Russian cryology researchers explore staying cool the old-fashioned way

“Natural cryo resources” touted as an unexplored area of science and innovation, say scientists at Tyumen State University in Siberia

Tyumen, Russia is a city one may not hear much about anywhere else. It is a fairly middle-age Russian city, founded in 1586, and it is historically the first Russian settlement in Siberia. Geographically it is only slightly farther north than Moscow, but its location away from the maritime influence means that the cold weather hits longer and stronger in this region than relatively temperate Moscow. For example, the average January temperature in Tyumen is a refreshingly cool 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit or -16.9 degrees Celsius. This has served as a source for inspiration among the students at the Tyumen State University.

The idea is simplicity itself.

Regions with long winters and with permafrost could benefit economically from storages, cooled by the natural underground chill, and from freezers with intellectual managing systems, which combine rationally natural and artificial cooling systems depending on seasonal conditions…The Russian sciences have not researched experience of the world’s different peoples in use of natural cold in traditional forms of life support or economic activities, and the research at the Tyumen University will fill this gap.

So says Roman Fedorov, leading expert at the University’s Institute of Cryosophy and Cryology.

In an interview given with TASS, Fedorov noted a growing interest in the use of naturally cold locales in the world as a type of industrial cooler. Since electricity, which is the source of power for artificial refrigeration systsms, is expensive, why not use the naturally occurring cold regions in conjuction with a far lower power consumption to maintain cold temperatures? Such an approach offers environmental benefits beyond that of the needed resource consumption to get the electricity. Freon, a very common refrigerant, has its own set of ecological issues, namely, Freon, or R-22 as it is called in the industry, is an ozone depleting gas, and along with other flourocarbons, had contributed to the increased UV exposure due to the thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer.

Ice Harvesting in Massachusetts, USA in 19th Century

The use of naturally cold places is certainly logical, and of course, it was the only way to keep things cool for many indigenous people in northern climes. However, this technique was used in more temperate regions as well. Cavern systems are often noted for having a steady cool temperature, and the practice of refrigeration was carried out 150 years ago in the New York State region and other parts of the world through the building and use of icehouses. These were filled with ice blocks cut from a pond or lake in the winter, insulated with sawdust and built to last all through the very hot summers endmemic to the region. Combining the ideas often led to a building that was partly buried in the ground to take advantage of the insulating properties of the earth, and the enhanced cold provided by well-stored ice gathered in the winter.

The Russian idea builds on this and is a good example of technological advancement that is in harmony with the ecology of any given region, and which aligns human development with natural forces rather than being in direct opposition to it.

In 2017, the Tyumen University organized the world’s first International Institute of Cryosophy and Cryology for students in a joint program with foreign researchers. Every year, this institute is to conduct an expedition to the Arctic regions for study and research.


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