Meeting the increasing global demand for cooling

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

Improving the efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration systems

What is the aim of this project?

Growing populations and developing economies are projected to hugely increase global demand for space cooling, dehumidification and refrigeration. This project aims to improve the efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration systems. This will reduce energy demand and lessen the adverse impacts of global warming. 

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

The project focuses on improving several technologies. This includes traditional vapour compression-based systems using refrigerants that contribute much less to global warming than conventional ones. These are likely to be a very big part of the climate change solution. Research and development on non-traditional approaches is also under way. These include technologies where solid state materials change temperature when they are exposed to a magnetic field, a mechanical stress or an electric current. Other non-traditional cooling technologies move heat by dissolving gas in a liquid or a solid material in one part of the cycle and driving it off in another.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • increases the efficiency of cooling and refrigeration systems and reduces emissions of global warming gases
  • improves the standard of living in hot climates
  • reduces food waste due to poor or no refrigeration.

At what stage of development is the project?

The project began in 2019 and is expected to run until 2022. Non-traditional technologies are all in early stages of development. Some technologies are in concept development, while proof of concept testing in the laboratory is well under way for others. By the end of the project, demonstration of some engineering prototypes should be under way in the laboratory and maybe in the field.

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • continuing and increasing support for accelerated research and development of advanced cooling and refrigeration technologies
  • implementing minimum efficiency performance standards for air-conditioners and refrigeration with continuously increasing thresholds.

Video presentation


  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, United States
  • University of Maryland, United States
  • Ames Laboratory, United States
  • Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials
  • ITAE, Italy
  • Fraunhofer IPM, Germany
  • Xi’an Jiao Tong University, China
  • Tsinghua University, China
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University , China
  • City University of Hong Kong, China


Funding agencies in the participating countries

Learn more

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies (HPT TCP)

Established in 1977, HPT TCP functions as an international framework of co-operation and knowledge exchange in the field of heat pumping technologies used for heating, cooling, air-conditioning and refrigeration in buildings, industries, thermal grids and other applications.