US chemical engineer wins J&E Hall Gold for 27 low-GWP refrigerants

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A chemical engineer who led a team that scanned over 60 million molecules to come up with 27 low-GWP refrigerants, has won the prestigious J&E Hall Gold Medal.

Dr Mark McLinden and his team from the USA’s National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) was said to have made “one of the most truly significant international contributions” in identifying new, environmentally-friendly refrigerants.

The IoR’s most prestigious award, the J&E Hall International Gold Medal recognises the most noteworthy practical contribution globally to the field of refrigeration, air conditioning or heat pumps.

Dr McLinden was the principal investigator for the ground-breaking five-year project funded by the US Department of Energy. His team applied its combined expertise in chemistry, thermodynamics and refrigeration to the research which has greatly helped the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and chemical industries to comply with international regulations.

“I am very honoured and somewhat surprised to receive this award,” said Dr McLinden, who is based at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado.

Reflecting on the fact that the award usually goes to someone who invents or implements a new technology, he admitted: “My work is much more fundamental thermodynamics, so it’s a little bit out of the mainstream of refrigeration technology. It’s very nice to see the fundamental thermodynamics that I work in being recognised.”

The NIST team used the fundamental thermodynamic characteristics of the ideal refrigerant to carry out a systematic and exhaustive screening of a database of over 60 million molecules. These were ultimately reduced to a set of the 27 “best” candidates. The award judges said: “This work has provided the key technical guidance to the HVAC&R and chemical industries needed to develop new refrigerants to support the international quest for low GWP refrigerants that also satisfy often-conflicting performance, safety, and environmental-impact requirements.”

Dr McLinden has been actively engaged in researching new refrigerants for virtually his entire career. He was one of the original developers – with Graham Morrison – of the NIST REFPROP database which has become the standard for refrigerant properties in the industry and which is widely used in the design of refrigeration equipment.

He was heavily involved in the phase out of the ozone-depleting CFC and HCFC refrigerants in the 1990s and the setting of standards for the thermodynamic properties of the, then, new HFCs.

Dr McLinden (61) joined the Applied Chemicals and Materials Division of NIST in 1988. He is author or co-author of more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and has received several awards related to his research. He serves on several refrigerant-related committees for ASHRAE.

Dr McLinden was in attendance last night at the IoR Annual Dinner in London to receive the award from Andrew Bowden, managing director of J&E Hall International. Together with the Gold Medal, which is kept for one year, McLinden received an engraved silver replica along with a prize of