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Absorption Cooling System

Absorption Cooling System

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Recent Patents on Mechanical Engineering
1874-477X/08 $100.00+.00 © 2008 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.
Recent Patents in Absorption Cooling Systems
Soteris Kalogirou*
 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 [1].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.
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
*Address correspondence to this author at the Higher Technical Institute, P.O. Box 20423, Nicosia 2152, Cyprus; Tel: +357-22-406466; Fax: +357-22-406480, E-mail: skalogir@spidernet.com.cy
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) [2]. 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 [3]. 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 [4].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 [5]. 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
 Recent Patents in Absorption Cooling Systems Recent Patents on Mechanical Engineering
 , Vol. 1, No. 1
regulations prohibiting the use of gas in new constructions andtogether with the low cost of electricity let to the declination of theabsorption refrigeration market [6]. Today the major factor on thedecision on the type of system to install for a particular applicationis the economic trade-off between the different cooling techno-logies. Absorption chillers typically cost less to operate, but theycost more to purchase than vapour compression units. The payback period depends strongly on the relative cost of fuel and electricityassuming that the operating cost for the needed heat is less than theoperating cost for electricity.The technology was exported to Japan from the U.S. early inthe sixties, and the Japanese manufacturers set a research anddevelopment program to improve further the absorption systems.The program led to the introduction of the direct-fired double-effectmachines with improved thermal performance.Today gas-fired absorption chillers deliver 50% of commercialspace cooling load world-wide but less than 5% in the U.S., whereelectricity-driven vapour compression machines carry the majorityof the load [6].Many researchers have developed solar assisted absorptionrefrigeration systems. Most of them have been produced asexperimental units and computer codes were written to simulate thesystems.A method to design, construct and evaluate the performance of a single stage lithium bromide - water absorption machine ispresented in [7]. In this, the necessary heat and mass transferrelations and appropriate equations describing the properties of theworking fluids are specified. Information on designing the heatexchangers of the LiBr-water absorption unit is also presented.Single-pass vertical-tube heat exchangers have been used for theabsorber and for the evaporator. The solution heat exchanger wasdesigned as a single-pass annulus heat exchanger. The condenserand the generator were designed using horizontal tube heatexchangers.Contrary to compression refrigeration machines, which needhigh quality electric energy to run, ammonia-water absorptionrefrigeration machines use low quality thermal energy. Moreover,as the temperature of the heat source does not usually need to be sohigh (80-170°C), the wasted heat in many processes can be used topower absorption refrigeration machines. In addition, ammonia-water refrigeration system uses natural substances, which do notcause ozone depletion as working fluids. For all these reasons, thistechnology has been classified as environmentally friendly [2, 8].The single-stage ammonia-water absorption refrigerationsystem cycle consists of four main components, namely, condenser,evaporator, absorber and generator, as shown in Fig. (
). Otherauxiliary components include expansion valves, pump, rectifier andheat exchanger. Low pressure, weak solution is pumped from theabsorber to the generator through the solution heat exchangeroperating at high pressure. The generator separates the binarysolution of water and ammonia by causing the ammonia tovaporize, and the rectifier purifies the ammonia vapor. Highpressure ammonia gas is passed through the expansion valve to theevaporator as low pressure liquid ammonia. The high pressuretransport fluid (water) from the generator is returned to the absorberthrough the solution heat exchanger and the expansion valve. Thelow pressure liquid ammonia in the evaporator is used to cool thespace to be refrigerated. During the cooling process, the liquidammonia vaporizes and the transport fluid (water) absorbs thevapor to form a weak ammonia solution in the absorber [1, 2].The performance of both cycles is measured by the coefficient of performance (COP), which is defined as the heat load in theevaporator per unit of heat load in the generator and can be writtenas:
Fig. (1).
Schematic of a single effect LiBr-water absorption system.
 Recent Patents on Mechanical Engineering
 , Vol. 1, No. 1 Soteris Kalogirou
The patents outlined below are about absorption coolingsystems patented in the last three years. They are not differentiatedby subject or chronological order.The first patent [9] is about an aqua-ammonia absorptioncooling and/or heating apparatus comprising an absorber assembly,a generator assembly, a condenser, an evaporator and a refrigerantloop comprising piping for directing refrigerant between theabsorber assembly, generator assembly, condenser and evaporator.It includes also an absorption fluid loop for directing absorptionfluid between the absorber assembly and the generator assembly.The absorption fluid loop includes one pipe for directing ammonia-rich absorption fluid from the absorber assembly to the generatorassembly and a second pipe for directing ammonia-weak absorptionfluid from the generator assembly to the absorber assembly. Itincludes also a valve assembly comprising one or more valvescooperating with the second pipe which open and close forcontrolling the flow rate of weak absorption fluid therein. Theapparatus is characterized by
a sensing device positioned forsensing a condition of the ammonia-weak absorption fluid upstreamfrom one or more valves and operatively communicating with oneor more valves for opening and/or closing the valves in response toa sensed condition. The sensed condition can be the temperature,concentration or correlated property or condition of the ammonia-weak absorption fluid for maintaining the ammonia concentrationin the weak solution within the desired range.The same patent, is published in Europe as a European patent[10]. In this patent some more details are given. The inventionrelates to aqua-ammonia absorption cooling and/or heating systemsutilizing ammonia refrigerant and aqueous absorbents. Improve-ments in the efficiencies of such systems include the use of generator/absorber heat exchange (GAX) cycles utilizing rich andweak absorption working fluids and/or separate heat exchangeloops referred to as GAX cycles. Weak liquor flow control asdescribed in the patent may be used with any aqua-ammoniaabsorption cooling and/or heating system having an absorberassembly, a generator assembly and an absorption fluid loop fordirecting absorption fluid between the absorber and generatorassemblies. Such systems include a condenser, an evaporator and arefrigerant loop including piping for directing refrigerant from thegenerator assembly to the condenser and from the condenser to theevaporator. The aqua-ammonia absorption apparatus may performcooling and/or heating functions.Figure
shows a schematic diagram of the generator assemblyand a valve and temperature-sensing bulb for controlling the flowof weak solution. In the valve and temperature-sensing bulb shownin Fig. (
) the temperature-controlled valve (60) is used forcontrolling the flow of the weak solution from the generator (11) tothe absorber, which is not shown. The valve is controlled by atemperature-sensing bulb (62) charged with a composition thatproduces pressure responsive to the temperature sensed by the bulb.The temperature-sensing bulb is installed in thermal contact withthe weak solution in the generator or as it passes through piping orheat exchange coils of the generator. Changes in bulb pressureresulting from changes in the pressure of the bulb are directed to amovable member such as a diaphragm or bellows in the valveresulting in opening and closing of the valve in response to thepressure changes, or pressure differential between surfaces of thediaphragm. The valve is controlled with one side of the diaphragmexposed to the temperature-sensing bulb pressure and the other sideto generator pressure. The valve components shown include inletport (71), outlet port (72), diaphragm (73), actuator rod (74), valveplug (75), valve chamber (76) and spring (77).The apparatus include chillers, heat pumps, refrigeration equip-ment, heating-only appliances, and dual-temperature appliances.The latter are a special type of heat pump that is not reversed and inwhich both heating and cooling are produced simultaneously forbeneficial use. Such apparatus includes conventional aqua-ammoniasystems as well as high-efficiency GAX apparatus.
Fig. (2).
Schematic of ammonia-water refrigeration system cycle.
CondenserEvaporator AbsorberGeneratorPump
Strong solutionHigh pressurerefrigerant vapor
Expansion valveRectifier
Weak solution
Expansion valve
Low pressurerefrigerant vapor

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