Can I Use a Vortex Tube for Heating?


I had a customer come to me the other day. He had an application that required him to heat some metal bearings up to 230°F. He wanted to know if he could use a vortex tube to heat them to the desired temperature. Technically speaking, if he had a compressed air source that started at 70°F, he could conceivably heat the bearings up to about 260°F as that is about the maximum temperature of the vortex tube hot air output.

But the question really is, should he be using a vortex tube to heat those bearings? And generally, the only time vortex heating should seriously be considered is if there isn’t any utility to heat any other way, such as with electricity or with fuel of some sort. There are times when those other utilities are simply not available, but compressed air is. Or perhaps there is some reason why the customer does not want to use those other methods such as dealing with noxious fumes produced from burning a fuel.

You might ask, why not sell a vortex tube into just about any application that requires heating. The simple answer is that it truly has to be the right application to make sense from an application goals standpoint and also from the standpoint of whether it is the most effective method of heating a target object.

EXAIR Vortex Tubes, in and of themselves, are a wonderful product. They produce a hot and a cold air flow. The cold air flow volume will be the  majority of those two flows in most cases. So you could say you get more from a vortex tube in terms of energy output when it is used as a cooling device than as one for heating.

What does this explanation mean? In short, vortex tube applications for heating are usually few and far between. At least those which make any sense. A couple of those applications include heating up 5 gallon buckets of grease, paint and other chemicals on an oil rig platform located in cold regions. Another one is to use the hot flow of a vortex tube to keep a mirror in a laser application warm enough that it does not form condensation during use of the laser in a cold environment.

Do you have an application where you think a Vortex Tube might help?  Please e-mail or call one of our Application Engineers to discuss your idea. We would love to hear about your application.

Neal Raker, Application Engineer

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