How To Make Compressed Air Get Cold…A Couple Of Different Ways

The Vortex Tube makes cold air for the same reason that a can of compressed air gets cold when I clean my computer keyboard, right?

That’s a common question, and since they both start with compress air and end up with cold(er) air, it’s not an unreasonable assumption.  But the answer is no; they’re not the same.   Both are curious physical phenomena, though:

Cans of compressed air get cold while they’re discharging because of a thermodynamic principle known as the adiabatic effect.  When you pressurize a gas by compressing it into a container, you’re putting all those molecules into a smaller volume of space…and you’re adding potential energy by the compression.  Then, when you release that gas back to atmospheric pressure, that energy has to go somewhere…so it’s given off in the form of heat – from the air inside the can, as the pressure inside the can decreases.  Now, the air that’s not under as much pressure as it was when you pushed the button on top of the can is going to start coming out of the can pretty soon.  I mean, there’s only so much air in there, right?  So, since it’s given off that energy immediately upon the drop in pressure, when it comes out of the can, it’s at a lower temperature than it was before you started spraying it out.

Vortex Tubes, on the other hand, generate a flow of cold air by a completely different phenomenon of physics called, maybe not so curiously, the Vortex Tube principle:

You can get a lot more cold air – and a much lower temperature – from a Vortex Tube than you can from a can of compressed air.

If you need a reliable and dependable flow of cold air, look no further than EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Vortex Tubes and Spot Cooling Equipment.  We’ve got 24 models of Vortex Tubes to choose from, as well as “out of the box” solutions for cooling applications like the Adjustable Spot Cooler, Mini CoolerCold Gun Aircoolant Systems. and, to protect your sensitive electrical and electronic enclosures from heat, Cabinet Cooler Systems.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman

Application Engineer
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