Vortex Tubes can be Customized to Suit Your Application

Vortex tube

EXAIR’s Vortex Tubes are a low-cost, reliable, and maintenance-free solution to a variety of industrial spot cooling problems. With just an ordinary supply of compressed air, the Vortex Tube produces two streams of air: one hot and one cold. This is achieved without any moving parts or refrigerants!!

The Vortex Tube is capable of achieving a temperature drop/rise from your compressed air supply ranging from -50°F to +260°F (-46°C to +127°C). Flow rates range from 1-150 SCFM (28-4,248 SLPM) and refrigeration of up to 10,200 Btu/hr. With all Vortex Tubes constructed of stainless steel, they’re resistant to corrosion and oxidation ensuring you years of reliable, maintenance-free operation.

How A Vortex Tube Works

In addition to providing a range of different Vortex Tubes available to ship same-day from stock, EXAIR also has a few options available for cases where a stock Vortex Tube may not be the right solution. The standard Vortex Tube is suitable for use in environments with ambient temperatures up to 125°F (52°C) due to the plastic generator and Buna o-rings. For more extreme environments and ambient temperatures up to 200°F (93°C), we install a brass generator and replace the Buna o-rings with Viton seals.

All standard Vortex Tubes are adjustable. A small valve is located at the hot air exhaust end of the tube. Using a flat-tipped screwdriver, you can adjust the amount of air that is permitted to exhaust from the hot end. As more air is allowed to escape, the temperature at the cold end of the tube drops even further. The volume of air at the cold end as the temperature drops will also decrease. The percentage of air exhausting from the cold end relative to the total air consumption is referred to as the cold fraction percentage. Lower cold fractions will produce lower temperatures, but there won’t be as much volume. Finding the proper setting for your Vortex Tube can take some adjusting.

HT3240

As we all know, if there’s a knob to turn, button to press, or adjustment that can be made an operator is inevitably going to tinker with it. Day shift will blame the night shift, night shift blames the day shift, and it can present a problem when the Vortex Tube has been specifically tested and set to achieve the desired cold fraction. If you know the cold fraction you need, but would prefer to prevent it from being able to be adjusted, EXAIR can install a precisely drilled hot plug to set the cold fraction percentage to your specifications and eliminate any potential for it to be changed.

If you’d still prefer to keep the adjustability, but don’t have the capabilities to measure and set it yourself, we can also set any Vortex Tube to the desired cold fraction with the adjustable valve and send it to you ready to be installed. We’ll provide you with a special model number so you can rest assured that any time you need another it’ll come set to your specification.

At EXAIR, we’re committed to providing you with the best solution possible for your application. Sometimes that isn’t going to be achievable with a standard stock product. Just because you don’t see it in the catalog or on our website, doesn’t mean we can’t do it. If you have a unique application and would like more information on getting a special Vortex Tube, contact an Application Engineer today.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

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

 

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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People of Interest: Rudolf Hilsch

Vortex Tubes

The EXAIR Vortex Tubes use compressed air to generate a cold air stream at one end and a hot air stream at the other end.  The history behind this phenomenon is rooted in the Ranque-Hilsch tube.  In 1931, a French physicist, Georges Ranque, tried to use a cyclone vortex to separate iron filings from the air.  He noticed that when he capped one end with a slight opening, the air would become very warm.  Being disappointed with the separation, he shelved his patented idea for several years.  In 1946, Rudolf Hilsch picked up this idea from Georges Ranque and “tweaked” the design.  This product has now become known as the Vortex Tube.  In this blog, I will cover Rudolf Hilsch as a person of interest.

Rudolf Hilsch was born in December 18th, 1903 in Hamburg, Germany and died on May26th, 1972.  In 1927, Rudolf received his doctorate at the age of 24.  In 1938, he worked with a colleague, Robert Pohl, to create one of the first working semiconductor amplifier.   From 1941 to 1953, Hilsch was a professor of physics at Erlangen, and in 1947, he published his paper of the Ranque-Hilsch tube which he called the “Wirbelrohr”, or whirl pipe.  This publication became well known and was the start of the Vortex Tube.  To continue on with his career, in 1953, he became a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.  Also, at that same time, he started teaching physics at the Physics Institute of the Georg August University of Göttingen well into the 1960s.

Inside the Vortex Tube

To expand a bit more into his publication, the design for spinning the air at a high rate of speed can produce a separation of temperatures.  It starts with a generator to help facilitate a vortex.  As the vortex travels toward one end, a portion of that air will travel back through the center toward the opposite end.  (Reference animation above).  As these two vortices interact, conservation of momentum forces the inner vortex to give off energy in a form of heat to the outer vortex.  This separation of temperatures will give you a hot air stream and a cold air stream.  This type of device can do this without any moving parts or Freon.  You just have to supply a compressed gas.

EXAIR manufactures Vortex Tubes that utilize this phenomenon with compressed air.  We stock units with cooling capacities up to 10,200 BTU/hr and can reach temperatures from -50oF to +260oF (-46oC to +127oC).  So, thank you Mr. Ranque and Mr. Hilsch for creating a product to generate hot and cold air in a single unit.  If you would like to discuss any applications where cooling or heating is needed, you can talk with one of our Application Engineers.  We will be happy to help.

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