Vortex tube

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For the term 'vortex-tube' used in fluid dynamics please see: vorticity
Separation of a compressed gas into a hot stream and a cold stream

The vortex tube, also known as the Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube, is a mechanical device that separates a compressed gas into hot and cold streams. It has no moving parts.

Pressurized gas is injected tangentially into a swirl chamber and accelerates to a high rate of rotation. Due to the conical nozzle at the end of the tube, only the outer shell of the compressed gas is allowed to escape at that end. The remainder of the gas is forced to return in an inner vortex of reduced diameter within the outer vortex.

There are different explanations for the effect and there is debate on which explanation is best or correct.

What is usually agreed upon is that the air in the tube experiences mostly "solid body rotation", which simply means the rotation rate (angular velocity) of the inner gas is the same as that of the outer gas. This is different from what most consider standard vortex behaviour — where inner fluid spins at a higher rate than outer fluid. The (mostly) solid body rotation is probably due to the long time which each parcel of air remains in the vortex — allowing friction between the inner parcels and outer parcels to have a notable effect.

It is also usually agreed upon that there is a slight effect of hot air wanting to "rise" toward the center, but this effect is negligible — especially if turbulence is kept to a minimum.

One simple explanation is that the outer air is under higher pressure than the inner air (because of centrifugal force). Therefore the temperature of the outer air is higher than that of the inner air.

Another explanation is that as both vortices rotate at the same angular velocity and direction, the inner vortex has lost angular momentum. The decrease of angular momentum is transferred as kinetic energy to the outer vortex, resulting in separated flows of hot and cold gas.[1]

This is somewhat analogous to a Peltier effect device, which uses electrical pressure (voltage) to move heat to one side of a dissimilar metal junction, causing the other side to grow cold.

When used to refrigerate, heat-sinking the whole vortex tube is helpful. Vortex tubes can also be cascaded. The cold (or hot) output of one can be used to pre-cool (or pre-heat) the air supply to another vortex tube. Cascaded tubes can be used, for example, to produce cryogenic temperatures.


[edit] History

The vortex tube was invented in 1933 by French physicist Georges J. Ranque. German physicist Rudolf Hilsch improved the design and published a widely read paper in 1947 on the device, which he called a Wirbelrohr (literally, whirl pipe).[2] Vortex tubes also seem to work with liquids to some extent.[3]

[edit] Efficiency

Vortex tubes have lower efficiency than traditional air conditioning equipment. They are commonly used for inexpensive spot cooling, when compressed air is available. Commercial models are designed for industrial applications to produce a temperature drop of about 45 °C (80 °F).

[edit] Proposed applications

  • Dave Williams, of dissigno, has proposed using vortex tubes to make ice in third-world countries. Although the technique is inefficient, Williams expressed hope that vortex tubes could yield helpful results in areas where using electricity to create ice is not an option.
  • There are industrial applications that result in unused pressurized gases. Using vortex tube energy separation may be a method to recover waste pressure energy from high and low pressure sources.[4]

[edit] References

  1. ^ exair.com - Vortex tube theory
  2. ^ *Rudolf Hilsch, The Use of the Expansion of Gases in A Centrifugal Field as Cooling Process, The Review of Scientific Instruments, vol. 18(2), 108-1113, (1947). translation of an article in Zeit. Naturwis. 1 (1946) 208.
  3. ^ R.T. Balmer. Pressure-driven Ranque-Hilsch temperature separation in liquids. Trans. ASME, J. Fluids Engineering, 110:161–164, June 1988.
  4. ^ Sachin U. Nimbalkar, Dr.M.R. Muller. Utilizing waste pressure in industrial systems. Energy: production, distribution and conservation, ASME-ATI 2006, Milan

[edit] Further readings

  • G. Ranque, Expériences sur la Détente Giratoire avec Productions Simultanées d'un Echappement d'air Chaud et d'un Echappement d'air Froid, J. de Physique et Radium 4(7)(1933) 112S.
  • H. C. Van Ness, Understanding Thermodynamics, New York: Dover, 1969, starting on page 53. A discussion of the vortex tube in terms of conventional thermodynamics.
  • Mark P. Silverman, And Yet it Moves: Strange Systems and Subtle Questions in Physics, Cambridge, 1993, Chapter 6
  • C. L. Stong, The Amateur Scientist, London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1962, Chapter IX, Section 4, The "Hilsch" Vortex Tube, p514-519.
  • J. J. Van Deemter, On the Theory of the Ranque-Hilsch Cooling Effect, Applied Science Research 3, 174-196.
  • Saidi, M.H. and Valipour, M.S., "Experimental Modeling of Vortex Tube Refrigerator", J. of Applied Thermal Engineering, Vol.23, pp.1971-1980, 2003.
  • M. Kurosaka, Acoustic Streaming in Swirling Flow and the Ranque-Hilsch (vortex-tube) Effect, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 1982, 124:139-172
  • M. Kurosaka, J.Q. Chu, J.R. Goodman, Ranque-Hilsch Effect Revisited: Temperature Separation Traced to Orderly Spinning Waves or 'Vortex Whistle', Paper AIAA-82-0952 presented at the AIAA/ASME 3rd Joint Thermophysics Conference (June 1982)
  • Gao, Chengming. Experimental Study on the Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube. Eindhoven : Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. ISBN 90-386-2361-5. 

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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