Title:
Dry ice delivery method that controls the temperature of cooling compartment(s)
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cooler/container with a dry ice sublimation regulating system having an insulated dry ice module that encloses dry ice so that the module's outside surface is not hazardous to touch. Insulation, breathable material, or a combination of insulating and breathable materials, allows dry ice sublimation at a sufficiently slow rate within the attached dry ice module to control the ambient temperature in the cooler/container. Dry ice module attachment is done in a location that maximizes dry ice cooling properties, typically at or near the top of the cooler/container or its lid. Since sublimated dry ice is carbon dioxide and heavier than normal air, it falls to the bottom of the cooler and builds up. The venting placement in the dry ice module is based upon the make up of the dry ice module and the breathable materials inside of it.



Inventors:
Whewell Jr., Robert Edward (Charlotte, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/253348
Publication Date:
04/19/2007
Filing Date:
10/19/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/388, 62/457.2
International Classes:
F25D3/12; F25D3/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DELORM, TATIANA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OLIFF PLC (P.O. BOX 320850, ALEXANDRIA, VA, 22320-4850, US)
Claims:
1. A device for maintaining a narrowly controlled range of temperature for extended periods of time comprising: (a) first and second cooling compartments, each of said compartments having an upper end, an inside stowage area, a lid, and an outer surface, and wherein a divider separates the first and second compartments; (b) first and second dry ice modules for containing a quantity of dry ice that undergoes sublimation and release of cooling gas, each of said modules having at least one sublimation slowing layer; and c) venting means between said cooling compartments and said first and second dry ice modules, wherein the first dry ice module communicates with the first compartment and the second dry ice module communicates with the second dry ice module, and said venting means and said at least one sublimation slowing layer for each of said first and second dry ice modules is selected and adapted for release of said sublimated gas from said dry ice modules into said cooling compartments at a rate appropriate for maintaining a targeted temperature range for items stored within said cooling compartments, whereby different temperatures can be maintained in said first and second cooling compartments.

2. The device of claim 1 wherein said venting means comprises venting holes in said outer surface of said at least one dry ice module.

3. The device of claim 1 wherein said cooling compartment means is selected from a group consisting of cooling compartments having rigid outer structure, cooling compartments having a resilient outer structure, portable cooling compartments, and non-portable cooling compartments.

4. The device of claim 1 wherein said venting means is configured according to the size of said at least one dry ice module in relation to said inside stowage area of said cooling compartment means.

5. The device of claim 1 wherein said at least one dry ice module is located so that venting of said sublimated gas from said at least one dry ice module is achieved at said upper end of said cooling compartment means.

6. The device of claim 1 wherein said at least one dry ice module is selected from a group consisting of dry ice modules that are a permanent part of said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are a non permanent part of said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are removable from said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are temporarily attached to the underside of said cooler lid, dry ice modules that are permanently attached to the underside of said cooler lid, dry ice modules that are a part of said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are adapted for achieving temperatures below freezing in said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are made at least in part from rigid insulating materials, dry ice modules that are made at least in part from non-rigid/flexible insulating materials, dry ice modules that are made from a combination of rigid and non-rigid insulating materials, dry ice modules made at least in part from at least one breathable layer of material, dry ice modules mounted inside said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are integral with said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are retrofitted to existing ones of said cooling compartments means, dry ice modules that are adapted for achieving and maintaining a predetermined temperature within said cooling compartment means for extended periods of time.

7. The device of claim 1 wherein said venting means is selected from a group consisting of venting means positioned so that venting of said sublimated gas from said at least one dry ice module is achieved at said upper end of said cooling compartment means and venting means configured for manual adjustment, dry ice modules that are a permanent part of said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules that are removable from said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules adapted for achieving temperatures above and below freezing in said cooling compartment means, dry ice modules adapted for achieving and maintaining a predetermined temperature within said cooling compartment means for extended periods of time.

