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

Applications for Vortex Tube Spot Cooling

The EXAIR Mini Cooler family is one of the many vortex tube based Spot Cooler products that EXAIR offers.  This is the smallest of the group coming in at 550 BTU/hr of cooling capacity.  The Mini Cooler Systems  are available in two options.

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EXAIR’s Mini Cooler is available with a single point hose kit or a dual point hose kit.
  • The Single Point Outlet option will give you ten inches of flexible cold outlet to easily position the cold air stream near the target point.
  • The Dual Point Outlet option gives ten inches of 1/4″ flexible outlet that then splits to two separate four inch lengths of 1/4″ flexible cold outlet hoses.
  • Both include point or flat fan tips for the cold air outlets
  • Both include a manual drain filter separator
  • both include the swivel magnetic base with 100 lb. pull magnet.
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The Single Point Mini Cooler with a Flat Fan Tip installed on a milling application where liquid coolant cannot be used due to material constraints.

The single point hose kit is ideal for small diameter milling or drilling applications where the cold air can cover the contact area of the cutter.  It can also be used on soldering, industrial sewing, ultrasonic welding, or even small punching applications to list just a few.

EXAIR’s Mini Cooler System w/ Dual Point Hose Kit keeping UHMW cool while being machined

The dual point hose kit is ideal for two separate small diameter cutters, one larger diameter cutter, rotary style knives where there material is being slit, or larger diameter multi-point ultrasonic welders/punches.

When using the Mini Cooler the adjustable cold outlet stays in place and can easily bend around fixtures, spindles, welding horns, or dye aligning pins.  The swivel magnetic base gives additional adjustment at the base of the cooler to aid in the versatility of this product.   To further the adjustability of the cooler the operating pressure can easily be adjusted to lower or raise the cooling capacity of the Mini Cooler to meet the demands of the precise application.

If you believe you have an application that would benefit from the use of a Mini Cooler, or you are unsure which product would be ideal for your application please contact an Application Engineer.  we are all here, willing to help however possible to get your application improved in both safety and efficiency.

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.

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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

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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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The Adjustable Spot Cooler – Cold Air to -30°F (-34°C) From Your Compressed Air Supply

The Adjustable Spot Cooler is a low cost, reliable , maintenance free way to provide spot cooling to a myriad of industrial applications. Simply turn the knob, and the temperature can be changed to suit the needs of the process. The Adjustable Spot Cooler delivers precise temperature settings from -30°F (-34°C) to room temperature.

Adjustable Spot Cooler
Adjustable Spot Cooler

The Adjustable Spot Cooler utilizes the Vortex Tube technology that converts compressed air into a cold air stream. To learn more about EXAIR vortex tubes, click here.

  • It can produce temperatures form -30°F to +70°F (-34°C tp +21°C)
  • Parts included for flow rates of 15, 25 and 30 SCFM (425, 708, 850 SLPM.) The unit comes from the factory set at 25 SCFM (708 SLPM)
  • It can produce refrigeration up to 2,000 BTU/hr (504 Kcal/hr.)

A swivel magnetic base allows for easy mounting and portability, you can move it from machine to machine as needed. The flexible cold air outlet tubing holds its position and is easy to aim. Most importantly, there are no moving parts or CFC’s, ensuring maintenance free operation.

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The Adjustable Spot Cooler maintains critical tolerances on machined plastic parts

How the Adjustable Spot Cooler WorksThe Adjustable Spot Cooler incorporates a vortex tube to convert a supply of compressed air (1) into two low pressure streams, one hot and one cold. With the turn of a knob, the temperature control valve (2) allows some hot air to flow through a muffling sleeve and out the hot air exhaust (3). The opposite end provides a cold air stream (4) that is muffled and discharged through the flexible hose, which directs it to the point of use. The swivel magnetic base (5) provides easy mounting and portability.


The Adjustable Spot Cooler can produce a wide range of air flows and temperatures as determined by the temperature control valve knob setting and the generator installed. The generator controls the total SCFM (SLPM) of compressed air consumption, and is easy to change. From the factory, the 25 SCFM (708 SLPM) generator is installed, producing up to 1,700 BTU/hr (429 Kcal/hr) of cooling. For less cooling, the 15 SCFM (425 SLPM) generator can be installed, providing up to 1,000 BTU/hr (252 Kcal/hr) of cooling. And for more cooling, the 30 SCFM (850 SLPM) generator can be installed, providing up to 2,000 BTU/hr (504 Kcal/hr) of cooling.

Adjustable Spot Cooler Specifications

Two (2) Systems are available as shown below, and include the 15 and 30 SCFM (425 and 850 SLPM) generators, a filter separator, and either a single or dual point hose kit.

