Vortex Tube Cold Fractions Explained

Simply put, a Vortex Tube’s Cold Fraction is the percentage of its supply air that gets directed to the cold end. The rest of the supply air goes out the hot end. Here’s how it works:

The Control Valve is operated by a flat head screwdriver.

No matter what the Cold Fraction is set to, the air coming out the cold end will be lower in temperature, and the air exiting the hot end will be higher in temperature, than the compressed air supply.  The Cold Fraction is set by the position of the Control Valve.    Opening the Control Valve (turning counterclockwise, see blue arrow on photo to right) lowers the Cold Fraction, resulting in lower flow – and a large temperature drop – in the cold air discharge.  Closing the Control Valve (turning clockwise, see red arrow) increases the cold air flow, but results in a smaller temperature drop.  This adjustability is key to the Vortex Tube’s versatility.  Some applications call for higher flows; others call for very low temperatures…more on that in a minute, though.

The Cold Fraction can be set as low as 20% – meaning a small amount (20% to be exact) of the supply air is directed to the cold end, with a large temperature drop.  Conversely, you can set it as high as 80% – meaning most of the supply air goes to the cold end, but the temperature drop isn’t as high.  Our 3400 Series Vortex Tubes are for 20-50% Cold Fractions, and the 3200 Series are for 50-80% Cold Fractions.  Both extremes, and all points in between, are used, depending on the nature of the applications.  Here are some examples:

EXAIR 3400 Series Vortex Tubes, for air as low as -50°F.

A candy maker needed to cool chocolate that had been poured into small molds to make bite-sized, fun-shaped, confections.  Keeping the air flow low was critical…they wanted a nice, smooth surface, not rippled by a blast of air.  A pair of Model 3408 Small Vortex Tubes set to a 40% Cold Fraction produce a 3.2 SCFM cold flow (feels a lot like when you blow on a spoonful of hot soup to cool it down) that’s 110°F colder than the compressed air supply…or about -30°F.  It doesn’t disturb the surface, but cools & sets it in a hurry.  They could turn the Cold Fraction down all the way to 20%, for a cold flow of only 1.6 SCFM (just a whisper, really,) but with a 123°F temperature drop.

Welding and brazing are examples of applications where higher flows are advantageous.  The lower temperature drop doesn’t make all that much difference…turns out, when you’re blowing air onto metal that’s been recently melted, it doesn’t seem to matter much if the air is 20°F or -20°F, as long as there’s a LOT of it.  Our Medium Vortex Tubes are especially popular for this.  An ultrasonic weld that seals the end of a toothpaste tube, for example, is done with a Model 3215 set to an 80% Cold Fraction (12 SCFM of cold flow with a 54°F drop,) while brazing copper pipe fittings needs the higher flow of a Model 3230: the same 80% cold fraction makes 24 SCFM cold flow, with the same 54°F temperature drop.

Regardless of which model you choose, the temperature drop of the cold air flow is determined by only two factors: Cold Fraction setting, and compressed air supply pressure.  If you were wondering where I got all the figures above, they’re all from the Specification & Performance charts published in our catalog:

3200 Series are for max cooling (50-80% Cold Fractions;) 3400’s are for max cold temperature (20-50% Cold Fractions.)
Chocolate cooling in brown; welding/brazing in blue.

EXAIR Vortex Tubes & Spot Cooling Products are a quick & easy way to supply a reliable, controllable flow of cold air, on demand.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Generators for the EXAIR Vortex Tubes

Vortex generator

The EXAIR Vortex Tubes use compressed air to generate cold air down to -50 deg. F (-46 deg. C) without any moving parts, freon, or electricity.  By design, it will produce hot air at one end and cold air at the other.  EXAIR offers different cooling capacities ranging from 135 BTU/hr (34 Kcal/hr) to 10,200 BTU/hr (2,570 Kcal/hr).  This cooling phenomenon begins by spinning the air at a high rate of speed inside the Vortex Tube.  The “separation” of temperatures starts at the generator.  In this blog, I will discuss the features of the generator and how our design allows for an efficient way to cool and heat the air flows.

