How Things Work: Refrigerated transport

By land, sea and air, the use of temperature-controlled or refrigerated transportation (reefer) solutions is rising. Cold chain management of the movement of food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, among other products, is garnering interest around the globe. A case in point is the first-ever Cold Chain China Summit that will be held next month in Shanghai.

Magnus Welander, CEO of Envirotainer (, a developer of a temperaturecontrolled air cargo container, points out that the emerging bio-med industry's temperature-sensitive products are its fastest growing segment. He notes that the temperature-sensitive product market for pharmaceuticals is projected to grow at least 15% per year for the next ten years, driven by more than 370 biotechnology products now in clinical trial stages.

On the water, carriers like Crowley ( offer refrigerated cargo transportation services. All of Crowley's reefers are built with advanced microprocessors to keep internal temperature stabilized to within plus or minus one-half degree F, despite external temperatures.

In earlier times truck reefers — adapted for use on railroad cars - used carbon dioxide and ammonia refrigeration. In today's truck and trailer units, manufacturers like ThermoKing ( now use chlorine-free refrigerants that have ozone-deletion factors of zero. The manufacturer explains that newer reefer systems for trucks adapt the concept of the thermos bottle. A vacuum vessel is fitted inside a standard truck cargo container. The vacuum has slightly curved, airtight double walls. Temperature-sensitive product is loaded cold or frozen and will remain that way for long periods without the need for additional refrigeration.

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