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Ask an Engineering Expert: Guy Hundy
We sit down with Guy Hundy, refrigeration engineering expert and author of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps.
What is your particular area of expertise?
Refrigeration technology. In the broad sense the study of heat movement from low temperature to a higher temperature together with the design and implement the systems that can move the necessary quantities of heat in an efficient way.
How would you explain your work to a stranger on a bus?
Probably the easiest way is to remind them about the need for keeping food cool, which everyone understands, and then explaining as an example, how refrigeration engineers design and build the systems for supermarkets. Tracing the movement of food from the source, they start to appreciate the need for large scale equipment for cold storage and specialist equipment for transporting food from overseas.
Where did you carry out most of your work?
I started off with the design and testing of compressors, primarily desk based work with the essential ingredient of supervising the design and construction of testing equipment. Machines have to be tested to verify performance predictions, and large compressors need equipment that delivers and measures refrigerant flow at the required conditions, because it is not practicable to have whole cold stores in a compressor factory. Here I gained the essential concept summarised by the phrase “To Measure Is To Know”. Moving subsequently into applications, I enjoyed working with contractors and end users to learn first-hand about their needs and experiences, explaining the changes taking place in the industry, particularly the equipment for handling the new refrigerants. This career has given me the opportunity of overseas travel to meet with expert system designers as well as suppliers, and has led to presentation of papers at conferences worldwide. An important aspect of my work has been the development and implementation of training courses, and since “retirement”, working with the Institute of Refrigeration on the Fantastic Fridges project.
What first inspired you to study Engineering?
I wanted to find out what it was about. Apart from knowing that engineering was a university option, advice at school level was pretty much limited to science careers for the technically minded. That was the background of the teachers’ experience. Always attracted by mechanical and electrical machines, and knowing that engineering departments wanted applicants with science and maths, I went for that path.
What was the most exciting part of your job?
Helping to solve a client’s problem or concern with equipment providing essential cooling or heating. Most recently portable laptop linked equipment enables on site measurements and the immediate analysis helps to pinpoint issues. So we have quantitative information where diagnostics was previously down to guesswork or technician’s experience. With new design concepts, refrigerants and methods to deliver better efficiency, experience does not always go far enough.
What keeps you awake at night?
Fortunately our family life has been good, so thoughts tend to turn towards how to sustain an increasing world population at an acceptable standard of living. Expansion of food preservation and hence refrigeration is one factor. This will require power, which brings the need to develop and implement sustainable power generation. Engineers can provide solutions, but costs, politics and traditions can make progress difficult. Maybe it’s necessary for engineers to become more involved with these aspects. The early ‘big name’ engineers succeeded because they were proficient in these fields as well as understanding the technology. A new publication Advances in Food Security and Sustainability looks as though it should be on my reading list.
What false preconceptions do people have about your job?
Well, I don’t profess to know much about fridge door seals, and I don’t carry around a toolbox with the means to replace them. So called “white goods” are a specialist field. These sealed systems have been the subject of intensive research by dedicated manufacturers and research centres and domestic users are benefitting from compliance with efficiency rating standards. They are many people’s only encounter with refrigeration technology, and as such provide a useful first approach to demonstrating “how it works”. Meanwhile, a large building air conditioning system consuming hundreds of kilowatts can be operating in a non-optimal manner without being diagnosed.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this week?
I’m trying to get to grips with some basics of cosmology and what the big bang theory implies. This results in learning many new concepts, but it can be difficult to pin down a specific item. Understanding is another step.
What do you think will be the next big discovery or development in your field?
It doesn’t look to me as though there will be a big step change in the techniques we employ in the bulk of applications, but some newly researched techniques are showing a lot of promise in specific areas. Magnetic refrigeration and the adsorption cycle, mentioned in the recently published Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps, are examples, and an award winning novel water based technology is to be presented in February 2017.
How have you used books for your own professional research and how it influenced your work, research or thinking, or help you solve a problem in your field? What outcome did it lead to?
Books are a vital element in the learning process and form a solid backdrop to a student’s study structure, meaning they form a verified independent source of information in a fixed structure that aids referring back. For me, this led to a move into published papers and on-line sources to maintain awareness of new developments. Electronic books form part of this, but for the fundamentals, books are invaluable.
Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps, is an established and trusted reference with a practical focus that enables engineers to understand and solve refrigeration and air conditioning system design and maintenance challenges, and is suitable for both trainee and professional HVAC engineers, with a straightforward approach that also helps inexperienced readers gain a comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals of the technology.
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