8. The device of claim 1 wherein said lid configured to seal said upper end of said cooling compartment means is a two-part lid and wherein said at least one dry ice module is located within said two-part lid.

9. The device of claim 1 further comprising said at least one dry ice module being associated with said lid.

10. The device of claim 1 wherein said dry ice module is configured with a rigid removable outer layer and is placed within said cooling compartment means.

11. The device of claim 1 wherein said dry ice module's reclosable opening further comprises a detachable dry ice module lid.

12. The device of claim 1 wherein said dry ice module is configured as a non-rigid removable bag placed within said cooling compartment means.

13. The device of claim 1 farther comprising an anti-freeze bag configured for preventing contents stored therein from becoming frozen when temperatures within said cooling compartment means are near to and below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, wherein said anti-freeze bag is made from materials selected from a group consisting of breathable and non-breathable materials.

14. The device of claim 13 wherein said anti-freeze bag is also configured with an innermost layer of non-woven breathable fabric for storage of dry ice.

15. The device of claim 1 wherein said dry ice module is configured for use with dry ice in any form.

16. (canceled)

17. (canceled)

18. The device of claim 1, wherein the at least one sublimation slowing layer for each of said first and second dry ice modules is selected from a group consisting of insulating materials, insulating/breathable materials, non-woven breathable materials, and non-woven insulating/breathable materials.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

None.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION—FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The dry ice delivery method of the current invention gives one an effective alternative when using dry ice as a temperature lowering means in a portable cooler or other cooling compartment and it eliminates problems associated with the use of gel packs or wet ice as the cooling vehicle when trying to maintain a consistently low temperature in a cooling compartment. By arranging various insulating and breathable materials, each separately or in conjunction with the other, and the dry ice or cooler contents, one can effectively regulate the temperature of a cooling compartment by controlling the rate at which dry ice sublimates. Due to the wide range of temperature regulation that can be achieved when using dry ice, one has greater flexibility when preserving the contents stored in a portable cooler or other cooling compartment; from above freezing (greater then 32° F.), down to sub-zero temperatures, and other temperatures in between. Further, an anti-freeze bag made out of breathable material can assist in regulating the temperature of a cooling compartment in several ways. For example, different liquids freeze at varying temperatures and when a cooling compartment is kept just below 32° F., water tends to freeze first. Water bottles can be encapsulated in the anti-freeze bag allowing them to remain liquid, while other drinks that are also in the cooler's storage area, remain in the liquid state as well. Preferred embodiments of this invention also include a vented module that houses dry ice while it is encapsulated in insulating and breathable materials, or a combination of materials, allowing for the temperature of a cooling compartment to be regulated within a temperature range targeted for the cooler's contents while also allowing individuals to safely touch the dry ice module without getting injured. Dry ice is made of CO2 (carbon dioxide gas) the sublimation of which is the cooling vehicle in this present invention. Further, because of its molecular make-up CO2 is heavier than atmospheric air and it falls to the lowest point possible. Therefore, the dry ice module of the present invention should be placed somewhere near the top of a cooler or other cooling compartment in which it is used so the CO2 gas will fall downward and spread throughout the cooling compartment. When the insulating and breathable materials that make-up the dry ice module are assembled in a manner to achieve a desirable temperature, the build up of pressure from the CO2 gas accumulated within the cooling compartment is typically inconsequential, even when the lid is not opened for an extended period of time.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION—DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

