercial and Industrial Refrigerators, Cold Rooms and Display Cases
  • Hot-water Tanks and Solar Panels
  • Sandwich Panels made with Continuous Foaming Process

Crios co-ordinates today on a World-wide basis all the Group's activities concerning the Refrigerator market.

More at: http://www.thecannongroup.com/

Federchimica is the abbreviated name of the Italian Federation of the chemical industry. Founded as the Italian Federation of Chemical Industry Associations in 1920, it became Aschimici in 1945 and was transformed into Federchimica in 1984. At the present time 1300 companies, with a total of 100.000 employees, are part of Federchimica. They are grouped into 16 Associations, articulated into 40 product groups. Federchimica is a member of Confindustria (General Confederation of the Italian Industry) and CEFIC (European Chemical Industry Council). Federchimica, whose primary objectives are the coordination and the protection of the role of the Italian chemical industry as well as the promotion of its development capacity, has the following main duties:

  • to elaborate guidelines in economic, industrial and trade union matters and also in the areas of environment, innovation and energy policies;
  • to promote these policies with Public Authorities, national economic organisations, other entrepreneurial organisations, international organisations to whom the Federation belongs, trade union leaders, environmental and consumer organisations;
  • to contribute to the establishment of an accurate image of the chemical industry in the public opinion;
  • to carry out studies and projects which inspire and legitimise entrepreneurial choice;
  • to contribute to the constant promotion of the level of quality of the companies associated, with a particular attention to the organisation of initiatives in the field of innovation.

More at: http://www.federchimica.it/en/home

LIFE - LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 3115 projects, contributing approximately €2 billion to the protection of the environment.

More at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/

Below are summarized some of the public speaking opportunities captured by the ENERG-ICE partners for external communications aimed at promoting the ENERG-ICE initiative among targeted publics. A link to the specific document is provided.

Visit these useful links:

You may want to also visit the K-12 project carried on with the support of the LIFE European financial instrument

For further information on the Energ-Ice Project, please contact:

Energ-Ice Project Manager:

Vanni Parenti
Tel: +39 0522 645829
Fax: +39 0586 414 328

Dow Italia - Tel: +39 0522 645829


For technical assistance, literature, Safety Data Sheets and sampling information, please contact by phone:

Dow Customer Information Group (CIG) 

CIG North America

Toll Free: 800 258 2436
Telephone: 989 832 1556

CIG Europe

Toll free: +800 3 694 6367
Telephone: +32 3 450 2240

CIG Latin America

Telephone: +55 11 5188 9000