What is HFO-1234yf? Well, it's the refrigerant that recently received final approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is supposedly 350-times less damaging to the atmosphere than the current HFC-134a. HFO-1234yf, which is claimed to be a non-ozone-depleting refrigerant, can now be used in air conditioning systems of all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. The EPA says that HFO-1234yf has a global warming potential a whopping 99.7 percent less than HFC-134a and will help reduce the environmental impact of vehicle air conditioners.

HFO-1234yf was co-developed by DuPont and Honeywell and, prior to its approval here in the States, both Japan and Europe agreed to adopt this refrigerate to replace HFC-134a. You may recall (or not, that's okay) that HFC-134a was put into widespread use in the mid-1990s as a replacement for R12, the ozone-damaging refrigerant used prior to 1994. Well, it turns out that HFC-134a wasn't as environmentally friendly as it could be, and so now we're dealing with a new substance. We'll see how long it takes before this, too, is replaced.

[Source: EPA]
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EPA Approves New Coolant for Car Air Conditioning Systems / Better climate protection without harming the ozone layer

Release date: 02/28/2011

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued final approval for a new refrigerant for use in motor vehicle air conditioning systems that does not deplete the ozone layer, which helps protect the environment and people's health. The new chemical, HFO-1234yf, may now be used in air conditioning for new cars and light trucks. When used appropriately, this chemical can reduce the environmental impact of motor vehicle air conditioners and has a global warming potential that is 99.7 percent less than the current chemical (HFC–134a) used in most car air conditioners.

"This new chemical helps fight climate change and ozone depletion," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "It is homegrown innovative solutions like this that save lives and strengthen our economy."

EPA assists in the transition to green technologies by identifying alternatives that are better for people's health and the environment. EPA's recent standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty motor vehicles provide an opportunity for automakers to receive credit for adopting a chemical with less climate impact as a cost-effective way to meet the new standards. Using HFO-1234yf is one option available to automakers.

Prior to HFC-134a, car air conditioners generally used CFC-12, a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance. Depleting the stratospheric ozone layer leads to higher levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface. UV radiation has several harmful effects, including skin cancer, cataracts, immune system suppression, and premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. For these reasons, it is important to check the UV Index and remember sun safety: wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.