Going On A Picnic? Remember To Bring The Fridge

Heading for the beach on a hot day, you grab beers from the fridge and toss them in the ice chest. Soon, there may be a better way: Take the fridge along.

The portable icebox is one possibility with a new technology that replaces ozone-depleting refrigerants such as CFCs with so-called solid-state-complex compounds. Tiny Rocky Research of Boulder City, Nev., says its innovation may lead to a "rapid freeze" that makes ice cubes in three minutes or systems that cool computer components without a "cold room."

The technology rests on compounds made of metal inorganic salts such as calcium chloride. These soak up gaseous coolants such as ammonia that, after the compound is heated, are released and evaporate to yield temperatures as low as -70F. Rocky Research has sold a licensing option to an appliance company that may develop portable minifridges that cool for up to eight hours without being plugged in. Next, Rocky says, may come deals with electronics makers.

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