Imperial College London

Researchers receive funding to develop affordable off-grid refrigeration


Solar panels

The Clean Energy Processes (CEP) Laboratory will develop refrigeration and icemaking technologies for households in the developing world.

The CEP Laboratory, led by Professor Christos Markides, is one of seven grant winners announced by Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) as part of their Chill Challenge competition. Led by Professor Christos Markides, and PhD students Ahmad Najjaran and Asmaa Harraz, the lab has been awarded $45,000 to design a solar-powered icemaker in collaboration with partner company Solar Polar

"The Chill Challenge award will enable us to deliver an exciting solar-cooling solution for icemaking in developing, remote or off-grid regions." Professor Christos Markides Clean Energy Processes Laboratory

The icemaker will be based on solar-driven diffusion absorption refrigeration (DAR) technology, which boils a fluid in one compartment by using heat from low-cost solar-thermal collectors and condenses it in another to generate a cooling effect. DAR devices are known for their simple and silent construction, and lack of moving parts, which promise low costs, excellent reliability and long lifetimes. This makes them ideal for rural communities without access to electricity.

In response to the award Professor Markides said: “The Chill Challenge award will enable us to deliver an exciting solar-cooling solution for icemaking in developing, remote or off-grid regions. We are delighted to continue our long-standing interaction with Solar Polar, and look forward to the opportunities that will arise from this project”. 

The Chill Challenge initiative was launched in September 2019 to solicit innovative proposals for more affordable refrigeration for off-grid communities, which has the potential to improve the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. 

Proposals were submitted by 43 teams from 36 universities around the world and shortlisted by a distinguished panel of reviewers, including EWB-USA volunteers and international refrigeration experts. Seven finalist teams were awarded grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 to develop their projects.


Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) is a non-profit organization that builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world's most pressing challenges. EWB-USA’s thousands of highly skilled volunteers work on more than 650 projects in partnership with local communities, NGOs, governments and UN agencies in 45 countries to design and implement sustainable and technologically appropriate infrastructure solutions. 


Sara West

Sara West
Communications Division

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Global-challenges-Engineering, Sustainability
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