Vortex Family

EXAIR stocks three different sizes of the Vortex Tubes; small, medium, and large.  Each Vortex Tube will use a generator to define the cooling capacity and compressed air usage.  When compressed air enters the Vortex Tube, it will have to pass through the generator first.  The generators are engineered with vane openings to initiate the spinning of the air and to control the amount of air that can pass through it.  As an example, for a medium-sized Vortex Tube, a model 10-R generator will only allow 10 SCFM (283 SLPM) of air at 100 PSIG (6.9 Bar).  While in that same size body, a model 40-R generator will allow 40 SCFM (1,133 SLPM) of air at 100 PSIG (6.9 Bar) to be used.  Precision in the design of the generators is what sets EXAIR apart with efficiency and effectiveness in cooling.

EXAIR Vortex Tube Performance Chart

EXAIR created a chart to show the temperature drop for the cold end and temperature rise for the hot end, relative to the incoming compressed air temperature.  Across the top of the chart, we have Cold Fraction and along the side, we have the inlet air pressure.  The Cold Fraction is the percentage of the inlet air that will blow out the cold end of the Vortex Tube.  This is adjustable with a Hot Exhaust Air Valve at the hot end.

As you can see from the chart, the temperature difference changes as the Cold Fraction and inlet air pressure changes.  You may notice that it is independent of the size of the generator.  So, no matter which size Vortex Tube or generator is used, the temperature drop and rise will follow the chart above.  But just remember, cooling capacity is different than cooling temperature.  At the same settings, a larger generator will give you more mass of air to cool faster.

Now, let’s look inside the Vortex Tube (reference photo above).  As the compressed air passes through the generator, the change in pressure will create a powerful vortex.  This spinning vortex will travel toward one end of the tube where there is an air control valve, or Hot Air Exhaust Valve.  This valve can be adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of hot air that leaves the Vortex Tube.  The remaining part of the air is redirected toward the opposite end as the cold flow, or Cold Fraction.

Now, what separates EXAIR Vortex Tubes from our competitors are the three different styles of generators and two different materials for each size.  These generators are engineered to optimize the compressed air usage across the entire Cold Fraction chart above.  With temperatures above 125 oF (52 oC), EXAIR offers a brass generator for the Vortex Tubes.  The same precision design is applied but for higher ambient temperatures.  With the wide range of Vortex Tubes and generators, we can tackle many types of cooling applications.

If you would like to discuss your cooling requirement with an Application Engineer at EXAIR, we will be happy to help.  This unique phenomenon to generate cold air with no moving, freon, or electricity could be a great product to use in your application.

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

Applying a Vortex Tube and Adjusting Temperature

Throughout my tenure with EXAIR there are may days where I have tested different operating pressure, volumetric flow rates, back pressures, lengths of discharge tubing, generator compression, and even some new inquiries with cold air distribution all on a vortex tube.  These all spawn from great conversations with existing customers or potential customers on different ways to apply and applications for vortex tubes.

Many of the conversations start in the same spot… How exactly does this vortex tube work, and how do I get the most out of it?  Well, the answer is never the same as every application has some variation.  I like to start with a good idea of the area, temperatures, and features of exactly what we are trying to cool down.  The next step is learning how fast this needs to be done.  That all helps determine whether we are going to be looking at a small, medium, or large vortex tube and which cooling capacity to choose.   After determining these factors the explanation on how to adjust the vortex tube to meet the needs of the application begins.

This video below is a great example of how a vortex tube is adjusted and what the effects of the cold fraction have and just how easy it is to adjust.  This adjustment combined with varying the air pressure gives great versatility within a single vortex tube.

The table below showcases the test points that we have cataloged for performance values.  As the video illustrates, by adjusting the cold fraction lower, meaning less volumetric flow of air is coming out of the cold side and more is exhausting out the hot side, the colder the temperature gets.

EXAIR Vortex Tube Performance Chart

This chart helps to determine the best case scenario of performance for the vortex tube.  Then the discussion leads to delivery of the cold or hot air onto the target.  That is where the material covered in these two blogs, Blog 1, Blog 2 comes into play and we get to start using some math.  (Yes I realize the blogs are from 2016, the good news is the math hasn’t changed and Thermodynamics hasn’t either.)  This then leads to a final decision on which model of vortex tube will best suit the application or maybe if a different products such as a Super Air Amplifier (See Tyler Daniel’s Air Amplifier Cooling Video here.)is all that is needed.

Where this all boils down to is, if you have any questions on how to apply a vortex tube or other spot cooling product, please contact us.  When we get to discuss applications that get extremely detailed it makes us appreciate all the testing and experience we have gained over the years.  Also, it helps to build on those experiences because no two applications are exactly the same.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Systems – How Do they Work?

