Chilling prospect

A beverage that can cool itself could provide athletes and people travelling to even the remotest parts of the world with cold drinks on demand.

The device, which exploits a principle known for centuries called sorption cooling, is based on the evaporation of water under a vacuum. It can cool a 30cl drink to 15 degrees C in less than three minutes. Evaporated water has been used to cool the contents of terracotta jugs and goatskins for centuries, said Fadi Khairallah, chief executive of ThermaGen, the French company developing the container.

The company’s Glace self-cooling system is recyclable, and consists of a heat exchanger, a desiccant and 1cl of water.

When the user presses a button on the bottom of the can it opens a valve, allowing the water to flow into the device. The desiccant, a naturally occurring clay-like substance, absorbs moisture from the water, and this evaporation process has a cooling effect. The desiccant sustains this cooling reaction, and the device chills the drink by drawing out the heat via the heat exchanger.

The self-cooling can is likely to be used by people on the move, said Khairallah. ‘The early adopters of the containers are likely to be people such as sportsmen, travellers or anyone who works out-side, where they do not have a source of cold drinks.’

The company used advanced numerical simulation techniques, developed for the European Space Agency for its satellite missions, to calculate the behaviour of the phenomena creating the cooling effect, and to design the container.

The device will be tested this month by a team taking part in the Paris-Dakar Rally, before undergoing consumer trials in six to nine months’ time, said Khairallah.

ThermaGen plans to talk to drinks manufacturers about using the containers for their beverages. The cooling system is likely to push up the cost of the drinks slightly, but the company believes people will be prepared to pay extra for cold drinks in places where they would otherwise be unavailable.

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