Free Access to Patents for HFC-32 Refrigerant Equipment

Is HFC-32 as sustainable as a cooling equipment manufacturer claims?

Air conditioning and refrigerant manufacturer Daikin Industries, Ltd., has announced it will allow free access to 93 of its patents for air conditioning, cooling and heat pump equipment that use difluoromethane (HFC-32) as a single-component refrigerant.

Daikin’s action aims to encourage manufacturers worldwide to develop, commercialize and adopt sustainable cooling and heating technologies using HFC-32.

Difluoromethane is a non-ozone-depleting substance. It is energy efficient, affordable and easy to recycle. It also has a global warming potential that is one-third of that of R-410A, a commonly used refrigerant.

According to Daikin, a transition to HFC-32 could result in a significant reduction of carbon emissions. If all presently used R-410A refrigerant were replaced by HFC-32, the total carbon dioxide equivalent impact of hydrofluorocarbons could be reduced by up to 24 percent by 2030.

No patent covers the HFC-32 chemical itself, and it is readily available from suppliers other than Daikin. Free access to equipment patents, however, encourages other manufacturers to utilize and build on Daikin’s technologies.

“Daikin has been offering free access to these patents in emerging markets since 2011 to accelerate the phase-out of ozone-depleting refrigerants, such as HCFC-22,” said Shinya Okada, Daikin’s senior executive officer. “Given the urgent need to address climate change, Daikin believes that this is the right time to extend free access to these certain HFC-32 equipment patents to manufacturers worldwide.”

“Sharing environmentally beneficial air conditioning technologies without royalty payments can speed up environmental gains at a time when fast action is essential for climate protection,” commented Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Free access to patented technologies sets a powerful precedent for other companies aiming to be environmental champions.”

Daikin described HFC-32 as a “next-generation” refrigerant because it offers a lower global warming impact than other refrigerants. However, the hydrofluorocarbon has a greenhouse gas potential 650 times greater than carbon dioxide. On the other hand, HFC-152a, or 1,1-difluoroethane, is a refrigerant with a greenhouse gas potential only 140 times greater than carbon dioxide.

So how sustainable will HFC-32 be at the end of the day? For more information, visit Daikin’s website here.