Portable devices are commonly used for cooling food, beverages, medications, and other items in and around the home, as well as away from home. In addition, commercial applications of portable coolers include, but not limited to, the shipment of perishable items, the transport of temperature sensitive medicines, samples to laboratories and the transport of donor organs to medical facilities. Many coolers used for such purposes are non-electric and configured to use wet ice as the primary means of temperature regulation. However, to store items longer than a day and ensure adequate temperature regulation for the cooler's contents, one must repeatedly drain from the cooler a large majority of the surplus water created from the melted ice and add a fresh supply of wet ice. This process is time consuming, messy, does not provide a uniform temperature for the cooler contents over an extended period of time, has the potential to soak and ruin inadequately protected items in the cooler that are adversely affected by water, and requires a renewable source of wet ice. Although wet ice is widely available in gas stations, motels, convenience stores, restaurants, and similar commercial establishments, when temperatures surrounding the cooler are significantly elevated, the refilling of such coolers with fresh supplies of wet ice may be needed more than once a day to maintain the temperature of their contents below a desired level for option consumption and/or spoilage prevention. In the alternative, gel packs and other refreezable pre-packaged products are available for use in coolers instead of wet ice, or in combination therewith. However, to be reused, they have the disadvantage of requiring refreezing in an independent cooling chamber, such as a household freezer, which is not typically available during travel away from home. The amount of cooling time provided depends upon their size and they are rigid which takes up cooler space that otherwise could be devoted to stored items requiring cooling. Further, although the gel packs and other refreezable pre-packaged products are commonly available and eliminate the messiness associated with wet ice, they are not typically large enough to provide temperature regulation for periods longer than are possible with wet ice. It would therefore be useful to have a method of temperature regulation for portable coolers and other portable and non-portable cooling compartments that can maintain lowered temperatures for the contents in the cooling compartments during extended periods of time without refurbishment, maintain a temperature range to protect the contents within a cooling compartment from spoilage, and provide temperature regulation without the mess associated with wet ice and other liquid media, while also providing the ability to cool or freeze contents at a level far below conventional cooling means.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is the primary objective of the present invention to provide a system of temperature regulation for portable coolers and other portable and non-portable cooling compartments that can maintain lowered temperatures for the contents therein during extended periods of time without the mess associated with wet ice and other liquid media. It is also an objective of the present invention is to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that can be used to maintain the temperatures of contents that are frozen or at temperatures just above freezing. A further objective of the present invention to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that maintains a narrow range of temperature during the entire time of its use to protect the contents therein from spoilage. It is also an objective of the present invention is to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that is user friendly, environmentally friendly, and requires little monitoring or refurbishment during use. It is a further objective of the present invention to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that is made from durable materials and intended for repeated long term use. A further objective of the present invention to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that can be employed with reusable and disposable coolers and containers. It is also an objective of the present invention is to provide a system of temperature regulation for cooling compartments that can be permanently built into new cooling compartments or easily retrofit to existing cooling compartments.

The current invention provides a system of temperature regulation for portable coolers and other portable and non-portable cooling compartments that allows them to be used for prolonging the useful life of perishable items such as but not limited to food, donor organs, and/or medical supplies stored therein by achieving and maintaining a pre-selected and narrowly targeted temperature range. In the alternative, the present invention can be used to maintain the temperatures of different beverages each at its individual optimal drinking temperature, even though such optimal temperatures are not the same. It comprises at least one dry ice module containing a quantity of dry ice, with vents incorporated into the dry ice module and venting means between the dry ice module and the cooling compartment or compartments where items needing temperature regulation are stored. When multiple cooling compartments are available in the same cooler, each can be maintained at independent temperatures, if needed. With the proper combination of rigid or flexible insulation and single or multiple layers of breathable materials, the sublimation of dry ice is slow and the temperature within the cooling compartments with which it is used is maintained in a narrow range. In the alternative, a neighboring cooling compartment can be used for a similar purpose as long as it is also insulated to prevent injury to any skin inadvertently touching its outside surface. The outside surface of the dry ice module, and cooling compartments used in the present invention will always be safe for a user to touch. It is also contemplated for the present invention to be configured to maintain the frozen state of frozen contents placed within the cooling compartments, as well as maintain contents above freezing, as needed. Use of an anti-freeze bag made from breathable material is one contemplated means of preventing the freezing of selected items and/or maintaining them within a targeted temperature range in a cooling compartment chilled to point where other items in the same cooling compartment are maintained in a frozen state or are otherwise maintained below 32° F. for optimum flavor or other purpose even though they do not attain a frozen state at such temperature. Therefore, bags made from breathable material can have different uses in the present invention when different contents are placed inside. When items such as but not limited to food, beverages, medicines, and other storage items are placed inside an anti-freeze bag, it can be used inside another cooling compartment. However, when a soft-sided cooler bag is used for item storage, it would not be made from breathable material. Although it is primarily intended for the present invention to be portable, size is not a limiting factor. Also, any form of dry ice can be used with the present invention, such as but not limited to block, pellets, cryo and/or any new form of dry ice that may be needed for a particular application. It is contemplated for the present invention to be configured for retro-fit to existing coolers, and also be configured for incorporation into new coolers. Also, venting of the sublimated gas into a cooling compartment occurs through vents incorporated into the dry ice module. As another option, the venting means incorporated in the dry ice module can be placed in association with a cooling compartment lid. One contemplated application in motorized vehicles, including boats and airplanes, involves the use of a designated recess in the trunk or a rear storage area, where the present invention is permanently mounted for the temporary storage of food, beverages, and other items, as needed. In the alternative, the present invention may be removably mounted in the designated recess.

