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Component giant Parker unleashes Big Blue in bid to master CO2 refrigeration

Parker Hannifin has taken inspiration from the world of chess supercomputers in setting up its new refrigeration test laboratory.

Component giant Parker Hannifin’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Europe (RACE) division is looking to test out and optimise the parameters of CO2 refrigeration with a new test laboratory in Padua, Italy.

The company has christened its CO2 test rig the Big Blue in homage to the IBM Deep Blue chess-playing supercomputer which ‘learnt’ from its memory of millions of chess moves to defeat the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997.

With Big Blue, Parker is aiming to optimise the component and system configurations for CO2 refrigeration by running through the vast array of permutations available.

Big Blue is able to explore over 1.5 million different combinations of components across a wide range of system types: LT; MT; booster; cascade; parallel compression; economizers; mechanical sub-cooling; gas/liquid overfeeding ejectors; and heat reclaim;  as well as endurance and heavy duty cycles. This will take place across a wide range of cooling powers (10-450 kW in transcritical mode) and in a continuously adjustable set-up of climate conditions (from 7 deg C to 42 deg).

The CO2 rack is linked with a supermarket lab including four MT and two LT display cases equipped with a selection of different flow control solutions (expansion valves and case controllers).

 Parker Engineering Manager Andrea Virzi believes that the Padua rig is ‘probably the most comprehensive and flexible lab environment available today to test and tune CO2 refrigeration technologies’

He said:  “It represents a terrific opportunity for both Parker, our business partners and in general for the whole R-744 HVACR community to shorten the road to the next level of CO2technology, by making this option more affordable and competitive.”

The new building hosts the Head Quarters of the division including the marketing and engineering staff along with the R&D lab equipped with state-of-the-art R-744 racks and supermarket cases.

Mr Virzi noted that the primary purpose of the R&D lab is to sustain and accelerate Parker’s development of “smart” CO2 flow control solutions, as well as supporting OEMs and end-users in selecting the best system design according to their specific refrigeration demand and environment conditions.

Mr Virzi said: “The market penetration of R-744 refrigeration technology is affected by a few, well-known, technical drawbacks, biases and financial issues. While the recently released F-Gas regulation is pushing the adoption of CO2 for new commercial refrigeration projects, the headwind of relative higher initial capital expenses, maintenance costs and reduced energy efficiency (in particular in warm climate regions), is holding back a larger and quicker embracing of R-744 in the food retail arena.”

He said that the new test lab has been conceived specifically to address such concerns: “We are offering rack manufacturers, refrigeration engineers and food chain end-users an open environment where to test, benchmark and tune different system designs to sort out the optimal configuration for their application. This lab will be also the perfect location for extensive training, hands-on and education on CO2 technology.”

The Padua CO2 lab naturally also furthers Parker’s development plans for natural refrigerant technology, he added: “Outstanding testing capabilities, robust local expertise and closeness to the largest market base for CO2 refrigeration enable a unique opportunity for Parker to play a key role in the growth of environmental friendly HVACR solutions. We expect CO2 HVACR applications will grow in line with progress in cutting system capital expenses, maintenance and energy consumption costs, as well as in multiplying system customisation capabilities and the  integration of cooling, heating and air conditioning functions.”

The company expects to extend the use of the lab to finding solutions for OEMs, contractors, consultants and wholesalers, ‘making the whole R-744 community more aware and skilled on the specific issues of this technology.’

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