By Christopher Zook
Let's be honest: Refrigerators are big. They take up lots of space in your commercial kitchen, and on your electric bill too. Finding the right place for this equipment can be daunting, especially if it means adding a dedicated electrical circuit in an existing structure. And you can invest in stacking kits for some equipment or shelving systems for all your odds and ends, yet there's really only so much you can do with a refrigerator. But what if you could swap out your current refrigerator for one that's 75% smaller and costs almost nothing to operate?
Your new refrigerator wouldn't have a compressor or a door, and it would be about the size of a full-body mirror. On the other hand, it'd be so lightweight you could mount it on the wall or even the ceiling. Designer Yuriy Dmitriev calls it the "Bio Robot" refrigerator, and it could be the best thing to happen to your commercial kitchen since, well, ever. And the best part?
It doesn't use any energy for cooling.
None. Zero. Actually, the only part of this sleek semi-solid sci-fi refrigerator that uses any power at all is the tiny control pad tucked away in one of the side walls.
So How's It Work?
The magic behind the cooling process takes place in the non-sticky, odorless biopolymer gel. Since the model is constructed sans door, you just plunge whatever food you want (from fruit to fish) into the appropriately-colored green gel and the Bio Robot refrigerator cools it through luminescence, or light that is emitted without the use of heat. Even though you can push your fingertips through it, the gel is naturally supportive enough to keep food from sloshing to the bottom of the fridge. The food is instead suspended in a neat, little pocket of chilly freshness.
To remove your food, just push through the gel, wrap your hand around the item, and pull it out. It may seem like you'd get a handful of viscous ooze, but this special material is designed not to stick to food or skin.
Is It All Good News?
Despite how exciting it may be, there are some downsides to this bizarre new technology. Unfortunately for those of us who so badly want to have a refrigerator on our ceilings (I'm lookin' at you, Mr. 6'3"), this potentially revolutionary piece of equipment is still in the conceptual phase, so we've got a few decades until these pop up at The WEBstaurant Store.
Aside from that, there are a few skeptics who question how the gel would respond to different odors. Since it's odorless and not deodorant, some think that placing fish and other strong-smelling foods inside could make the whole fridge smell a little too much like a marina in August. Thankfully though, the design team still has plenty of time to look into that potential issue.
But Do We Really Need It?
The Bio Robot is eco-friendly, 25% the size of a typical refrigerator, and so versatile you can mount it over your head. If you're worried about kitchen space, this fridge would be a lifesaver.
Plus, imagine the financial benefits: Cut out the cost of electricity used in your refrigerators, and that's a lot of extra scratch that you can reinvest in your business. The Bio Robot refrigerator should be able to pay for itself relatively quickly just by shrinking your electric bill. Besides, it's not every day that you find an appliance that is both energy- and cost-efficient!
And then there's all the time your kitchen and serving staff will save when they don't have to open doors, look for the food, and fumble around grabbing for what they need. You save on electricity and take up minimal kitchen space, your workers operate more efficiently, and you don't harm the environment — it's the magic bullet the foodservice industry has been waiting for!
So it might not be around for a couple (read: many) years, and it might not get along with fish or mullosks, but the promise and potential shown in this product could revolutionize how the restaurant industry functions.
Up next: Gel ovens?