The description herein provides preferred embodiments and should not be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention device. For example, variations in the size, configuration, and location of dry ice module, the size and material construction of any liners or dry ice module used; the type of dry ice used; and the number of dry ice modules and cooling compartments or storage areas used; other than those shown and described herein may be incorporated into the present invention.

Thus the scope of the present invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than being limited to the examples given.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a first preferred embodiment of the present invention having two cooling compartments or storage areas, and one vented dry ice module attached to the lid for each of the storage areas.

FIG. 2 is a top perspective view of a second preferred embodiment of the present invention having three adjacent cooling storage areas and one vented dry ice module attached to the lid for each of the storage areas.

FIG. 3 is a top perspective view of a third preferred embodiment of the present invention having a single cooling storage area and a vented dry ice module built into a two-part cooler lid, with the dry ice module attached to the lid top and venting through the lid bottom.

FIG. 4A is a front perspective view of one preferred vented dry ice module of the present invention.

FIG. 4B is a rear perspective view of the dry ice module in FIG. 4A with male couplings.

FIG. 4C is a cross-sectional view of the dry ice module in FIG. 4A showing its different layers of insulation and breathable material and a detachable lid

COMPONENT NUMBERS USED IN THE DRAWINGS

1. Dry Ice Module (made of insulating and breathable materials, each separately or in conjunction with the other, that houses the dry ice)

