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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The Scientific Legacy of James Clerk Maxwell

On June 13, 1831 at 14 India Street, in Edinburgh Scotland James Clerk Maxwell was born. From a young age his mother recognized the potential in James, so she took full responsibility of his early education. At the age of 8 is mother passed away from abdominal cancer, so his father enrolled him in the very prestigious Edinburgh Academy.

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James was fascinated by geometry at a early age, many times learning something before he was instructed. At the age of 13 he won the schools mathematical medal and first prize in both English and poetry. At the age of 16 he starting attending classes at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1850 he enrolled at the University of Cambridge.

 

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The largest impact he had on science were his discovery’s around the relationship between electricity, magnetism, and light. Even Albert Einstein credited him for laying the ground work for the Special Theory of Relativity. He said his work was “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

Maxwell also had a strong interest in color vision, he discovered how to take color photographs by experimenting with light filters.

But here at EXAIR we are very interested in his work on the theory that a “friendly little demon” could somehow separate gases into hot and cold flows, while unproven in his lifetime, did actually come to fruition by the development of the Vortex Tube.  Which does just that.

How A Vortex Tube Works

So here’s to you, James Clerk Maxwell…may we continue to recognize your brilliance, and be inspired by your drive to push forward in scientific developments.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Photo credit to trailerfullofpix & dun_deagh

Real Heroes Of Science: James Clerk Maxwell

People who watch way too much TV (like me) will certainly remember the “Real Men of Genius” commercials.  Here’s one of my personal favorites:

Local radio stations all over the country made parodies of these, as did sketch comics.  While trying to come up with something for my weekly blog, I saw that today was the anniversary of the passing of 19th century physicist James Clerk Maxwell.  So, if you’ll try to keep the background music from the video above playing in your head while you read this, let’s see if I can pay proper tribute:

James Clerk Maxwell…even though Albert Einstein is famous for the Special Theory of Relativity, he credited YOU for laying the groundwork.  You not only theorized the relationship between electricity, magnetism, and light, but you also proved it mathematically…so Albert didn’t have to.  He said your work was “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

Singer: Albert Einstein pretty much called you an “Einstein” the way we call geniuses “Einsteins.”

Professor Maxwell…you devoted your life to learning.  About EVERYTHING.  As if solving Einstein’s problem with the Theory of Relativity (40 years before he knew he had a problem with it) wasn’t enough, you decided to find out what the rings of Saturn were made of.  Over 100 years before we could send the Voyager spacecraft to find out for sure.  And you were right.

Then you discovered how to take color photographs by experimenting with light filters.

Singer: Not only did you tell us what Saturn’s rings were made of, we have color photographs of them thanks to you….

James Clerk Maxwell…your theory that a “friendly little demon” could somehow separate gases into hot and cold flows, while unproven in your lifetime, did actually come to fruition by the development of the Vortex Tube.  Which does just that.

Singer: That’s right, I just drew a straight line from Maxwell’s Demon to EXAIR’s Vortex Tube & Spot Cooling Products!

So here’s to you, James Clerk Maxwell…may we continue to recognize your brilliance, and be inspired by your drive to push forward in scientific developments.

Singer (building to final crescendo): James Clerk Maxwell, a Real Hero Of Sci-i-i-i-i-ence!

If you’d like to hear the musical parts of this actually get sung, or if you’d like to find out more about Vortex Tube products and their uses (it might be best to stick with that second part actually,) give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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