Adjustable Spot Cooler Systems3825_3925 adj spot cooler

If you have questions about the Adjustable Spot Cooler 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
Send me an email
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The Theory of the Vortex Tube

There are many theories regarding the dynamics of a vortex tube and how it works. Many a graduate student has studied them as part of their research requirements.

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The Vortex Tube was invented by accident in 1928, by George Ranque, a French physics student. He was performing experiments on on a vortex-type pump that he had developed and noticed that warm air exhausted from one end and cold air from the other! 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.

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.

Here is one widely accepted explanation of the physics and the phenomenon of the vortex tube.VT

Compressed air is supplied to vortex tube and passes through nozzles that are tangent to to an internal counterbore (1). As the air passes through it is set into a spiraling vortex motion (2) at up to 1,000,000 rpm. The spinning stream of air flows down the hot tube in the form of a spinning shell, like a tornado (in red). The control valve (4) at the end allows some of the warmed air to escape (6) and what does not escape reverses direction and heads back down the tube as a second vortex (in blue) inside of the low pressure area of the larger warm air vortex. The inner vortex loses heat and exits the through the other end of as cold air (5).

It is thought that that both the hot and cold air streams rotate in the same direction at the same angular velocity, even though they are travelling in opposite directions. A particle of air in the inner stream completes one rotation in the same amount of time that an air particle in the outer stream. The principle of conservation of angular momentum would say that the rotational speed of the inner inner vortex should increase because the angular momentum of a rotating particle (L) is equal to the radius of rotation (r) times its mass (m) times its velocity (v).  L = r•m•v.  When an air particle moves from the outer stream to the inner stream, both its radius (r) and velocity (v) decrease, resulting in a lower angular momentum. To maintain an energy balance for the system, the energy that is lost from the inner stream is taken in by the outer stream as heat. Therefore, the outer vortex becomes warm and the inner vortex is cooled.

At EXAIR, we have harnessed the cooling power of the vortex tube, and it can be found and utilized in such products as Spot Coolers, Cabinet Coolers, and the Vortex Tube themselves.

Harnessing the cooling power of the vortex tube 

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

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
Send me an email
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Controlling Temperature and Flow in a Vortex Tube

VT_air2

A few weeks ago, we looked at the Vortex Tube and provided a general overview of the device (see that blog here.)  In a nutshell – a Vortex Tube uses an ordinary supply of compressed air as a power source, creating two streams of air, one hot and one cold – resulting in a low cost, reliable, maintenance free source of cold air for spot cooling solutions.

One of the features of the Vortex Tube is that the temperature of the cold air and the cold air flow rate is changeable. The cold air flow and temperature are easily controlled by adjusting the slotted valve in the hot air outlet.

Vortex Tube Hot Valve Adjustment
Hot Valve Adjustment for a Vortex Tube

Opening the valve (turning it counterclockwise) reduces the cold air flow rate and the lowers the cold air temperature.  Closing the valve (turning it clockwise) increases the cold air flow and raises the cold air temperature.

VT Adjustment Table

As with anything, there is a trade off – to get higher a cold air flow rate, a moderate cold air temperature is achieved, and to get a very cold air temperature, a moderate air flow rate is achieved.

An important term to know and understand is Cold Fraction, which is the percentage of the compressed air used by the Vortex Tube that is discharged through the Cold End.  In most applications, a Cold Fraction of 80% produces a combination of cold flow rate and and cold air temperature that results in the maximum refrigeration or cooling output form a Vortex Tube.

For most industrial applications – such as process cooling, part cooling, and chamber cooling, maximum refrigeration is best and the 32XX series of Vortex Tubes are preferred.  For those applications where ‘cryogenic’ cooling is needed, such as cooling lab samples, or circuit testing, the 34XX series of Vortex Tube is best.

To set a Vortex Tube to a specific temperature, simply insert a thermometer into the cold air exhaust and adjust the hot valve.  Maximum refrigeration, at 80% Cold Fraction, is achieved when the cold air temperature drop is 50°F (28°C) from the incoming compressed air temperature. See the video posted here for measuring and lowering and the cold air temperature.

For those cases when you may be unsure of the required cold air flow rate and cold air temperature to provide the needed cooling in an application, we would recommend an EXAIR Cooling Kit.  The Cooling Kit contains a Vortex Tube, Cold Air Muffler, Air Line Filter, and a set of Generators that will allow for experimentation of the full range of air flows and temperatures possible.

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EXAIR Vortex Tube Cooling Kit

To discuss your application and how a Vortex Tube or any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB