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The refrigerator present in most Western kitchens today wasn’t invented all that long ago. Carl Van Linde developed the technology in the 1870’s, but his ammonia-based fridges still required separate motors, and inhaling the toxic gases within led to a few deaths—not ideal. The first freestanding, commercially available fridge hit shelves (well, floors) in 1913, and wasn’t really perfected until the 1930’s. Iceboxes and burying perishables in the ground preceed both models by thousands of years.
But the current model isn’t done evolving yet. Refrigerators still consume about a 6th of the energy used in the average American home. This week’s edition includes inspiring fridges that use little to no electricity, instead keeping food cold/preserved using methods from sand to biopolymers.