Physics of the Everyday

How does a refrigerator work?

Prior to the invention of refrigerators, food preservation imposed serious constraints. The best options were to suspend perishable items in rivers, wells, or at the bottom of lakes. Absent these tactics, staple foods were heavily salted, spiced, pickled, canned, or dried to prevent bacterial growth.

With the industrial age, we began to understand thermodynamic cycles and—through an interplay of pumps, valves, and heat exchange—learned to cool food to arbitrary temperatures using the refrigerator cycle.

In this quiz, we’ll learn about its three crucial components and understand how they come together to produce the refrigerator’s cooling cycle.



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