Abstract This paper presents a novel meso-scale vapor compression refrigeration system (mVCRS) consisting of an evaporator, a compressor, a condenser and an expansion nozzle. First, the micro channel evaporator is designed in order to ensure the robustness to the flow rate as well as the cooling load. The film-wise condenser is then built to increase the convective heat transfer coefficient between heat pipes and the refrigerant. In spite of its compact size, the proposed rotary vane type meso-scale compressor can achieve the high pressure ratio of 3.07 and the large flow rate of 10 L per minute (LPM), respectively. The passive type expansion nozzle is adopted due to its simplicity in this research and designed to maintain a constant superheat at the outlet of the evaporator. By tactfully stacking all components, the meso-scale vapor compression refrigeration system is successfully constructed, whose overall size is 60 × 60 × 100 mm3 (width × length × height). Through extensive experiments, it is validated that the proposed mVCRS can keep the temperature of heat source around 46 °C with the maximum cooling capacity of 80 W, and that the average coefficient of performance (COP) is up to 2.15.