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What are F-gases, set to be banned from EU fridges?

Fluorinated gases (F-gases) are in the crosshairs of the European Union, with a ban on them from 2026

Published: Feb 2, 2024 01:27:21 PM IST
Updated: Feb 2, 2024 01:33:54 PM IST

What are F-gases, set to be banned from EU fridges?Fluorinated gases will be banned in refrigerators from 2026 at European level. Fluorinated gases will be banned in refrigerators from 2026 at European level. Image: Shutterstock

Mainly used for their cooling properties, fluorinated gases are, paradoxically, a contributor to global warming. These powerful greenhouse gases are exclusively linked to human activity, which means their use can be avoided. In fact, in Europe, their use in certain household appliances, such as refrigerators, has recently been the subject of a ban.

Fluorinated gases (F-gases) are in the crosshairs of the European Union, with a ban on them from 2026. In January, Members of European Parliament passed a law (by 457 votes to 92) to phase them out of household appliances, with a view to a complete ban on fluorinated gases by 2050, the deadline set by the EU for achieving carbon neutrality. But what exactly are we talking about? Fluorinated gases are also known as fluorinated greenhouse gases and have a high global warming potential. The most common are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in industrial applications as refrigerants. They are found in appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners, as well as in heat pumps and even in the soles of some sports shoes!

According to estimates by the European Parliament, fluorinated gases account for around 2.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, "however they trap heat far more effectively than CO2." They can, however, be replaced by ammonia, propane or zeolite, so-called "natural" refrigerants with lower warming potential. Other methods are also being deployed to limit the emission of fluorinated gases into the atmosphere, such as the recovery, recycling or destruction of household electrical equipment at the end of their life.

Also read: Methane might be bigger climate problem than thought, study finds

Scientists in various locations are also working on the development of energy-efficient technologies to replace substances such as fluorinated gases in order to continue powering appliances used to cool or heat our homes. This is the case, for example, of a team of American researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who recently developed an ionocaloric cooling technique. This term refers to the way in which a material or element passes from a solid state to a liquid state, or vice versa, by means of atoms or molecules: in this case, by ion flows from a specific type of salt. Researchers hope that cooling may one day help to replace refrigerants with high global warming potential, and ensure safe, efficient cooling and heating in homes.