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How Does a Refrigerator Work?


Did you know Albert Einstein invented a refrigerator that operated on alcohol gas? The refrigerator was never patented, however the way a refrigerator works in today’s world is more environmentally friendly and involves tetrafluoroethane, or HFC.

The process of refrigeration requires two important factors: the fact that a gas cools as it expands and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that when two objects are near each other, the warmer one cools and the cooler one warms up.


A motor and compressor are used to constrict the gas, which heats up as a result. The gas is then sent through coils in the refrigerator, which allow the heat of the gas to escape and the HFC to change into a liquid. The liquid travels through an expansion valve and then continues through the coils and draws heat from the compartments, then flows into a low pressure area, which allows it to boil and return to a gas.
The process then begins again.

Refrigerator Parts

The refrigerator contains six important components, which are vital to the completion of the process.

The refrigerant, or the HFC, is the first vital component. Without this gas, the process would be non-existent.

The evaporator is next, the component that absorbs heat in the refrigerator using the refrigerant.

Third is the heat changing pipes or coils. These transfer the refrigerant throughout the refrigerator.

Next is the compressor, which is made of metal and powered by a motor. It is used to increase pressure and therefore temperature for the refrigerant.

The condenser is also very important. This component exerts pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to change into a liquid and therefore cool down.

Expansion valve:
Finally, the expansion valve, which is made of thin copper wire, is used to reduce pressure on the refrigerant.

Therefore, the process of refrigeration depends more on the extraction of warm air from the area surrounding an object and on evaporation than on a process that lowers the temperature of the object that is being cooled.

A refrigerator is an example of a closed system, which means that nothing is gained or lost during the process of refrigeration. Instead, all gas is contained to be used by the system again.



“How Does A Refrigerator Work?.” Energy Quest Room. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2010.

“Heat engines and the second law.” Home (Boston University, Physics Department). N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010.

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