Many a flag waving, patriotic Aussie has sat around the brass top of a pub bar on a hot day and expounded on the wealth of ingenuity apparent in those bred with a genetic love for Jimmy Barnes and meat pies. They’ll no doubt start with plastic bank notes, run through the bionic ear and stabilise around the winged keel.

If it’s a particularly hot day, a drip of sweat running o the tip of the nose will set o another idea and bring them around to refrigeration. They will confidently list the work of Geelong’s James Harrison, inventor of refrigeration. As with most tales from the pub tales, there is kernel of truth in there!

James Harrison didn’t invent refrigeration, but he did manage to build and patent the first industrial size working vapour compression system in the mid 1850s.

It was capable of producing ice and used ethyl ether as its refrigerant. Of course, Harrison was a Scotsman. This article aims to resolve some of those disputes that pop up around the pub bar at the end of a long day’s work. When it comes to refrigerants, their application, their properties and their future, here are just the FAQs!

Refrigerant history timeline
1834 Ether
1850 Water and sulphuric acid
1866 Petrol ether and naptha
1873 Ammonia
1875 Sulphur dioxide and methyl ether
1878 Methyl chloride
1926 Dilene
1931 Chloro uorocarbons (CFCs)
1936 Hydrochloro uorocarbons (HCFCs)
c1968 R22 (HFC)
c1990 R134a (HFC)
c1991 R410a (HFC)
c2013 Hydro uoroole ns (HFOs)


The perfect refrigerant

A refrigerant can be described as a substance that is generally a uid and is used in the refrigeration cycle. In most instances, it must be able to undergo a transition in phase from liquid to gas and back to a liquid form again.

The perfect refrigerant would:

  • Have excellent thermodynamic properties
  • Be non-toxic
  • Be non-flammable
  • Be non corrosive
  • Have a moderate density in liquid form
  • Have a high density in gaseous form
  • Have a high heat of vaporisation
  • Be non ozone depleting

The perfect refrigerant does not exist!

What the... common acronyms

What does SGG mean?

Synthetic greenhouse gas (SGG) in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry is a term that describes ODS that fall under Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 which is administered by the ARC.

What is GWP?

Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much heat a gas traps in the atmosphere relative to CO2 (which has a GWP of one). Simply put, its GWP is the best measure of how much a substance will contribute to global warming if released into the atmosphere.

What is an ODS?

Ozone depleting substances (ODS) refers to compounds recognised as detrimental to the environment by the Montreal Protocol, i.e. HCFCs and CFCs. The later Kyoto Protocol covers the phase down of HFCs.

What does ODP mean?

A substance’s ozone depleting potential (ODP) can be used in conjunction with its GWP to determine how detrimental its release will impact on the environment, specifically to the ozone layer. The reference point for ODP is the CFC R11 at 1.0.