Energy efficient localised cooling systems for food manufacturing facilities

A multinational food manufacturer was interested in reducing the energy consumption of refrigeration systems used to cool chilled food manufacturing facilities and approached the National Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains (CSEF) for innovative solutions. 

These facilities are normally large spaces with high ceiling heights where food processing takes place along production lines at low level.  The conventional cooling systems employed for the purpose supply cold air at high level, cooling the whole space and thus wasting significant amounts of energy even though cooling is only required at low level.

The team at CSEF proposed an innovative solution to the problem and worked together with the food manufacturer and an air distribution company to obtain funding from Innovate UK to investigate, develop and test the proposed methodology. The investigations involved:

  • monitoring of air distribution and the thermal environment in a number of food manufacturing facilities
  • simulation of the thermal environment and air distribution in the manufacturing facilities using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to gain a better understanding of the problem and the influence of design, operating and control parameters
  • replicating the processes at smaller scale in state-of-the-art environmental test facilities at Brunel University London to validate the computational models developed and investigate low cost alternative air distribution approaches

The project is expected to lead to energy efficient localised cooling systems for food manufacturing facilities and generate knowledge and tools for the design of these systems for different food products and manufacturing environments. The project will also result in a better working environment and provide economic benefits for the collaborating companies.

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