posted September 04, 2021 09:34 PM
I started building a prototype of something that I am wondering whether or not I should try to bring to market. I haven't finished it though, as I've been rather low energy, feeling lethargic and apathetic, and depressed of late.
What it is: It is a special kind of very efficient cooler that can moonlight as an ultra efficient Solar oven/cooker, as a no electricity active night time refrigerator, and/or as a no electricity active day time refrigerator.
The base cooler itself is special because rather than using foam to insulate, it uses vacuum insulation panels to insulate. There are only two coolers currently made in the world, one in the states and one in Europe that use vacuum insulation. The one is the US is made by Yeti and retails for 800. It still uses a lot of foam+plastic and the vacuum insulation panels are quite thin. The Euro one is not available to the states and I think costs around 450 Euro, which is more reasonable than the Yeti, but still pretty pricey.
Mine would be completely vacuum insulation, and a full inch thick of vacuum insulation.
To put vacuum insulation in perspective as to efficiency--1 inch of vacuum insulation is equivalent to the insulation capacity of about 10 inch thick, high quality foam. Course no foam/plastic coolers use that much foam, because it would take up way too much space.
The cool thing about this cooler also, is that most of the materials are ultimately biodegradable or easily recyclable. Essentially it is mostly a combo of wood and special forms of glass, with a aluminum sheet insert.
There are some human made materials involved that are not biodegradable or recyclable, but compared to the average cooler with all that plastic and foam, it is MUCH less.
And we're talking a cooler that you could put ice in, and if you minimize opening and closing, could keep the ice ice for easily a week or more, vs a couple days for the average cooler.
The active nighttime refrigeration option works on radiating infrared energy (aka "heat") up into space. The top lid would be different and more efficient at passing the IR energy through. The aluminum sheet insert which is standard and is used in the cooler function and in the solar oven function, will be mirror polished and will reflect IR very well (and shaped specially to reflect it up and out towards the top).
Basically, all you need is a clear shot to the open sky, and especially on low cloud nights, the contents within the cooler will increasingly lose heat energy to the cold vacuum of space. The insulation of the cooler, will keep the contents insulated very well from the normal heat energy exchange with the surrounding air and environment.
The active daytime refrigerator option will work on a different principle. It will have a phase change material move heat energy from inside the cooler to outside, and then the heat of the Sun will regenerate/perpetuate the cycle. It doesn't use any exotic, expensive materials commonly used in most phase change AC and refrigerator type systems, just a combo of water and methanol that is well sealed in a closed loop system. To work, you just need some Sun to warm up the part of the system that is designed to warm up the water/methanol blend to release from the passive adsorbent materials located outside of the cooler. No electricity required, and it will last a very long time, since its not under a hard vacuum or the like (just a light vacuum).
The idea is to offer the cooler as the base for a certain price, and then singular options as add ons, and then a full package deal at a discount.
I think of it is as the ultimate off grid tool for preserving and/or cooking food. Also great for normal things like car camping, fishing, losing your electricity during storms, etc
I'm not firm on prices yet, but I'm thinking about 200 to 250 for the cooler itself, about 50 extra for the Solar oven/cooker attachments and top, about 50 extra for the top/lid for the nighttime refrigerator function, and about a 100 dollars for the daytime refrigerator add on. And for the full package deal, around 300 to 350 or so.
Does this sound like something you or people you know might be interested in? Any feedback or suggestions? Do you think it's worth finishing and/or trying to bring to market? Any suggestions for the latter besides things like kickstarter or indiegogo?
Please be completely and brutally honest. You won't hurt my feelings if you question it, don't like it, etc. Unfortunately I cannot go into super specific details about the design, but suffice it to say that I am quite aware that there are some design and manufacturing challenges involved. For example, to use wood, I have to really strengthen the wood to handle the force of a medium vacuum. Wood is not strong enough by itself.
Wood is also far too porous to hold a vacuum by itself. There are reinforcements and specialized coatings that solve both these issues. But again, I'm not going to go into specifics until brought to market. I've put a lot of thought into it in a very systems approach and holistic way. I'm going to test it once I finish the prototype, but I'm trying to build up the motivation and energy to get that fully done.