Solar Powered Ice Maker

solar powered ice maker
Producing ice without electricity just got a lot easier thanks to these engineering students from San Jose State University. Their system uses solar heat to facilitate evaporation of a coolant. When the sun goes down and the coolant turns back to liquid, its temperature drops drastically due to extreme pressure differences. The unit can produce 14 pounds of ice per day with zero carbon footprint. It has no moving parts and an entirely sealed system, this should mean that the only maintenance necessary would be keeping the unit clean.
[via DVICE]

47 thoughts on “Solar Powered Ice Maker

  1. I could see practical application for this. I’m not exactly an expert, but I think that you could use something like this, after a bit of modification, to distill water. It would kinda have to be ungodly huge to be of any large scale use, though.

    Still, they can now get their merit badges in using heat to make ice.

  2. Does it count as an invention if Mother Earth News did it a ton of years ago (1976 or so).

    My question is what absorber are they using? Water and diatomaceous earth? Maybe one of the more common ammonia or even nastier combos.

    I would love to have a system like this to make me a bunch of ice all year long, then use it to cool my house when necessary.

    I’ve always wanted to line an old satellite dish with mylar, then put an “Icy-ball” at the focal point. It’d do the same thing. Just get yourself two Icy-balls so you can always have one charged.

  3. Anyone got the details on how to build one of these?

    I’m in the planning stages of an off grid cabin/home and this would take care of the refrigeration needs. I’m planning on using LED lighting with off the shelf PV panels for lighting. Heating will be with the traditional wood stove(Any high efficiency designs?).

  4. This has been done before, there are many references. It is not clear from the description if they have done anything novel. What would be interesting if they packaged it such that it could cycle continuously and could be used for A/C. We all know it can be done, LP powered freezers have been around for ages. The innovation would be to do it in a solar powered package.

    1. This is a ripoff of Steven Vaneks design that used calcium chloride and anhydrous ammonia from the June/July issue of the Mother Earth News1996. With good sun his model could produce 40 lbs of ice a day. If it had been designed to the average elevation of the sun and the parabolic trough tracked the sun it probably could have produced 60 to 80 lbs of ice per day.

  5. It doesn’t have to be ammonia cycle, but it does need a refrigerant. I think the plans from has an ammonia cycle one. My mother told me how they had a kerosene refrigerator before electricity came to rural west Texas in the 1920/30’s. I think it use ammonia cycle. I understand that is what large commercial ice houses have used for ‘ever’.

    What kind of refrigerant could be easily use that is not an ammonia cycle?

  6. Been done many times before… search on solar adsorption & cooling/refrigeration. Add lithium bromide and get several hits on youtube including both one-off “sustainable energy” demonstration villages (villas?) and Japanese patents from 1988 and earlier.

    It’s not new, but it’s novel. Now… if Joe Neighbor puts one together in his back yard — THAT’S a worthy hack!

  7. Yes, why the fuzz about an intermittent cooling cycle, when a continuous refrigerator cycle, without moving parts, is known at least since 1925 ? I suggest they should perhaps study a bit about past inventions.

  8. Why the fuss?

    Hello, this can be any length, and pretty damn cheap (cost of a piece of pipe and an acrylic/aluminum mirror anyone?)

    It scales very well indeed. You can also just use the steam for electricity generation :)

  9. all this shows is college students don’t know their history.

    go back 83 years and you find solar powered steam engines generating electricity, and pumping water out of the Nile, in addition to providing refrigeration.

    For the past 80 fears fossil fuels have been cheaper than the maintenance required to upkeep mirrors, hence their demise

  10. Yea, all that is old is new again, with each generation.

    In 1900 there were more electric cars on the road than petroleum powered. Sometimes we get it right the first time, and now we are learning it all over again (with a lot more efficiency). …

    ‘Ice Houses’ in the 1800’s on use ammonia cycle cooling and it is still in use today where LOTS of cooling is needed and a good heat supply is available. I understand to get the ammonia cycle working it needs about 190F temp differential or more, so there are not many desktop solar ammonia cycle soda pop coolers out there. Historically, and even today, most ammonia cycle chillers have heaters, typically powered by natural gas, or other petroleum, but anything (including solar) that generates heat will do. … Sofar, the capital investment required to do solar to generate the ‘high quality heat’ continuously has not been economic. … Hopefully that will change.

    My mom grew up on a farm in west Texas before REA got electricity out there. They had a kerosene refrigerator. It was a great improvement to the cool water bath (a covered tub, fed with well water continuously coming in one end and going out the other, but kept full of water – milk, etc were put in metal ‘milk pails’ and kept mostly submerged to keep the stuff cool) they used before that. Around the same time my dad lived in the town of Jayton TX, they had ice delivery and used an ice box. I am sure that Ice came from an ammonia cycle ice house. Both of them were born mid 1920’s, so this is in the early/mid 1930’s.

