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Some 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity worldwide today, most in rural areas across Southeast Asia, China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to data from the OECD.

While others are focused on wiring up those places and developing new energy sources, a startup called Evaptainers has created a kind of refrigerator that requires no electricity, runs instead on water and can keep food and drinks significantly cooler than the temperature outside.

Evaptainers’ co-founders Spencer Taylor, Quang Truong and Jeremy Fryer-Biggs developed their cooling units as a kind of modern take on an analog invention, the “zeer pot,” or pot-in-pot refrigerator. The way these things work is something like sweating.

Evaptainers co-founders: Spencer Taylor, Quang Truong and Jeremy Fryer-Biggs.

Taylor said, “As we sweat, water molecules draw heat out of our bodies to go through a phase-change, and evaporate. As that happens we cool down. This machine has water in a tank, and permeable membranes that deliver water to evaporative walls.”

Each unit of the company’s newest EV-8-model refrigerators requires about 1/3 of a liter of water to operate per day in a place that’s got less than 65 percent humidity on a hot day. They can store 60 liters, about 5 gallons of milk, and chill contents by about 35 degrees Fahrenheit from the ambient air temperature.

To turn on the device, users just pour water into a port on the top of it. The water doesn’t have to be potable. The Evaptainers can be folded up, which makes them portable and easy to transport into rural communities that need them most.

While the company is on a mission to reduce food spoilage in places where sustenance is hard to come by, it is operating as a for-profit, for-good business with five employees in North America and two in North Africa at this time. The company has raised nearly half a million dollars in grant funding to get started.

Evaptainers EV-8 refrigerator is collapsible, and runs on…

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