On the day the National Snow And Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced the dreary news that the level of ice in the Arctic Sea is the lowest it has been since such information was recorded, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) presented some positive news regarding its goal to reduce the global warming potential (GWP) of the refrigerants used in our homes and cars.
NIST's new method of evaluting low-GWP chemicals: image credit: Kazakov/NIST
Low-GWP refrigerants are expected to make a major contribution to the effort to slow global warming. In the U.S. alone,the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration equipment manufacturing industry ships about $30 billion in goods annually. NIST's highly advanced computational model evaluated 56,000 chemicals to find 1,200 that are considered promising low-GDP chemicals; however, only be 60 of these chemicals have low enough boiling points to be suitable for refrigeration equipment. Among these 60 chemicals lie the few agents that will eventually proposed by NIST.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which were chosen for refrigeration chemicals to replace the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were depleting the stratosphere, are still considered high-GWP, GWP being the warming potential of one kilogram of refrigerant gas to one kilogram of carbon dioxide. These carbons remain in the atmosphere for years, warming the air and sea.
One popular current refrigerant, R-134a, has a GWP of 1,430. Europeans have already mandated no higher GWP than 150 for cars, and 1,430 is a far cry from that. Promising chemicals, NIST indicates, are fluorinated olefins, which react rapidly with atmospheric compounds and thus will not persist for long periods of time.
sources: NIST via RDMag, NSIDC