Industrial designer Lea Lorenz reimagined the clay jug cooler with TONY, a portable refrigerator powered by evaporative cooling via its porous Raku clay shell. This material naturally absorbs water to form a reservoir and through evaporation, lowers the internal temperature to a range of 13°C-17°C sans electricity.

This cooler then creates the ideal storage environment for food that may be too cold for the fridge or spoil faster at room temperature. Lorenz cited fruits and vegetables that are too sensitive to cold and those that could also lose their flavor if stored in temperatures that are too low, which in the process inhibits post-ripening. 

Situations like this could only lead to spoils and eventually to food waste. TONY helps in this instance by storing selected fruits and vegetables, so they stay fresh longer than when stored in a standard refrigerator or kept on the kitchen counter. To find the ideal material for the cooler, Lorenz tested different types of clay and clay mixtures and through intensive experiments discovered Raku clay to be the ideal construction base. 

The material absorbs water best and thus produces the optimal cooling effect. She used Raku clay sourced from the Westerwald region of Germany, to avoid long transport routes and reduce CO2 emissions. The clay coolers are then fired at the lowest possible temperature of 1000°C for minimal energy consumption.

TONY is made up of three separate parts: a water tank, a food container, and a lid, each working independently with its own water supply. The outer wall surface is specifically machined to increase water evaporation on the surface area and hasten the drop of internal temperature. The cooler comes with a wooden stand so users can move it away from direct sunlight, which can increase internal temperature.

Fruits and vegetables are then stored in several stackable rectangular clay containers where users can efficiently organize each group produce. According to Lorenz, neither the extraction of the raw materials, the production of TONY, or the use of the product emits any harmful substances to the environment. 

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Images courtesy of Lea Lorenz