Cooling and heating technology suppliers Phononic announces its Intelligent Actively-Cooled Tote, which uses CO2 and water to cool and freeze perishable goods while providing real-time insights into the cold-chain.

According to Phononic, it developed the tote in response to the high demand for innovative and sustainable cold chain solutions from supermarkets, following the expansion of e-commerce for food shopping and delivery.

The Intelligent Actively-Cooled Tote can be used across applications, including storage, manual or automated pick-and-pack, and delivery.

The company says that the Intelligent Actively-Cooled tote uses CO2 and water to cool its contents, rather than a traditional compressor-based system. This eliminates the need for dry ice, gel packs, or ice blocks.

In addition, the tote is apparently non-toxic and non-flammable – unlike other sustainable refrigerants, the company claims.

Dana Krug, SVP of cold chain fulfilment at Phononic, says: “Our Phononic tote technology and platform for grocery retail not only provides for the highest quality of perishable foods, it also avoids the use of toxic, high GWP-refrigerants that warm the earth.

“That kind of positive environmental impact will be critical for climate control as this sector scales globally – and we know that our customers are focused on it.”

Phononic adds that the Intelligent Actively-Cooled Tote uses wireless contact charging, while also being WiFi and IoT enabled. According to the company, this offers real-time insight into the cold-chain automation process, potentially leading to an increase in operational efficiencies.

The company adds that, as the tote eliminates the need for cooling rooms, freezer warehouses, or temperature-controlled vehicles, retailers can cool or freeze orders based on demand, reportedly saving energy. This also allows growing retailers to scale up operations over time, apparently at a lower cost, by expanding tote numbers rather than investing in other cooling systems.

In the pharmaceutical industry, cold-chain packaging innovations have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the requirement for vaccines to be stored at low temperatures, with innovations such as Schaumaplast’s lightweight, passive cooling box. BITO-Lagertechnik also developed a cooling system that utilises the IoT to ensure the traceability and environmental integrity of vaccines during transport.

The Intelligent Actively-Cooled Tote is an example of how other industries might develop cold-chain technology to respond to trends – some also as a result of COVID-19, like the increased demand for food delivery services.

The tote and its corresponding platform was unveiled on Monday 20th September 2021, at the Groceryshop conference in Las Vegas.

The company says it is currently working with three major supermarkets in the USA and automation partners for micro fulfilment centres, with plans to expand globally.