2. Insulating Material

3. Breathable Insulating Material

4. Non-Woven Breathable Material, Insulating or Not

5. Vent Holes

6. Detachable Dry Ice Module Lid

7. Dry Ice

8. Male Coupling

9. Female Portal

10. Cooling Compartment

11. One-Piece Cooling Compartment Lid

12. Cooling Compartment Lid Top

13. Cooling Compartment Lid Bottom

14. Anti-Freeze Bag

15. Cooling Compartment Stowage Area

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1-4 show four preferred embodiments of the present invention having a cooling compartment 10 for items/contents (not shown) requiring storage at temperatures below ambient temperature, and a dry ice module 1 that can be integral with cooling compartment 10 and which is made from or lined with an insulating material 2 that encloses the dry ice 7 primarily to slow down the rate of its sublimation, but which also prevents the outside of the dry ice module 1 from becoming hazardous to touch. Insulating material 2 or materials may comprise a combination of rigid insulating board or lightweight flexible insulating material, but is not limited thereto. Dry ice module 1 also has a lid or flap 6 that can be opened for introduction of a new supply of dry ice 7 when the previously used supply of dry ice 7 becomes spent. Dry ice module 1 can be positioned external to or within cooling compartment 10. Dry ice module 1 is made from any insulating material 2 or combination of materials (such as the materials 2, 3, and 4 that are shown in FIG. 4C) that allow dry ice 7 to sublimate at a sufficiently slow rate for the regulation of the ambient temperature within cooling compartment 10 at a desired temperature or within a specified temperature range. The venting of sublimated gas should be conducted in such a manner as to allow it to enter the cooling compartment 10 at or near the top thereof. Because CO2 from sublimated dry ice is heavier than air, it will fall to the bottom of the cooling compartment 10. By using different wrapping and insulating materials 2, 3, 4, or other (not shown), both alone or in combination, it is possible to slow the sublimation of dry ice 7 to the point that surrounding items inside of cooling compartment 10 can exist in a temperature regulated environment that ranges from sub-zero to above freezing and can be easily changed to meet application requirements. This allows for the maximum use of dry ice 7 as a cooling medium without worrying about freezing a container's contents unless one is trying to make or keep things frozen. In addition to controlling the sublimation process, by layering or wrapping the contents of cooling compartment 10, one can further control the temperature of the contents therein. For example, an “anti-freeze” bag (marked with the number 14 in FIG. 4C) made out of a breathable material, such as breathable material 4 in FIG. 4C, can ensure that water bottles (not shown) do not freeze if the temperature of cooling compartment 10 is maintained just below freezing.

