The conference room at Ohio University's Innovation Center is filled with people. They have come because of a freezer which is humming away on a table. The unit is quiet, despite the fact that it's making the temperature inside incredibly cold — minus-86-degrees-centigrade.
Who would want to keep things that cold? Drug companies and biomedical researchers, says Neill Lane.
Lane is the President and CEO of Global Cooling, the company that makes this freezer, which is called The Shuttle.
"This is exciting for us. This product you see, the so-called Shuttle, is the world's only minus 86 degree freezer," says Lane.
The Shuttle is "a lightweight portable ultra cold freezer capable of operating from a standard automotive power outlet" and Lane is showing it off at a press event.
He says the freezer costs $5,800 and is so efficient that it operates on no more energy than a light bulb.
This small, ultra low temperature freezer and larger ones are being manufactured at a new Global Cooling facility near The Plains, Ohio, where 30 people are employed.
Lane expects that number to grow to more than a hundred in the next couple of years.
Stirling Ultracold freezers use at least 50 percent less energy than conventional freezers and Lane says that's a significant selling point.
Bill Hodnick is impressed. Hodnick is with MetalloPharm at the Innovation Center. "Many of the pluses have already been discussed in terms of cost of the unit, cost savings and environmental footprint and all that," Hodnick says. "From a daily user point of view, these are much smaller units they take up a lot less space in the laboratory and yet they can hold a lot of material. They can hold them at the temperatures you need them," he says. "We make use of them for both storage of our samples and now with the shuttles we will be able to transport samples between our facility here in Athens and our corporate headquarters in the Columbus area."
Global Cooling was founded in 1995 and got a foothold in the cooling industry with an innovative design of the Stirling engine.
But the real beginning was in 1816 when Robert Stirling of Scotland invented the external combustion engine that Lane says is ideal for this type of application.
Global Cooling is not the only company in Athens which is having success with the Stirling Engine.
Sunpower is using it also for NASA projects and Stirling Technology for sales in developing countries that rely on biomass as a fuel source.
"There are more applications of Stirling now than there ever have been. The irony is that it was created nearly 200 years ago by a Scottish minister, Robert Stirling. It's been a long wait and we've got a very good application of it but other
people are finding good applications, too," Lane says.
Under the name Stirling Ultracold, Global Cooling has built and distributed hundreds of Shuttles and is starting production of larger models. Lane says the product line will eventually expand to various sized models up to 35 cubic feet.