Reefer unit is a piston engine driven by the expansion of liquid nitrogen (aka “liquid air”)...

Reefer unit is a piston engine driven by the expansion of liquid nitrogen (aka “liquid air”) that’s engineered “to produce clean cold and power."

Photo: TIP Trailer Services

“Keep your cool” is not just a help[ful expression. It also can be shorthand for making sure to protect foods in transit from spoiling before its time.

Over in Europe, Netherlands-based TIP Trailer Services, which leases trailers and provides related services to trucking and logistics firms across that continent and In Canada, has entered into a partnership to deploy what it calls “revolutionary liquid nitrogen powered transport refrigeration units” to help keep the cold chain cold as efficiently as possible.

The deal is with Dearman, a U.K.-based developer of zero-emission technologies that are based on the Dearman engine — a piston engine driven by the expansion of liquid nitrogen (aka “liquid air”) that’s engineered “to produce clean cold and power."

According to Dearman, the engine operates like a high-pressure steam engine. But the low boiling temperature of liquid nitrogen means that low-grade or ambient heat can be used as a heat source, eliminating the need for a traditional fuel.

The company says a unique feature of the engine is its use of heat exchange fluid—which is warm water. When that mixes with the extremely cold nitrogen, the resulting fluid “enables a quasi-isothermal (near constant) expansion and significantly increases the engine’s efficiency. Crucially, the only emission from a Dearman engine is air or nitrogen, with no emissions of NOx, CO2 or particulates.” 

As for the refrigeration unit, the manufacturer says it is “the first to meet all environmental challenges – and set new industry performance standards – all without having to compromise on cost.” Powered by the Dearman engine and fueled by liquid nitrogen, the system is described as “low carbon, zero-emission, quiet, efficient and cost-effective.” The company also boasts that it “outperforms conventional diesel units in cooling power, speed and accuracy.”   

TIP Trailer Services sees the Dearman unit as a solution for trailer leasing customers increasingly looking to “adopt cleaner and more efficient solutions for tractor units at the front of their vehicles.” In addition, the company figures that TIP customers will now be “able to match their cleaner propulsion investments with a clean refrigeration solution.” 

According to TIP, it has already run successful trials of the reefer unit in The Netherlands and in Italy with a global multi-brand foods company and it has showcased the technology at its recent Customer Innovation Platform so that operators could familiarize themselves with Dearman’s clean, quiet operation and ease of use.

“TIP sees its customers frequently playing with the question of how to deal with issues such as sustainability and the type of trailers to be used,” says Rogier Laan, TIP vice president-- Benelux. “We therefore keep a close eye on technical developments within our industry and we test these developments regularly, including this revolutionary solution from Dearman."

Khaled Simmons, Dearman’s chief commercial officer, says TIP's support for clean technology innovation is a “major step to enable fleet operators to meet the increasing environmental demands upon them from regulators, foods producers and retailers.

“The license to operate diesel-powered refrigeration is closing in, and it will take leadership from innovative leasing companies like TIP to support the transition to clean alternatives,” he added.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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