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82043638 Solar Powered Intermittent Absorption Refrigeration Unit

82043638 Solar Powered Intermittent Absorption Refrigeration Unit

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Published by: Rahul Tripathi on Jun 08, 2012
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Solar Powered Intermittent Absorption Refrigeration Unit
M.G. RasulAdvanced Technologies and ProcessesFaculty of Sciences, Engineering and HealthCentral Queensland UniversityRockhampton, Queensland 4702AustraliaEmail:m.rasul@cqu.edu.au A. MurphyAdvanced Technologies and ProcessesFaculty of Sciences, Engineering and HealthCentral Queensland UniversityRockhampton, Queensland 4702AustraliaEmail:getmurphy@hotmail.com 
The study investigated and evaluated the feasibility of anabsorption refrigeration unit on solar power. Itseffectiveness as a viable refrigeration option for use inhousehold refrigerators or as an energy efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to conventionalrefrigerated air conditioning units used in the offices areevaluated. A prototype model that is capable of  producing a temperature change in the evaporator wasdesigned, fabricated and tested. A parabolic solar trough was used as a source of heat gain. The modelutilized the technology of an intermittent absorptionrefrigeration system. The performances and effectivenessof the unit was studied by determining refrigerationeffect (RE), coefficient of performance (COP) and explaining operational issues of the unit. The ultimategoal in the long term would ideally be to reduce theconsumption of electricity used for refrigeration and air conditioning, hence saving money and reducing thestress on our electricity generation and distributionnetworks.
As the world becomes more self aware of the changingclimatic conditions caused by global warming it is vitalto reassess our dependence on the burning of fossil fuelsto gain energy [1-5]. The alternatives for gaining thisenergy can be found in the sources of renewable energysuch as solar, wind, biomass, wave and tide, etc. [6, 7].In particular, the solar energy alternative is now beingmore closely examined in an attempt to utilize this as asource of energy for both domestic and commercial endusers such as refrigerators, air conditioners, hot waterheaters, desalination for water recycling, etc. [8, 9]. Inthis study, the adoption of solar energy as the primarysource of power for an intermittent absorptionrefrigeration system is investigated. The design,fabrication and testing of such a system is presented anddiscussed. The performances and effectiveness of theunit as house hold refrigerators is analyzed. Operationalissues, suitability and problems of the unit are discussed.
The basic operations of an absorption refrigeration unitinvolve freeing the refrigerant from its bonds with theabsorbent material and then condensing it under pressure[10-14]. This liquid refrigerant is then evaporated byreducing its pressure in turn absorbing heat from itssurroundings and creating cold. This cold is calledrefrigeration effect (RE) which is achieved in theevaporator. There are two distinct types of absorptionrefrigeration units these are the intermittent andcontinuously operating systems [10, 11]. In
 operating system, the heat is only applied to thegenerator of the system once per day. The application of heat separates the refrigerant from the absorbent,condenses it and then the liquid refrigerant is stored.These systems operate at a single pressure which self regulates the condensation and evaporation rates of therefrigerant. Once the internal pressure of the systemdrops below the vapor pressure of the refrigerant itbegins to evaporate. This in turn increases the systempressure until the refrigerant combines again with theabsorbent material. The stored refrigerant usuallyproduces a cooling effect for approximately 12 to 18hours at which stage more heat is applied to thegenerating unit.The basic operating principals of 
operatingabsorption refrigerators are the same as the intermittentwith the exception of the critical components allowingthe system to run on a continuous basis powered by aheat source such as gas/solar/kerosene, etc. Theconfiguration of a continuous system involves thegenerator, condenser and evaporator the same as anintermittent system but also incorporates an absorberpositioned between the evaporator and generator. Thisadditional component allows the refrigerant torecombine with the absorbent while the generatorcontinues to operate. A bubble pump which resembles acoffee percolator is also used in most designs totransport the weak absorbent from the generator to theabsorber to receive refrigerant which has completed thecircuit. This type of system also requires the use of hydrogen. This element is located in the evaporator andhelps the ammonia vaporize increasing the efficiency of the system.The absorption refrigeration systems have lower COPcompared to that of a vapour compression system. TheCOP of absorption refrigeration system can bedetermined by [14],
generator at additionheat of rate effect ionrefrigerat COP
3.1 Experimental Set-up (Prototype)
The prototype systems designed in this study was similarto that used by Vanek 
et al
. [15] for solar thermalicemaker. The layout of the system was very simpleinvolving only three main components being thecombination collector
for heating the salt-ammonia mixture, c
coil in water bath and an
where distilled ammonia collects duringgeneration as shown in Figure 1. This system used aparabolic trough collector to heat a tube at its focal point.This tube formed the generator for the absorption systemgiving it direct heating from the sun.
Figure 1: Layout of the Solar Thermal Icemaker Used byVanek et al. [15].