Cabinet Cooler systems eliminate heat related problems by providing a temperature controlled environment inside of electrical enclosures. Typically set to maintain 95F (but also adjustable) a Cabinet Cooler system can withstand harsh, remote environments with little maintenance. They cool heat loads up to 5600 Btu/Hr and are UL listed to maintain your cabinet’s NEMA integrity. 

Compressed air enters the vortex tube powered Cabinet Cooler and is converted into two streams, one hot and one cold. Hot air from the vortex tube is muffled and exhausted through the vortex tube exhaust. The cold air is discharged into the cabinet through the included cold air distribution kit. The displaced hot air in the cabinet rises and exhausts to atmosphere through the cabinet cooler body. The control cabinet is both cooled and purged with cool, clean air. Outside air is never able to enter the control panel.

sl17_Nema4
How it works! 

EXAIR’s compressed air operated, Cabinet Cooler Systems are a low cost, reliable way to cool and purge electronic control panels. There are no moving parts to wear out and no filters to replace, eliminating the need for constant monitoring.

NEMA Type 12 (IP54) and NEMA 4 and 4X (IP66) models are available that are very compact and mount in just minutes through an ordinary electrical knockout.

Cabinet Cooler Family
EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Sizes 

Available in a wide range of cooling capacities, ranging from 275 Btu/hr. for our smallest system, up to 5,600 Btu/hr. for our largest Dual System.

Thermostat control systems are the most efficient way to operate a Cabinet Cooler as they limit compressed air use by operating only when the temperature inside the enclosure approaches critical levels. Continuous Operating Systems are recommend when constant cooling and constant positive pressure inside the panel is required.

Thermostat controlled Cabinet Cooler Systems are the best option when experiencing fluctuating heat loads caused by environment or seasonal changes. Thermostatically Controlled Systems include a Cabinet Cooler, adjustable thermostat, solenoid valve, cold air distribution kit consisting of tubing and self adhesive clips to duct the cold air inside the panel and a filter separator to remove any water or contaminants from the supply.

Thermostat and ETC

If you would like to discuss our cabinet cooler systems or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Cabinet Cooling with Thermostat Control and ETC

An EXAIR Cabinet Cooler® System with either the Thermostat Control or the Electronic Temperature Control (ETC) option includes a temperature measuring device that is used to control the operation of the Cabinet Cooler System to maintain the set-point temperature.Thermostat and ETC

For most industrial enclosure cooling applications, a temperature of 95°F (35°C) is sufficient to be below the rated maximum operating temperature of the electrical components inside the cabinet. EXAIR Thermostats are preset to 95°F (35°C) and are adjustable. Maintaining the cabinet at 95°F (35°C) will keep the electronics cool and provide long life and reduced failures due to excessive heat. But if 95°F (35°C) is good, why not cool the cabinet to 70°F (21.1°C)?

When cooling an enclosure to a lower temperature, two things come into play that need to be considered. First, the amount of external heat load (the heat load caused by the environment) is increased. Using the table below, we can see the effect of cooling a cabinet to the lower temperature. For a 48″ x 36″ x 18″ cabinet, the surface area is 45 ft² (4.18 m²). If the ambient temperature is 105°F (40.55°C), we can find from the table the factors of 3.3 BTU/hr/ft² and 13.8 BTU/hr/ft² for the Temperature Differentials of 10°F (5.55°C) and 35°F (19.45°C). The factor is multiplied by the cabinet surface area to get the external heat load. The heat load values calculate to be 148.5 BTU/hr and 621 BTU/hr, a difference of 472.5 BTU/hr (119.1 kcal/hr)

External Heat Load

The extra external heat load of 472.5 BTU/hr (119.1 kcal/hr) will require the Cabinet Cooler System to run more often and for a longer duration to effectively remove the additional heat. This will increase, unnecessarily, the operating costs of the cooling operation.

The other factor that must be considered when cooling an enclosure to a lower temperature is that the Cabinet Cooler cooling capacity rating is effected. I won’t go into the detail in this blog, but note that a 1,000 BTU/hr Cabinet Cooler (rated for 95°F (35°C cooling) working to cool a cabinet down to 70°F (21.1°C) instead of 95°, has a reduced cooling capacity of 695 BTU/hr (174 kcal/hr).  The reduction is due to the cold air being able to absorb less heat as the air rises in temperature to 70°F instead of 95°F.

