High Temperature Vortex Tube for Sensor Cooling

Last year I worked with a power company that was having issues with Position Feedback Sensors overheating causing erroneous readings and early failures.  The sensors were located above a steam turbine, and the ambient temperatures reached 128°F with spikes to 140-150°F.  The customer had called in looking for a way to keep the sensors cool, using minimal compressed air, and in a robust package.  After reviewing the details, we recommended the High Temperature Vortex Tube, model HT3210.  While using just 10 SCFM of 100 PSIG compressed air, the HT3210 provides 8 SCFM of cold air at a temperature drop of 54°F from the supply air temperature.  Bathing the sensor with this cool air keeps prevents it from heating up and has eliminated the bad readings and prevented the early failures.

The customer recently implemented the same fix for another set of sensors.

Plant Photo
Power Generation Process, with (3) Position Feedback Sensors
Position Feedback Sensor

The High Temperature Vortex Tube is a special Vortex Tube offering from EXAIR that utilizes a brass generator and hi-temp seal for use in ambient temperatures up to 200°F.  Simply supply clean, dry compressed air, and get cold air starting at 50-54°F lower than the supply air temperature.  With sizes ranging from 2 to 150 SCFM, there is a Vortex Tube that will meet most applications.

Vortex tube
High Temperature Vortex Tube

If you have questions about the Vortex Tubes, or would like to talk about any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Video Blog: Medium Vortex Tube Cooling Kit

EXAIR offers (3) Vortex Tube Cooling Kits, and the video below will provide an overview of the medium size offering, for refrigeration up to 2800 BTU/hr (706 Kcal/hr.)

If you have questions regarding Vortex Tube Cooling Kits or any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Cooling a Thermal Manikin After a Fire

Not to be persnickety, but there is a difference between mannequins, life size model for displaying or tailoring clothes, and manikins, an anatomical model used for testing and teaching, usually with movable joints. (The enunciation is exactly the same though).  A lab designed a test for thermal protective clothing.  They had a manikin that was 6 feet in height and had 120 copper slug sensors located all over its body. The sensors would record the temperature gradients on the surface of the manikin, representing skin exposure to heat.  They would dress their manikin with thermal protective clothing from head to toe and expose it to intense fires at various temperatures and exposure times.  After each test was completed, they would record the results and cool the manikin to 26 deg. C before they started the next fire test.  These results were used for safety limits to protect wearers from second and third degree burns, very important in keeping firefighters safe.

Fire Suit under test
Fire Suit under test

In their application, they were looking to cool the sensors on the manikin as quickly as they can to increase test cycle rates. Initially they used a “cool down” area fitted with fans to blow air across the manikin.  The problem was that it took too long to cool to the 26 deg. C mark required in their testing protocol.  They decided to manually use an air gun to blow compressed air across the sensors to increase cooling.  This did reduce the cycle time, but because of the force created by the air gun, some sensors would shift and be out of calibration.  This was a huge concern for the test lab.

The design of the copper slug sensor has a small piece of copper set inside a silicone holder. To isolate the copper metal, there are small ruby spheres between the holder and copper slug.  This creates an air gap around the copper slug to help increase sensitivity to temperature changes.  A thermocouple is attached to the back side of the copper slug for analytical measurements.

Adjustable Spot Cooler
Adjustable Spot Cooler

After they discussed their application with me, I suggested the model 3725 Adjustable Spot Cooler. This base unit comes without a magnetic base and hose kit, which makes it lighter in weight. The customer could easily attach it directly to their compressed air line, replacing the air gun that was damaging the sensors.  The Adjustable Spot Cooler incorporates the Vortex Tube which makes standard compressed air into cold air.  With a turn of a knob, they could control the temperature and the velocity of the cold air.  This feature was key in determining just the right amount of force to not affect the calibration of the sensors.  An added benefit of the Adjustable Spot Cooler is if you reduce the amount of outlet cold air, the temperature will decrease even more.  This feature allowed the customer to reach their target much more quickly and without damaging the sensors.

If you need to cool things down in your application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We have many different styles and combinations of Vortex Tubes and Spot Coolers to give you the right form of cooling, whether it is a mannequin or a manikin.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


DDI-2007-Burning Man by Interpretive Arson.  Common License.

Calculating Air Flow to Cool Manufacturing Processes

This application needed a way to cool steel plates from 150C to 70C

I’ve written before about using ambient air to cool an application, calculating the required airflow to maintain a temperature.  And, I was recently contacted by an end user in India in need of a way to cool electromagnets in a similar application.

The need was to reduce the temperature of high manganese steel plates (dimensions of 1800mm x 800mm x 500mm) from 150°C to less than 70°C, using air at 40°C.  These steel plates have a specific heat of 0.5107896 J/g°C, weigh 120kg each, and protect the coil and insulation of the electromagnets in this process.  So, just as was the case in previous applications, we started with the process shown below.

heat load calc process
Heat load calculation process

In doing so, we calculated a heat load of 279,245 BTU/hr., which will require an air volume of 1,805 CFM to cool as needed.  (Click the image below for an expanded view of the calculations)

Electromagnet calculations
Heat load calculations

The recommendation to provide this cooling was the use of (6) 120022 Super Air Amplifiers, operated at 80 PSIG and installed along the length of the plates to distribute airflow.  As we can see in the chart below, each 120022 Super Air Amplifier will move an air volume of 341 CFM at the outlet of the unit, making (6) of these units suitable for this application.  And, if we consider entrainment of additional ambient air at distances away from the outlet of the 120022 Super Air Amplifier, we can consider these units may cool the steel faster than the 1 minute cycle time used for calculation purposes.

air amp chart
Super Air Amplifier performance chart

This application is a great example of how an engineered compressed air solution can remove process disturbances effectively, and efficiently solve problems.  If you have a similar application or even one that is entirely different, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Wearing Out Your Sole

3925 Adjustable Spot Cooler
3925 Adjustable Spot Cooler

A shoe manufacturer had a special abrasion test that was required by his customer to test special rubber compounds. The set up was to run a small chain across the bottom of the rubber sole.  The chain was looped to continuously rub against the sole of the shoe.  As they began their wear testing, they noticed that the chain was getting hot from the friction.  The heat would get high enough to change the composition of the rubber and cause a premature failure.  To properly test for wear, they needed to cool the chain.

As they discussed their application with me, they required the chain to be at a specific temperature. I suggested the model 3925 Adjustable Spot Cooler System.  This system comes with a dual point hose kit, a magnetic base, a filter separator, and two additional generators.  The generators of the Adjustable Spot Cooler are a piece which controls the total volume of air through the cooler. They can be switched in and out to produce more or less cooling capacity of the Adjustable Spot Cooler. The main concern was to keep the chain temperature constant.  With a temperature control knob and the additional generators, they could dial in the cooling capacity to keep the chain at the desired temperature.  If the chain was too cold, the sole would not wear properly, and if the chain was too hot, it would change the composition of the rubber material.

They mounted the Adjustable Spot Cooler to the abrasion machine with the dual points blowing on each side of the chain. They quickly noticed that they could keep the chain cooler than the specified temperature.  As a trial, they replaced the generator to the 30 SCFM (850 SLPM) flow rate.  This increased the cooling capacity of the Spot Cooler.  With the higher cooling capacity, they could increase the speed of the abrasion machine to shorten the failure cycle.  This was a great benefit to have as they were testing different rubber compounds to determine the best product; a pronounced advantage in research and development.

If you find out that heat is causing problems in your application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR for help in finding the correct cooling product. In this instance, friction was the culprit and the Adjustable Spot Cooler was the solution.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Vortex Tube Cooling: One Vortex Tube, Multiple Targets, Will This Work?


I had this question posed to me the other day. The customer asks, “I have three, small, enclosed spaces that are all within about five feet of each other. I’d like to put vortex tube cooling into each space. Can I do it with one vortex tube or will I have to use three of them?”

Imagine if you will, the cold air output of a single vortex tube being split three ways and ducted into each of these small chambers. While it is definitely technically possible to do, it isn’t always a feasible idea from the point of view of lost cooling power. Also, anytime that you can split up the effect you are trying to create whether that be cooling with a Vortex Tube or blowing off a large target that has many features to it, generally it is better practice to divide the application solution up to be applied over multiple, smaller units rather than one large one.

In this customer’s case, he wanted to save money on the purchase of multiple vortex tubes by purchasing one model 3230 vortex tube and plumbing the cold air output to his three cooling chambers. The problem is that the ambient temperature outside the boxes is rather hot and also contains high humidity. How exactly is this a problem?  You might ask. The problem is in all of the heat lost in cooling down the cold air distribution pipe (the pipe, hose or tube delivering the cold air into the chambers) that lies outside each box. That results in a net temperature gain (higher temperature) of the cold air you are trying to use for cooling the chambers or enclosures. With that lost cooling power, the customer runs a risk of not having sufficient cooling power to offset the heat load in each chamber. There is also the issue of back-pressure being presented to the Vortex Tube itself from the cold air distribution piping. When subjected to back-pressure, vortex tubes will lose their cooling capacity. Finally, there is the problem of getting equal cooling power delivered to each chamber. In this case, the solution of piping cold air to each chamber would cause an un-even distribution of the cold air with the closest chamber receiving the lion’s share of the cooling, leaving the other two under-cooled.

So, what is a better way to do this?  The method I suggested to the client was to use three of our model 3208 (8 SCFM) vortex tubes, allowing for direct connection of the vortex tube cold air output to each chamber. The cold air no longer has to cool down the cold air piping thus leaving more cooling power for each chamber, there is no back-pressure issue, and finally and probably most importantly would be the total air consumed would only be 24 SCFM in this case (3 x 8 SCFM) vs. 30 SCFM with a single larger vortex tube. That is a 20% savings on compressed air use in a straight up comparison. Depending on how many hours a day the system would be used, the difference in purchase price could be made up by lower operating cost in less than a year.

Neal Raker
Application Engineer