Whirlpool: opportunities to accelerate innovation from aerospace

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Alberto Gomes (Whirlpool Corp.) spoke at The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Aerospace Conference about a refrigeration system being developed for space and how it can improve life at home on Earth. Whirlpool has a history of innovating appliances for the U.S. Space Program including creating the world’s first space kitchen and space food. “The work that engineers in the Global Product Organization (GPO) continue to deliver for the U.S. Space Program is not only reaching the stars but could potentially reach the homes of consumers, too”, the company explains. Gomes spoke on the Vapor Compression Refrigeration System for space exploration, sharing key findings and applications of this technology. Whirlpool, along with engineers from Purdue University and compressor manufacturer Air Squared, worked together to develop a refrigerator prototype to use in zero gravity exploration in space, possibly for moon or Mars missions, or on the international space station. This past year an evaluation of the system successfully demonstrated the product’s capability through different use cases at alternating gravity levels, including a test in a zero-gravity flight. The team was also able to create a system that has more efficiency, saves space, and preserves food longer for space crews. The next step is reliability testing to ensure there is validation for long-term duration and that its readiness to place into a rocket for space exploration. Working with cutting-edge technology such as aerospace applications brings the opportunity to learn more about product development, and can change the way that Whirlpool Corp. builds and delivers consumer experiences. “Working on aerospace applications – Gomes said – provides opportunities that can help us learn how to accelerate innovations in current product development at Whirlpool such as water usage, energy efficiency and a more sustainable product. The possibility of building an appliance to work on Mars and in those conditions will push the boundaries in this direction and can accelerate the development of the new generation of appliances to use on Earth”.