In summary – operating a Cabinet Cooler System at 95°F (35°C) provides a level cooling that will keep sensitive electronics cool and trouble-free, while using the least amount of compressed air possible.  Cooling to below this level will result in higher operation costs.

If you have questions about Cabinet Cooler Systems or any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Georges J. Ranque and the Vortex Tube

The Vortex Tube was invented by accident in 1928, by George Ranque, a French physics student. He was performing experiments on a vortex-type pump that he had developed for vacuuming iron filings and noticed that warm air exhausted from one end and cold air from the other when he inserted a cone at one end of the tube! Ranque quickly stopped work on the pump, and started a company to take advantage of the commercial possibilities for this odd little device that produced both hot and cold air, using only compressed air, with no moving parts. The company was not successful, and the vortex tube was forgotten until 1945 when Rudolph Hilsch, a German physicist, published a widely read paper on the device.

How A Vortex Tube Works

A vortex tube uses compressed air as a power source, has no moving parts, and produces hot air from one end and cold air from the other. The volume and temperature of the two air streams is adjustable with a valve built into the hot air exhaust.  Temperatures as low as -50°F (-46°C) and as high as 260°F (127°C) are possible.

During the second world war Georges J. Ranque started developing steels that would be used in military aviation efforts. After the war he took a job at  Aubert et Duval steelworks as director of metallurgical laboratory where he continued developing alloys for use in the aviation industry.

In 1972 he published a book on the search for the Philosophers stone, a legendary chemical substance capable of turning base metals such as mercury into gold. And in 1973 he passed away in his home just outside of Paris.

If you have any questions of want more information on how we use our vortex tubes to better processes all over industry. Give us a call, we have a team of application engineers  ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Choosing the Right Vortex Tube – Max Refrigeration vs. Max Cold Temperature

The Vortex Tube is a low cost, reliable, maintenance free way to provide cooling to a wide variety of industrial spot cooling problems.

VT_air2

There are two (2) popular uses for the Vortex Tubes.  One is to spot cool a warm item as fast as possible.  The other is to chill an item to as low a temperature as possible. Because these are very different requirements, different Vortex Tube configurations exist to handle each.

For those applications of spot cooling, we recommend the 3200 series of Vortex Tubes. They are designed to be most efficient at providing maximum refrigeration, which is a function of high cold air flow rate and moderate temperature differential of the cold air to the warm item.

And for those applications of chilling an item to a very low temperature at low flow rate , we recommend the 3400 series of Vortex Tubes.  They are designed to be most efficient at providing maximum cold air temperatures, but with a lower cold air flow rate.

An important parameter for the Vortex Tubes is the Cold Fraction.  By adjusting the hot valve on a vortex tube, the amount of air that is discharged through the cold end changes. When expressed as a percentage of the total compressed air that is supplied to the vortex tube, we get the Cold Fraction.  For example, if the hot valve is adjusted so that for every 10 parts of compressed air supplied, we get 7 parts of cold air, then we have a 70% Cold Fraction. When you know the Cold fraction setting and the compressed air supply pressure, you can use the Vortex Tube Performance tables and get the cold air discharge temperature.

Using the table below left, at 100 PSIG compressed air pressure and a 70% Cold Fraction, we can expect the cold air discharge temperature drop to be 71°F.  With 70 ° compressed air temperature, the cold air will be at -1°F.

Vortex Tube Charts
Vortex Tube Performance Tables

The 3200 series of Vortex Tubes are for use in the 50-80% Cold Fraction range, and the model 3400 series is designed for use in the 20-50% Cold Fraction ranges, to maximize the performance of each.

In summary, the selection of the Vortex Tube that best meets the application needs is based on the desired cold air flow rate, and the temperature of air desired. Once these are known, using the tables can provide the information needed to select the best option.

For those applications where we are unsure what will work best, we offer the EXAIR Cooling Kits, that include a Vortex Tube (small, medium, or large) and an array of Generators, to allow the configuration of the full range of Vortex Tubes within each size family.

  • Model 3908 – Small Vortex Tube Cooling Kit – build models 3202, 3204, 3208, and 3402, 3404, 3408
  • Model 3930 – Medium Vortex Tube Cooling Kit – build models 3210, 3215, 3225, 3230, 3240, and 3410, 3415, 3425, 3430, 3440
  • Model 3998 – Large Vortex Tube Cooling Kit – build models 3250, 3275, 3298, 3299, and models 3450, 3475, 3498, 3499

3930

If you have questions about Vortex Tubes or any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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