Recent Patents on Mechanical Engineering
1874-477X/08 $100.00+.00 © 2008 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.
Recent Patents in Absorption Cooling Systems
Higher Technical Institute, P. O. Box 20423, Nicosia 2152, Cyprus
Received: June 21, 2007; Accepted: August 30, 2007; Revised: September 24, 2007
Absorption cooling offers the possibility of using heat to provide cooling. For this purpose heat from a conventional boiler canbe used or waste heat and solar energy. When the latter systems are used absorption systems minimize also the adverse effects of burningfossil fuels and thus protect the environment. Absorption systems fall into two major categories, depending on the working fluids. Theseare the ammonia-water systems, in which ammonia is the refrigerant and lithium bromide-water systems in which water vapor is therefrigerant. This paper initially introduces the two systems and then outlines recent patents in this area. The future trends of research inthis area would be on other refrigerant pairs which will be more effective.
Absorption systems, ammonia systems, lithium bromide systems, waste heat, solar energy.
Absorption is the process of attracting and holding moisture bysubstances called desiccants. Desiccants are sorbents, i.e., materialsthat have an ability to attract and hold other gases or liquids, whichhave a particular affinity for water. During absorption the desiccantundergoes a chemical change as it takes on moisture, as forexample the table salt, which changes from a solid to a liquid as itabsorbs moisture. The characteristic of the binding of desiccants tomoisture, makes the desiccants very useful in chemical separationprocesses .Absorption refrigeration systems are based on extensivedevelopment and experience in the early years of the refrigerationindustry, in particular for ice production. From the beginning, itsdevelopment has been linked to periods of high energy prices.Recently however, there has been a great resurgence of interest inthis technology not only because of the rise in the energy prices butmainly due to the social and scientific awareness about theenvironmental degradation.Absorption systems are similar to vapour-compression air con-ditioning systems but differ in the pressurisation stage. In generalan absorbent, on the low-pressure side, absorbs an evaporatingrefrigerant. The most usual combinations of fluids include lithiumbromide-water (LiBr-H
O) where water vapour is the refrigerantand ammonia-water (NH
O) systems where ammonia is therefrigerant.
2. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF BASIC ABSORPTIONCYCLES
Compared to an ordinary cooling cycle the basic idea of anabsorption system is to avoid compression work. This is done byusing a suitable working pair. The working pair consists of arefrigerant and a solution that can absorb the refrigerant. In theLiBr-H
O system, water is the refrigerant. The system is shownschematically in Fig. (
). The pressurisation is achieved by dissol-ving the refrigerant in the absorbent, in the absorber section.Subsequently, the solution is pumped to a high pressure with anordinary liquid pump. The addition of heat in the generator is usedto separate the low-boiling refrigerant from the solution. In this waythe refrigerant vapour is compressed without the need of largeamounts of mechanical energy that the vapour-compression airconditioning systems demand.As shown in Fig. (
), when the refrigerant vapour is comingfrom the evaporator (10) it is absorbed in a liquid (1). This liquid ispumped to higher pressure (1-2), where the refrigerant is boiled out
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of the solution by the addition of heat (3-7). Subsequently, therefrigerant goes to the condenser (7-8) like in an ordinary coolingcycle. Finally, the liquid with less refrigerant returns back to theabsorber (6) . The remainder of the system consists of acondenser, expansion valve and evaporator, which function in asimilar way as in a vapour-compression air conditioning system.The NH
O system is more complicated than the LiBr-H
Osystem, since it needs a rectifying column that assures that no watervapour enters the evaporator where it could freeze. The NH
Osystem requires generator temperatures in the range of 125°C to170°C with air-cooled absorber and condenser and 80°C to 120°Cwhen water-cooling is used. These temperatures cannot be obtainedwith flat-plate collectors. The coefficient of performance (COP),which is defined as the ratio of the cooling effect to the heat input,is between 0.6 to 0.7.In the LiBr-H
O system water is used as a coolant in theabsorber and condenser and has a higer COP than the NH
Osystems. The COP of this system is between 0.6 and 0.8 . Adisadvantage of the LiBr-H
O systems is that their evaporator can-not operate at temperatures much below 5°C since the refrigerant iswater vapour. Commercially available absorption chillers for airconditioning applications usually operate with a solution of lithiumbromide in water and use steam or hot water as the heat source. Inthe market two types of chillers are available, the single and thedouble effect.The single effect absorption chiller is mainly used for buildingcooling loads, where chilled water is required at 6-7°C. The COPwill vary to a small extent with the heat source and the coolingwater temperatures. Single effect chillers can operate with hot watertemperature ranging from about 80°C to 150°C when water ispressurised .The double effect absorption chiller has two stages of generation to separate the refrigerant from the absorbent. Thus thetemperature of the heat source needed to drive the high-stagegenerator is essentially higher than that needed for the single-effectmachine and is in the range of 155 to 205°C. Double effect chillershave a higher COP of about 0.9-1.2 . Although double effectchillers are more efficient than the single-effect machines they areobviously more expensive to purchase. However, every individualapplication must be considered on its merits since the resultingsavings in capital cost of the single-effect units can largely offsetthe extra capital cost of the double effect chiller.The Carrier Corporation pioneered lithium-bromide absorptionchiller technology in the United States, with early single-effectmachines introduced around 1945. Due to the success of theproduct soon other companies joined the production. The absorp-tion business thrived until 1975. Then the generally held belief thatnatural gas supplies were lessening, let to U.S. government