Refrigeration is a process of moving heat from one location to another in controlled conditions. The work of heat transport is traditionally driven by mechanical work, but can also be driven by heat, magnetism, electricity, laser, or other means. Refrigeration has many applications, including, but not limited to: household refrigerators, industrial freezers, cryogenics, and air conditioning. Heat pumps may use the heat output of the refrigeration process, and also may be designed to be reversible, but are otherwise similar to air conditioning units.
Refrigeration has had a large impact on industry, lifestyle, agriculture and settlement patterns. The idea of preserving food dates back to at least the ancient Roman and Chinese empires. However, mechanical refrigeration technology has rapidly evolved in the last century, from ice harvesting to temperature-controlled rail cars. The introduction of refrigerated rail cars contributed to the westward expansion of the United States, allowing settlement in areas that were not on main transport channels such as rivers, harbors, or valley trails. Settlements were also developing in infertile parts of the country, filled with new natural resources. These new settlement patterns sparked the building of large cities which are able to thrive in areas that were otherwise thought to be inhospitable, such as Houston, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada. In most developed countries, cities are heavily dependent upon refrigeration in supermarkets, in order to obtain their food for daily consumption. The increase in food sources has led to a larger concentration of agricultural sales coming from a smaller percentage of existing farms. Farms today have a much larger output per person in comparison to the late 1800s. This has resulted in new food sources available to entire populations, which has had a large impact on the nutrition of society.
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