Sustainable design of hydrocarbon refrigerants applied to the hermetic compressor
International environmental concern led to the control and phase out of traditional chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants (CFCs) under the terms of the Montreal protocol. CFCs used in domestic applications were initially replaced with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) such as R134a which has a zero ozone depletion potential (ODP). The use of HFCs has also come under scrutiny as they have high global warming potential (GWP) and inferior thermodynamic and lubricating properties and have been replaced by hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants such as R600a in much of the domestic European and Asian markets. Despite this, there has been little research into the long-term environmental consequences of their application. Domestic refrigeration compressors were analysed to ascertain the tribological contact conditions for both R600a and R134a systems. A novel pressurised micro-friction test machine was developed to simulate the tribological conditions of the critical components using aluminium on steel samples. Refrigerant charges of R600a with mineral oil (MO) and poly-ol-ester (POE) lubricant and R 134a with POE were tested for their tribological performance within the test rig. Experimental tribological information is presented from the physical test procedures to establish wear mechanisms and friction coefficients within the critical components. The tribological performance is used to predict deterioration in energy consumption and system durability. Results indicate that for higher contact stresses R600a MO charges provide a lower wear regime than R600a and R134a POE charges. At lower contact stresses the R600a and R134a POE charges provide a very low wear, very low friction regime. Despite contact conditions lead to a faster deterioration in durability, hence increase in energy consumption compared to the R600a system.