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Understanding How an Ice maker Actually Works in Practice

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In 1850 the first ice maker was born — and the principle remains the same.

How does an ice maker work? It’s a good question because refrigeration powers almost everything that we do in life. It conditions our air, keeps our food fresh, and even serves medical purposes.

Who knew that making ice would change the world? Keep reading to see how it’s done!

The Secret of the Ice Maker

An ice maker is not a new concept. To make one that’s more efficient than nocturnal or “sky” cooling, as they’ve done in deserts and India for millennia, though, remained a challenge for thousands of years.

You, though can click here to buy the latest in secret ice-cooling methods. Or are they secrets, after all?

As it turns out, while the first commercially available ice machine is over 150 years old, the method for freezing water and other liquids through evaporative cooling is actually over 250 years old.

The secret is in moving heat from one place to another.

High and Low Pressure

When high and low pressure meet, you may be familiar with the results. High-pressure and low-pressure areas, meteorologically, create tornados and hurricanes.

This is because areas of high pressure involve a lot of movement — that movement involves condensation of energy, creating heat, into a small space.

Low pressure, on the other hand, is a matter of lack of movement. The ultimate space of low pressure is either a solid where there are no movement at all (so-called supercooled environments) or areas where there are no molecules at all.

To illustrate, a liquid moving at high speed through a narrow tube condenses energy, and therefore heat.

Gas will not only dissipate that heat but will draw heat from its environment.

Refrigerant Is Key

Refrigerants are chemicals that can shift from liquid to gas and have a high coefficient of heat transfer. In this case, to make ice it has to transfer heat in a different range more efficiently than water can.

Refrigerant is pushed through narrow tubes under pressure, which means it’s “hot.” As it goes into an expansion tube, it has a chance to move from high to low pressure and let go of some of that energy.

If it’s surrounded by water, that gas draws heat from the water. After pulling enough heat from the water, the water will freeze. This is similar to an HVAC system known as a heat pump as well, which utilizes refrigerant.

Both systems will work well into dozens of degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The Difference Is Clear

Commercial ice makers and your home freezer have a bit of a difference. Not only is a residential ice maker freezing from the outside in, it often isn’t using distilled water.

Commercial ice makers use heavy-duty filters for minerals, and freeze water from the inside out. Water is pushed into molds around a vertical tube. That tube is filled with refrigerant that cools the water.

Once the water is frozen, it comes off the tube as a nice clear cylinder.

If you want clear water like an ice machine in a commercial kitchen, you’ll have to use boiled and distilled water. This gets rid of minerals and excess oxygen in the water. You’ll also have to freeze the water in layers to prevent bubbles from forming.

Ice Maker, Ice Maker, Make Me Some Ice

It isn’t a secret how an ice maker works anymore, but it isn’t any less technical. It isn’t easy making ice clear, and the physics are no less amazing.

The same processes power our air conditioning, freezers for genetic material, and hundreds of other applications.

Want to know more wonders of chemistry, physics, and engineering? Keep browsing our articles for more insights into modern technology and how you can benefit!

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