While the technical capabilities of CO2 (R744) as a refrigerant have improved over the past decade, making the business case continues to be a challenge, said Predrag (Pega) Hrnjak, research professor at the University of Illinois (U.S.) at Urbana-Champaign

Hrnjak, a major research scientist in the natural refrigerants industry, who also runs Creative Thermal Solutions in Urbana, Illinois, made this point during a presentation on December 8 at the 14th IIR-Gustav Lorentzen Conference on Natural Refrigerants (GL2020), held in Kyoto, Japan, December 7-9, and available online.

“Unfortunately CO2-focused engineers and researchers have proven their creativity and knowledge but not necessarily their business savvy,” said Hrnjak. 

Hrnjak spoke about a number of efficiency and capacity improvements for CO2 systems, specifically in the mobile air-conditioning sector, as well as in other applications such as heat pumps, supermarkets, buses, trains, and the industrial refrigeration sector.

“CO2 for mobile air-conditioning systems,” said Hrnjak as an example, “lost the race not for inferior performance, but for other reasons, cost being one of them.”

Hrjnak said that areas such as cost effectiveness, reliability, availability of components, increasing mass production to reduce costs and applications in niche markets need more focus in the CO2 industry.

“The business case has to be strengthened. This is an area where CO2 guys are not as strong as, I believe, they should be.”

While Hrnjak remained confident that “all three major natural refrigerant options will continue to grow in the future,” he reiterated that the “business case is the key factor.”

The business case has to be strengthened. This is an area where CO2 guys are not as strong as, I believe, they should be.

– Pega Hrnjak, University of Illinois

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