Purdue Students Team Up with German Students to Study Refrigeration

Graduate students from Purdue University (USA) collaborated with students from the Technical University of Dresden (Germany) to complete an international course in refrigeration and compressors. They spent one week at the Technical University of Dresden, collaborated long-distance over the summer, and then convened for one week at Purdue's Herrick Labs to present their final projects.


The collaboration started in 2016.  “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.”

Eckhard found a perfect partner in Ullrich Hesse, the Bitzer Professor of Refrigeration, Cryogenic, and Compressor Technology at the Technical University of Dresden.  “Purdue is a perfect place to do this,” said Hesse, “because they are well-known in the industry for compressor research.  And I only hire people who have backgrounds in international communication.  So this course was perfect.”  They received funding from the Schaufler Foundation, established by Peter Schaufler -- former CEO of Bitzer, a German company that manufactures refrigeration compressors.

Purdue students travelled to Dresden, Germany in May, and spent a week touring the country, including visits to the Bitzer manufacturing plant.  “Then we teamed up the students, one from Purdue, and one from Dresden,” said Groll. “We assigned them a summer project to design a complete refrigeration system.  Some were tasked with building a refrigerated truck to keep food fresh, and others had to design an ice-skating rink that would function in Dubai.”

Collaboration might seem difficult when team members are on different continents, but the everyday tools of 21st century life actually made it quite easy.  “The students used Skype, WhatsApp, Dropbox, and even Facebook,” said Hesse.  “I was impressed by how quickly they came together, and how well they were able to work together.”

The class culminated with a week-long visit from the Dresden students to Purdue’s Herrick Labs, the largest academic HVAC lab in the world.  Teams put the finishing touches on their projects, and offered their final presentations to the class.

“We’re thrilled to be able to foster this international exchange of learning,” said Groll.  “It was fascinating to see the students observe how engineers from Germany might tackle problems differently than engineers from the USA.  We can all learn from each other.”

Interested in participating in the next International Refrigeration and Compressor Course? Contact Orkan Kurtulus: orkan@purdue.edu