Keeping it cool: Germans and Americans collaborate on refrigeration

Summer is the perfect time to learn about air-conditioning and refrigeration, and as the largest academic HVAC lab in the world, Purdue's Herrick Labs is the perfect place. Since 2016, Herrick Labs has hosted a unique cross-cultural learning collaboration, which includes graduate students from Purdue University, Oklahoma State University, Technical University of Dresden, and Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HKA).
Purdue students from Herrick Labs welcomed students from Oklahoma State University, Technical University of Dresden, and Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences to collaborate on refrigeration research.

The International Refrigeration and Compressor Course (IRCC) started in 2016. American students travel to Germany and spend a week with their classmates in Dresden, touring through manufacturing plants and laboratories. Then students are teamed up during the summer – one from America, one from Germany – to work on a hypothetical design project involving refrigeration and compressors, which they present jointly at Purdue.  “Our goal was to create a master’s level course in refrigeration and compressors,” said Eckhard Groll, Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering.  “But in the 21st century, all engineering is done on a global basis. So it’s important that Purdue students are exposed to engineers from other cultures.”

“We give the students different challenges to tackle, that involve both theoretical analyses and real-world aspects,” said Davide Ziviani, who now runs the course for Purdue. “For example, they would be tasked to design a refrigerated ice rink in Dubai, or a container to transport ice cream.”

During COVID, when international travel became impossible, students still wanted to press ahead. So Ziviani reorganized the class to be completely online. “It actually wasn’t as big a change as you might think,” he said. “In previous years, the American and German students had to coordinate their summer work remotely via Skype, WhatsApp, Dropbox, and Facebook. The only change was that now all of our meetings, lectures, and presentations were also done remotely via Zoom.”

Ziviani also enlisted the help of Craig Bradshaw, associate professor at Oklahoma State University. Bradshaw had received his BSME and Ph.D. from Purdue, and had also worked on refrigeration at Herrick Labs. Bradshaw hosted and co-taught the course at Oklahoma State in 2022, and also travelled to Germany with his Oklahoma State students. Christiane Thomas represented TU Dresden, and Robin Langebach represented HKA.

In 2023, the IRCC returned to Dresden and Purdue, with Bradshaw and his students attending as well. While in Germany, the group visited labs and industrial facilities, notably the Bitzer compressor plant (Bitzer had funded the course from the beginning). For the Purdue portion of the course, students conducted experiments at Herrick Labs, home to the largest academic HVAC lab in the world. They also visited Purdue's main chiller plant, and the facilities of Carrier in Indianapolis.

“The IRCC is an immersive cultural and technical experience,” Bradshaw said. “The residential weeks are like a summer camp filled with social events, excursions with industry partners with a theme of energy and sustainability. The students absolutely love it. I have yet to hear from any student that this wasn’t their favorite course they have ever taken.”

IRCC 2024

The International Refrigeration and Compressor Course is returning in 2024, hosted by TU Dresden and Oklahoma State University. Read this flyer to learn more, and contact Davide Ziviani or Riley Barta to apply!

Students from the USA and Germany collaborate for an experiment on a compressor test stand at Purdue's Herrick Labs.


Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

Source: Davide Ziviani,