When hurricanes, wars or other emergencies force authorities to respond, three essentials top their list of must-haves: water, electricity and refrigeration.

In a project funded by the U.S. Army, two University of Florida (UF) engineers, S.A. Sherif and William Lear, successfully tested a combined power-refrigeration system that can provide all three, and with further development, be made small enough to fit inside a military jet or large truck.

Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military now rely on large generators to produce electricity in hazard zones. For cooling, they either haul in ice or electricity-hogging refrigerators. Depending on the location and emergency, imported fresh water may be another major logistical expense and challenge.

Hoping to cut costs and simplify the process, the Army has provided a $750,000 grant to a Florida company funding the research on an alternative. The researchers solution: a small system that ties a novel gas turbine power plant to a heat-operated refrigeration system.

The refrigeration makes the gas turbine more efficient, while also producing cool air and portable water. The turbine can run of conventional fossil fuels, as well as biomass-produced fuels for hydrogen.