British student invents a solar-powered refrigerator

by Mark R

In Namibia, Miss Emily Cummins is known as “The Fridge Lady”. This is because she invented a solar-powered refrigerator that is can help many poverty-stricken Africans.

The solar-powered refrigerator works with two cylinders, one inside the other. The inner cylinder is metal while the outer one is wood or plastic. In between these two cylinders is either sand or soil, which can be soaked with water. The sun’s rays heat the wet material, and as the water evaporates, the heat is removed from the inner cylinder. This keeps the fridge at a cool six degrees Celsius.

This solar-powered fridge could easily change the world as we know it. Now perishable goods such as meat and milk can be stored for days in areas where there is no grid electricity. Miss Cummings spent a lot of time in Africa showing the people her invention.

This is pretty cool (excuse the obvious refrigerator pun) considering that Emily Cummins is still in her early twenties. She has won awards for some of her other inventions including a toothpaste squeezer for arthritis sufferers and a water carrying device, also for use in the Third World.

She is a graduate of Leeds University, and was once refused a place on an engineering course because “she didn’t have the correct qualifications”. She qualified now?


11 reviews or comments

Bdc Says: October 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

This seems no different from the systems that are out there already based on nested pots.

Anders Says: October 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

This is an old invention. Mohammed Bah Abba from Nigeria won a prize for a very similar fridge ten years ago (, and the concept is the same as what makes sweat cool us down.

As for her qualifications regarding the engineering course it was probably some math course or something missing.

JohnMc Says: October 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

I will say, its a novel implementation. But if she applies for a patent here in the US she will fail. The Mexican and SW cultures have used this same idea in the form of terra cotta pots to cool drinking water. Its an idea as old as the Incas.

The technical term would be ‘prior art’.

I would also suggest that the primary driver for her device is the relative humidity more than any solar effects. Fact in arid regions her device would probably work even better in the shade.

& sMELL tHe CofFeE Says: November 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm

THATS F = (6 x 1.8) + 32 = 10.8 + 32 = 42.8 degrees fahrenheit JUST INCASe some of us Americans happen to be reading this….

Jurie de Kock Says: November 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

Miss Cummens invented the wheel all over!
All 70jr old people will remember the “cooler” in the backjard. The same principal as the “water-type” airconditioners used in the dry parts of Africa for a long time.
Even the Kalahari-Bushman made coolers like this from the tree-trunks of the quivertree.

Wendy Howe Says: November 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I love it!! I’ve been living off the grid for 10 years now. This is a product I need. I don’t live in Africa, I live in North Carolina US. I can’t afford all the high dollar solar stuff that I see and need, so I am always searching for things that are within my reach. I work my tail off and still don’t make what it takes to have what I need to have, so its not only 3rd world countries, its your next door neighbors who could benifit from inventions like this. Refridgeration is a real problem. I get ice from work to keep drinks cold, but everything else is canned or dried. I’d love to have cereal and milk for breakfast, but I have oatmeal instead. Its okay, but I now I want cereal and milk again. I hope to learn more3 so I can have refridgeration too.

Andrew Says: December 3, 2010 at 3:43 am

In combination with the SolSource which is also completely powered by natural sources it it is a basic service for food preparation in the third World.

edgar despi Says: December 28, 2010 at 4:06 am

where can we buy his fridge?

mickey michael Says: October 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

his is a great idea that has been lost for awhile-im glad. Its. Back – 2 pots one inside the other- fill with sand in between then wet the sand with water -put a wet towel or blanket over the top-when the towel starts to dry wet it again and put it back on top –

Jurie Says: October 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

This is not an invention!
The Bushmann in the South African Kallahari desert made it from quiver trees 500 jears ago.

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