Saving the Ozone Layer


Five Questions with Engineering Professor Bryan Becker

Climate change experts around the world have been engaging in international discussion for decades about a global phase down of climate-damaging chemicals, specifically chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC’s), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) that were often used in fridges, air conditioners and even as propellants in aerosol spray cans.  An important step in the phasing out process was the signing of the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to reduce the consumption and abundance of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere and protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer.  The effort now focuses on replacing the current HFC refrigerants that have high Global Warming Potentials (GWP’s) with new refrigerants that have low ozone depletion potentials (ODP’s) and low GWP’s.

In 2017, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) joined forces with the United Nations Environment Program to launch an eLearning “Refrigerants Literacy” course to help developing countries better understand and implement regulations outlined in the Montreal Protocol. University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of civil and mechanical engineering Bryan Becker, Ph.D., was one of two designers who created the course.

Becker, a licensed Professional Engineer who holds fellowship rankings with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and ASHRAE, has nearly 30 years’ worth of research experience in areas such as:

  • Fluid dynamics
  • Heat transfer
  • Thermodynamics
  • Refrigeration
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Turbulence modeling
  • Modeling of food refrigeration/freezing
  • Numerical analysis of heat transfer and fluid flow phenomena pertaining to energy systems.

Here are a few things to know about the “Refrigerants Literacy” course he helped designed:

1. How did you become involved in designing the “Refrigerants Literacy” course?

My colleague, Brian Fricke, and I have designed and authored several eLearning courses for ASHRAE, including an extensive course on industrial refrigeration. We were selected to design and author this ASHRAE/UNEP course because of our expertise in eLearning and refrigeration.

2. It took nine months to design the “Refrigerants Literacy” course

I traveled to Paris, France in April 2016 to participate in an eLearning workshop sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program to learn about their efforts to reduce HCF’s in developing countries.  We then met and worked with representatives at ASHRAE and the United Nations Environmental Program to develop this course.

3. Why is it important for countries to participate in the course?

This “country-driven approach” is a key factor contributing to the remarkable success of the Montreal Protocol.  Therefore, it is important that the National Ozone Officers, government officials responsible for managing their countries’ programs to comply with the Montreal Protocol, and the staff in their units, participate in this course. By participating in the course, they are able to take information presented back to their respective countries and use it to organize technician training and certification programs, refrigerant management programs, and refrigerant legislation and regulations.

4. What are the most important takeaways from this course?

One important takeaway from the “Refrigerants Literacy” course is the crucial need to move toward low global warming potential (GWP) and low ozone depletion potential (ODP) refrigerants to mitigate global climate change. However, this move to new refrigerants involves new safety and flammability risks as some of the new refrigerants require very high system operating pressures, and some of the refrigerants are flammable. Service technicians need to be aware of these new safety and flammability issues. Also when changing out old refrigerants for new refrigerants, it is imperative that service technicians follow proper procedures for the capture and disposal of old refrigerants.

5. What are some of the primary objectives addressed in the course?

The course is divided into four lessons.

The objectives of the first lesson cover the environmental impact of refrigerants upon the ozone layer, global warming and climate change, and various international agreements aimed at reducing these environmental impacts.

The second lesson deals with standards that are the basis for the number of designation and safety, toxicity, and flammability classifications of refrigerants. This lesson also discusses physical properties of refrigerants and appropriate refrigeration lubricants.

The third lesson focuses on the market sectors that use various refrigerants, the types of systems used in these market sectors, the existing refrigerants being used in these market sectors and the new, low GWP refrigerants these market sectors can use as alternatives.

Lastly, the fourth lesson discusses refrigerant management, optimizing refrigerant use in existing equipment, minimizing the demand for virgin refrigerants and reducing the negative environmental impact from refrigerant emissions. Training and certification are also discussed in Lesson 4.


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