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Concept refrigerator chills based on content

By using a system of sliding shelves, this concept cooler only refrigerates areas that actually contain food.

Impress aims to alter the way we think about refrigeration. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

Over the last few decades, refrigerators haven't changed all that much in one key area -- shape. Sure, the hulking mass of steel keeps our perishables fresh while boasting improved efficiency and other bells and whistles, but it's still just a big block that takes up a considerable amount of space in the kitchen.

Concept products such as the Impress refrigerator by Massey University industrial design student Ben de la Roche of New Zealand could influence the way future iceboxes keep food and drinks cool.

Instead of the conventional cooling cube, Impress adapts its refrigeration to the content within. A honeycomb layout of sliding pins allows the user to insert food, containers, and drinks into the futuristic refrigerator individually. This in turn gives a massive boost to efficiency, as Impress only chills the items that occupy the pins. In theory, aside from using less electricity, Impress would also use less harmful gases (CFCs) to chill items.

de la Roche submitted the idea to the 2012 Electrolux Design Lab competition and qualified as a finalist, beating out more than 1,200 submissions from aspiring designers. He presents the idea to a panel of Electrolux judges in Milan, Italy, on October 25.