Where Did Industrial Ammonia Refrigeration Come From?

Many food and beverage processing companies must keep their products cool or even frozen. To solve this issue, they use high-tech industrial ammonia refrigeration systems. But where did the process of keeping things cool originate? To find out, let’s go back in time many years.

Natural Cooling Systems

For thousands of years, man relied upon natural ways to keep things cool. For example, when you dig into the earth, you can often find a large drop in temperature and the same is true for caves and natural underground structures. By putting perishable foods in caves, people prolonged the shelf lives of many of their foods.


Before industrial ammonia refrigeration systems appeared, man realized he could harvest large blocks of ice from northern climates and ship it by rail to warmer climates. This was accomplished with insulated rail cars. In fact, up to the early part of the 20th century, companies harvested ice so it could be used in ice boxes, which were the forerunner of the modern refrigerator appliance.

18th Century

Artificial cooling methods were first developed in Scotland in 1755 when William Cullen invented the first freezer. By creating a vacuum over diethyl either, he could remove enough heat to make small amounts of ice.

Within a few years, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley experimented with evaporating either and alcohol to lower temperatures. By 1820, Michael Faraday came up with the forerunner of industrial ammonia refrigeration systems. 14 years later, Jacob Perkins invented vapor compression refrigeration.


Some of the first cooling systems in the 19th Century used industrial ammonia refrigeration. All throughout the 20th and into the 21st Century, ammonia refrigerant has been the standard for commercial and industrial applications. It’s no longer used in residential applications, but for industry, it’s the most efficient and cost-effective way to cool things.

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