  11. yes yes by all means never re-publish anything ever.

    Everyone knows everything instantly the minute it comes to print so there is no need to ever ever reprint or re-visit anything ever as the entirety of human knowledge is already known by everyone at this moment.


  12. A parts list would be nice. Also, the ability to quantify the savings potential is critical to receiving buy-in. I know that you can sell back your excess PV electricity back to the power companies to help off-set your costs. Hmmm…I’m wondering who might be interested in buying back all your ice.

  13. Think of all the money and natural resources we could save with the home powered solar systems. Plus it would be great to have a credit at our local electric company every month.

  14. Lousy design, wastful use of material, the original crosley was more cost and size efficient. These are engineering students? If these dorks had any real skill or knowlege they could have made a usefull device instead of that bolt together, off the shelf parts, grade school science project. Poor parts selection too.

  15. Let us consider if we ourselves generated renewable energy and if every home generated enough for 12 homes then we could very quickly achieve 100% renewable energy in all areas.
    The company Verdegia, S.L. is generating free electricity and clean green energy from a new solar technology system called Solar Engines – why rely on others to make the change for us?
    We must make change happen.

    – The Solar Engine Systems from Verdegía boast 39kW/h and operate 24/7. And, they only take up the space of a single 200W PV panel.

  16. There is increasing concern that governments are allowing companies to reduce the price paid to producers of exported renewable energy. Large banks and organizations dominate the large scale markets of renewable energy generation that have up till now made significant profits in the current climate.

    The price of energy doesn´t seem to get cheaper – clearly the changes must be made within each of us and adopt our own renewable energy generating capabilities and reduce our demand on expensive, fluctuating imported energy.

    Verdegía in Spain have a solution, Solar Engine Systems that generate plenty of green energy. If we ourselves, government and councils adopted this type of new technology then we could all very quickly change the effects of our demand on fossil fuels. – The Solar Engine Systems supplied from Verdegía boast 39kW/h and operate 24/7. That´s enough energy for 12 or more homes! And, they only take up the space of a single 200W PV panel.

    A major cost in renewable energy farms is the infrastructure, land and high capital investment, producing electricity locally within a distributed network is the most cost effective. It’s time to move away from large expensive solar farms and into the next generation of high performance renewable energy generators that effectively create a solar farm within one panel and at a 100th of the cost. This technology will allow us to turn vacant city rooftops into a hive of renewable generators that will not only feed our cities but will provide energy independence.

    Imagine a future where electricity was FREE and in public places you could just plug in and know that the energy being consumed has come from 100% renewable sources.

  17. Most seem to be missing the point here. The difference is the source of the heat. Early gas-absorption refrigerators used another source of heat, such as kerosene. Even more resent solar heats like the one from the tree hugger website first heat water to then heat the gas. If a few of you had attended college you would be able to think out side the box and realize that these “little” changes can be huge, such as replacing fossil fuels with direct sunlight, which can not be done by “reading a history” (that ones for you Dennis).

  18. Does anyone know if this technology is being used in remote villages of sub-Saharan Africa, where there’s plenty of sun but very little electricity and a huge need for refrigeration?

    And by the way, I’m not sure the students were claiming they had an “invention” as much as a “demonstration.”

  19. so frustrating that theres no link to a parts list or plans. been all over the internet for it. nothing. when i think im getting close, the webpage has been blocked or removed. conspiracy anyone?

  20. Sigh, yes they’ve reinvented the wheel once again. The most common combinations for such batch cycle absorrption refrigeration are the ammonia / water which the Crosley Iceball of 1927 used ( reaches a pressure of 250 psi but overheating could cause the water to boil causing a pressure relief valve to release ), the ammonia / CaCl which I suspect would be what these students used as it avoids the danger of overpressure, and the water / zeolite in a vacuum approach which is the easiest as it does not involve any dangerous materials but it’s difficult to seal in a vacuum without brazing. Any of these projects that use ammonia can not use copper tubing, they must use aluminum, stainless steel or zinc coated mild steel ( though the zinc coating won’t handle excessive heat well ). Note that the zeolite absorber could be silica gel readily available at craft stores. Of course, it’s relatively simply to simply pump out any air that may have leaked in during the day so the water / zeolite in a vacuum would be my preferred DIY or third world choice. Many of the DIY ammonia / water plans fail to have safety features but this can be compensated for by simply using a double boiler to heat the hot ball, i.e.:simply place it in a pot of water and heat that pot of water instead. Placing a valve between the hot ball and cold ball allows you to delay the cooling action to a later point in time, this could be useful in the solar heating scenario as several balls could be heated at one time but then used in succession.

    Of course, this is something that would help developing countries but it is only one of many concepts which we have nearly forgotten which could help a lot.

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