The inside of a refrigerator is a closed space.
Behind or below the refrigerator there are coils - usually copper tubing containing a fluid that can be compressed to a liquid, or expanded to a gas. And there is a compressor. That is a pump that moves the fluid and also compresses it. The fluid is called a refrigerant.
When the refrigerant is compressed, it releases heat. That is why the coils outside the refrigerator are warm. Then the refrigerant, in liquid form, is sent back into the coils inside the refrigerator, where there is more space. The refrigerant expands to a gas, absorbing heat from the air in the refrigerator. Then it is pumped out again, and releases the heat outside the refrigerator. So the whole refrigeration system picks up heat inside the refrigerator and moves it outside, over and over.
A thermostat measures temperature and controls the compressor pump. The thermostat shuts the pump down before the refrigerator gets too cold, and starts it up again before the refrigerator gets too warm. That keeps the inside of the refrigerator steadily cold.
Sid: thanks for that answer. For the longest time, I always thought that my refrigerator was cold because there was ICE inside.... up in the freezer compartment..... I'm proud to say that I consider myself never too old to learn something new......
The process of refrigeration is one of the greatest contributions science has made to our welfare. Thanks to it, we can enjoy foodstuffs from distant lands which travel to America in special ships that are really no more than large ocean-going refrigerators. The process involves three basic principles: firstly, that heat is absorbed when substances change their state from solid to liquid and from liquid to vapor. Latent heat, as it is called, is again given up by the substance when the reverse takes place. Secondly, that a liquid will boil -or vaporize- at a lower temperature, if the pressure of the atmosphere above the liquid is reduced. Thirdly, that the boiling point of a liquid can be raised by increasing the pressure above the liquid. Thus some such liquid as ammonia, carbon dioxide, or sulfur dioxide, is caused to evaporate. As it evaporates, it draws its latent heat of vaporization from its surroundings. The vapor is then compressed so that it is liquified again, and the latent heat it gives out is removed by air- or water-cooling. Then the liquid is allowed to evaporate again, and so the process continues.
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