The first preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 1 has a dry ice module 1 configured with insulating material or materials 2 to control the sublimation rate of dry ice 7 and to prevent outer surface of dry ice module 1 from injuring human skin that comes into direct contact with it. The dry ice module 1 is attached to the underside surface of a one-piece lid 11 and configured for transferring sublimated gas from dry ice module 1 into the cooling stowage area 15 below it. It is contemplated for the dry ice module 1 to be removable or permanent and a part of newly manufactured cooling compartment 10 or retrofitted to an existing cooling compartment 10 having a rigid outer surface construction or a resilient outer surface construction. In addition, although not shown in FIGS. 1-4 herein, any of the preferred embodiments of the present invention can have more than one area of vent holes 5 in the dry ice module 1 or through one or more walls of cooling compartment 10 for movement of the sublimated dry ice into cooling stowage area 15. Different adaptation and variations can be used in the present invention for reducing the temperature in the cooler compartment 10, including variation in the dry ice module's 1 insulating materials 2, insulating/breathable materials 3, breathable materials 4, and other breathable materials (not shown) which directly encapsulate the dry ice 7. Optionally, although not limited thereto, in addition to dry ice module 1, one can use a multi-layer soft-sided bag made from breathable material that contains dry ice 7 and is placed directly within cooler stowage area 15. In the alternative, such a multi-layer bag may be used alone in a cooler stowage area 15, without any dry ice module 1 or other cooling means, due to the ever-evolving technological advances of the breathable materials, such as breathable material 4. When a multi-layer bag is used, depending upon the accuracy needed for the temperature control in cooler stowage area 15 and what other cooling means is used therein, if any, the multi-layer bag used may include one or more layers of an outer insulating material, like the insulating materials 2 and 3 used to construct the dry ice module 1 shown in FIG. 4C. Therefore, for the cooling of sodas, water, and bottled fruit juices that are pasteurized and not readily prone to spoilage during an evening meal, a multi-layer bag may provide sufficient cooling without any need for maintenance or refurbishment. For daytime cooling purposes relating to pre-packaged beverages and food that does not readily spoil, a dry ice module 1 with outer insulating material 2 and single or multiple layers of breathable material 4 and/or breathable/insulating material 3 can be used. However, for medical applications relating to the transport of medications, test samples, blood supplies, and/or donor organs, a properly insulated dry ice module 1 configured with the appropriate outer insulating material 2 and single or multiple breathable/insulating material 3 and other breathable materials 4 would be required to maintain a narrow range of temperature within a cooler stowage area 15 for maximizing the usable life of stored contents. The transport of poultry and other perishable meats would also benefit from the aforementioned dry ice module 1 configuration of the present invention. As mentioned before, in any preferred embodiment of the present invention, dry ice 7 can be in any form and include, one or more large blocks, small chips, irregularly shaped broken pieces, small cubes, pellets, or any form that will easily fit within the targeted dry ice module 1. “Anti-freeze” bags 14 can also be used within cooler stowage area 15 to assist in controlling the temperature of contents with a propensity toward freezing at temperatures below 32° degrees. Further, the preferred embodiments of the present invention can include dry ice module 1 that are permanently installed in new cooling compartments 10 or retrofitted for existing portable or non portable cooling compartments 10 wherein the dry ice module 1 is either permanently or temporarily added thereto. When multiple cooling compartments 10 are regulated by the present invention, a user can employ one such cooling compartment 10 for drinks and separate cooling compartments 10 for other contents such as but not limited to sandwiches or frozen treats. When the insulating and breathable materials 2, 3, 4, and/or other similar materials (not shown) that make-up dry ice module 1 are assembled in a manner to achieve a desirable temperature within cooling compartment 10, the build up of pressure from the CO2 gas accumulated within cooling compartment 10 is typically inconsequential, even when lid 11 is not opened for an extended period of time. The rectangular configuration of cooling compartments 10 and dry ice modules 1 shown in FIGS. 14 are not critical, and it is contemplated for other configurations to be used, such as but not limited to cylindrical, spherical, and the like. Further, the outer surface construction of cooling compartments 10 may be rigid or resilient. Also, the location of dry ice modules 1 relative to cooling compartment one-piece lids 11 and two-piece lids 12/13 is not limited to the central positioning shown in FIGS. 1-3. Further, since no liquid is involved, no drain hole is shown or needed in any of the cooling compartments used in or with the present invention dry ice module 1. Also, while the cooling stowage areas 15 shown in FIG. 2 are substantially uniform in size, such an arrangement is not limiting and cooling stowage areas 15 of differing size and configuration are also contemplated as being within the scope of the present invention. In addition, the two-part construction of cooling compartment lid (designated by the numbers 12 and 13 in FIG. 3, with 12 representing the lid top and 13 representing the lid bottom) has an advantage of being able to renew the supply of dry ice 7 without disturbing cooling stowage area 15, thus avoiding unnecessary temperature fluctuation within cooling stowage areas 15. Also, although it is contemplated for dry ice module 1 to be secured in an elevated position to the underside surface of the cooler lid 11, the positioning and orientation of dry ice module is not limited to that shown in FIG. 1. Further, although not shown, the number and configuration of ventilation holes 5 and male couplings 8 may be different from that shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, and in the alternative dry ice module lid 6 may be detachable, hinged, snap-fit, threaded, or have other attachment means to dry ice module 1. One factor in the selection of the size, number, and configuration of venting holes 5 and location of dry ice module 1 is the size of the dry ice module 1 in relation to the size of the cooling compartment 10. In summary, dry ice modules 1 may, be a permanent part of cooling compartment 10, be a non-permanent part of cooling compartment 10, removable from cooling compartment 10, be temporarily attached to the underside of a cooling compartment lid 11, be permanently attached to the underside of a cooling compartment lid 11, be a part of cooling compartment 10, be adapted for achieving temperatures below freezing in cooling compartment 10, be made from rigid insulating materials 2, be made from non-rigid/flexible insulating materials 2, be made from a combination of rigid and non-rigid insulating materials 2, be made at least in part from breathable single or multiple layered materials 3 or 4, be mounted inside cooling compartment 10, be integral with cooling compartment 10, be retrofitted to existing cooling compartments 10, and be adapted for achieving and maintaining a predetermined temperature within cooling compartment 10 for extended periods of time. The present invention configuration and non-liquid function makes it suited for use in motorized vehicles, including but not limited to automobiles, sport-utility vehicles, vans, boats, and airplanes, where it may be permanently or temporarily secured in a designated recess in the trunk, a rear storage area, or any other suitable space.