Zero Gravity Fridge

04 जून 2021

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Dear Reader,

Thinking of a household kitchen without a refrigerator in it is almost impossible. Astronauts have been going to space since 1961, and have to eat canned and dried food that have only three years of shelf life as they still don’t have a refrigerator that can work in space.

The simple reason being, refrigerators rely on gravity to distribute oil through the compressor system that regulates temperature, so in space these systems don’t work or break down quickly.

Now, In a project funded by NASA, a team of engineers from Purdue University, Air Squared, and Whirlpool are building a prototype that can operate just as well in outer space as it does on Earth. The team of researchers is building a refrigerator that can keep food cold on longer missions in space, at zero gravity. It is aimed at giving astronauts a supply of food that could last five to six years.

Even though fridge experiments have been made in space before, they either didn’t work properly or eventually broke down. Cooling systems currently on the International Space Station are used for experiments and storing biological samples rather than for storing food, as they consume significantly more energy than on Earth.

In a typical fridge, gravity helps to control the flow of liquid and vapour. Similarly, the oil lubrication system inside of a fridge’s compressor is gravity-based. When bringing new technology into space, making the entire system reliable in zero gravity is the key challenge.

The device is about the size of a microwave oven that can fit into the International Space Station’s rack system and can store biological samples for science experiments. Purdue researchers also demonstrated that the refrigerator can operate in different orientations, even upside down, an important capability for the variable gravity of lunar and planetary missions.

Overcoming the zero gravity problem and its effect on the flow of oil throughout the refrigerator has been addressed with the use of an oil-free scroll compressor developed by Colorado-based company, Air Squared, a specialist in oil-free scroll solutions. The compressor will be tested both in the prototype and in its larger, more instrumented counterpart built by Purdue researchers.

The engineers have built three experiments to test the effects of microgravity on a new oil-free fridge design: a prototype for potential future use on the International Space Station, a setup for testing the prototype’s vulnerability to liquid flooding and a larger version of the prototype with sensors and instruments to capture how gravity affects the vapour compression cycle.

The team ran all the three experiments to test the machine in a specially-designed plane that flew in microgravity. They found that the refrigerator could operate in microgravity without any liquid flooding. The oil-free vapor-compressor inside the fridge addresses the   concerns about their suitability in zero gravity.

Thus, if we are to colonize Mars in the near future, it is safe to assume that we would have a ready prototype of a refrigerator for our households.

Credits : Akhil Handa Clint James

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Your Digital Stylist

Dear Reader,  
Fashion is one of the most challenging fields, highly impacted by global economic uncertainty as well as distinct trends and industrial changes. In response to the pressure for growth and cost efficiency, many brands have started a series of initiatives to improve their speed to market and to implement sustainable innovation. 
As evident during the pandemic, the need to adapt and overcome has been paramount for fashion brands to survive. Brick-and-mortar fashion companies are feeling the pain augmented by Covid-19. Mall-based retailers reportedly saw earnings plunge 256% in Q2’20, according to Coresight Research and over 12,000 US stores closed in 2020, according to real estate company CoStar Group, up from 10,000 stores the year before. 
One exciting innovation in the fashion industry has been the introduction of AI-based digital stylists and chatbots, that can give feedback to customers on outfit choices or suggest alternatives if required. For example, Stylesnap is an AI-powered feature built into the Amazon app that help you find looks you love quickly and easily. Take a photograph or screenshot of an outfit, upload it onto the Amazon app, and you'll be presented with items that look just like the ones in the picture. 
Even Facebook is experimenting with an AI system of its own called Fashion++. The software uses AI to analyse a person’s outfit and suggest subtle alterations that it thinks could improve the look, like rolling up the sleeves or removing an accessory. 
Israel-based Syte offers retailers and brands a camera button that can be added next to the search bar on a mobile website or app. Shoppers can upload images of their favorite styles through the button, and then see looks “inspired” by those images on the brand’s site. Syte counts a number of high-profile brands among its clients, including Tommy Hilfiger, Myntra, and Kohl’s. Even luxury brands are testing digital stylists in select markets: Prada, for example, has introduced a “personalized concierge” chatbot for its relaunched Chinese website. 
Fashion-tech company Style.me provides virtual styling solutions, and has recently launched a powerful plugin that can integrate a 3D virtual fitting room to any online retail website. 
Recently, Fashion Innovation Agency has introduced digital human stylists (DHS) that is powered by Microsoft AI, IoT and natural language processing. It can understand what’s in your wardrobe, what’s in your calendar, where you’re going, allowing personal recommendations that are visually and verbally communicated back to the user within your own home. 
With the customers’ lives becoming progressively entwined with the digital world, it is imperative that brands in Fashion Industry start embracing the latest technologies to push their limits of manufacturing, marketing and wearability. 
Credits : Akhil Handa Aparna Anand

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