Williams uses F1 tech to increase refrigerator efficiency

Aerofoil technology has the potential to significantly cut down supermarket energy consumption (Photo: Williams Advanced Engineering)

A new aerodynamic device has the potential to reduce the energy consumption of supermarket refrigerators by up to 41.5 percent. The product, currently being developed by Williams Advanced Engineering in collaboration with Aerofoil Energy, can be clipped onto existing cabinets, making it easy for companies to upgrade their stores.

Supermarkets and convenience stores consume a huge amount of energy every year. A single 30,000 sq ft (2,787 sq m) supermarket uses in the region of 1.5 million kWh of energy a year, and with the biggest four supermarket operators in the UK running some 2,300 stores combined, the energy figures for the industry are off the chart, running into the billions of kWh's every year.

Refrigerators in supermarkets and convenience stores are responsible for a large chunk of that energy consumption – according to Williams Advanced Engineering, as much as 70 percent. The company, a division of Williams that commercializes Formula One developed technologies, believes that aerofoils (also known as airfoils) can play a part in increasing efficiency.

Utilizing its experience of aerodynamic design and testing in Formula One racing, the company is working with Aerofoil Energy, using computational fluid dynamics to model and simulate new designs, later testing them at the Williams factory in Oxfordshire.

The under-development product is designed to attach to each shelf of a cabinet, manipulating the air flow to keep the cool air inside, meaning that the units don't have to work as hard to keep produce at the desired temperature. The aerofoils are retrofittable, meaning supermarkets won't have to purchase all-new refrigerators to take advantage of them.

According to research carried out by the leading test center for the Carbon Trust – Refrigeration Developments and Testing Ltd – and by manufacturers such as the EPTA, the use of aerofoils on refrigerators can produce energy savings between 18 and 41.5 percent. Shoppers would also likely approve of the measure, as it would lead to warmer aisles, and therefore a more pleasant shopping experience.

Several UK supermarket chains are currently evaluating the effectiveness of aerofoil technology, including Sainsbury's, which is the second largest chain in the country, using around 1 percent of the UK's energy.

"We’re proud to be giving our fridges a turbo boost with this fantastic aerodynamic technology," said Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering. "Aerofoils help the airflow around Formula One cars and can improve their performance – and that’s exactly how they help the fridges in our stores, by keeping the cold air in. This Formula One inspired innovation has already shown it can cut carbon produced by major refrigerators."

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