Anhydrous ammonia and calcium chloride salt was usedas refrigerant and absorbent material respectively in thisstudy. Ammonia is very reactive to certain metals whichshould not be used as part of a refrigeration unit.Research has shown that ammonia, especially in thepresence of moisture, reacts with and corrodes copper,zinc, and many alloys. Only iron, steel, certain rubbersand plastics, and specific nonferrous alloys such asstainless steel resistant to ammonia were used for thedesign and fabrication of the system. Another “must”deign feature is the ability for the system to holdpressure. Upon vaporization ammonia expands greatlyand produces high pressure in enclosed systems. Anyrefrigeration system using ammonia must be capable of holding pressure in excess of 1380 kPa without leaks orrupture. The fabrication and construction of the systemwas kept as simplistic as possible. The use of specialized tools was kept to a minimum thereforereducing the final cost of construction. The assembledunit is shown in Figure 2. The following designconditions were applied in order to fabricate theexperimental set-up:
The size of the parabolic mirror and framework as well as collector tube were kept to aminimum practical size, which was basedaround the size of a full sheet of mirroravailable in the market of size 1220 x 2440mm.This was done mainly to reduce theconstruction cost and an estimation was madethat one sheet would provide adequate surfacearea to generate the necessary heat to run arelatively small system. All the piping andfittings used in the system were capable of withstanding a constant minimum pressure of 1400 kPa.
The condenser tank was positioned in such away that the outlet of the collector tube wasbelow the outlet of the condenser coil. Thiswould force the hot ammonia into thecondenser. An old hot water tank was used sothat a more accurate temperature change couldbe recorded due to the surrounding insulationand glass coating on the tank retaining the heatin the condenser water. Recording thetemperature change would provide the means toperform an energy gain calculation and todiscover what energy was lost by the ammoniaand maybe how hot it was upon exiting thecollector tube. The condenser was alsopositioned in such a way that it would notimpede the suns rays contacting the mirrorwherever the sun was. The size andspecifications of the condenser coil was similarto that used in the intermittent solar icemakerby Vanek 
et al
. [15].
Figure 2: Assembled unit ready for testing
The frame supporting the condenser tank hasbeen designed so that the majority of the weightwould be placed on the main support structurethrough two legs. The third leg was placed onan outrigger to provide balance for the structureas well as additional support for the estimated200kg mass of the condenser tank once filled.The frame was also made to be removed fordisassembly and transportation purposes.
The entire unit was placed on a single frame foreasy transport site to site. Wheels were attachedto the frame to allow easy short range
transportation such as in and out of the lab fortesting. A jockey wheel was also mounted toassist with the short range transport of thedevice and positioning for testing. A threadedstrut was developed to hold the mirror at anydesired angle. This was necessary for thecorrect alignment to the sun in any location.
3.2. Experimental Procedures
The experiment was conducted in order to observe andrecord temperature of different components of the unitand systems pressure which allows calculation of RE andCOP of the unit. The prototype was tested in two ways.The protocol for the
Test 1
involved the system collectorbeing aligned East-West and facing North. The mirrorthen was tilted to align with a median position of thesuns inclination during the hottest part of the dayapproximately 10:00 to 14:00hrs. No other tracking of the sun was done during this testing period. The
Test 2
 was involved tracking the sun in 15 minute intervalsboth in its inclination and trajectory across the sky. Thisprovided greater exposure of sunlight normal to themirror surface. This light applied directly to thecollector tube and not be deflected away at certain timesof the day as in the case of Test 1. On both the tests thecollector tube temperature, the temperature at thecondenser inlet, the condenser water temperature, thetemperature at the condenser outlet, the system pressureand the evaporator temperature were observed andrecorded.The system in operation during Test 1 is shown in Figure2. The system begins its cycle during the day when thesystem mirror is directed to the sun. All the lightstriking the parabolic mirror is redirected to the collectortube in order to heat-up the tube. This heat is applied tothe absorbent/refrigerant combination throughout. Theheat releases the refrigerant as a gas which rises andmakes its way to the condenser. For simplicity of manufacture, the condenser was taken as water cooledmeaning that only a coiled tube was necessary. Due tothe increased system pressure the refrigerant can becondensed at the temperature of the water. The liquidrefrigerant travels under gravity to the refrigerantreceiver located in a fridge compartment. This processwas continued throughout the day until the heat beingapplied can no longer release the refrigerant.After the sun sets the temperature and the pressure in thecollector tube reduces, and the refrigerant begin to boil.Refrigerants boil at much lower temperatures than mostof the other liquids and therefore draw energy from thesurroundings and produce cold. The boiling refrigerantreturns to a gaseous state and can be returned back to thegenerator to be reabsorbed ready for the next day. It isthis process which gives the intermittent refrigerator itsname the process of heating and cooling occurs indifferent stages where a continuous cycle requiresheating on a continuous basis in order to maintain aconstant cooling effect.
4.1. Observation in Test 1: Non-Sun Tracking
The experiment was initiated at approximately 10:30 am.The mirror was wheeled outside and aligned East–Westand facing North, it was then tilted to align with amedian point of the inclination between the start timeand the midday point. Temperature of the collectortube, at the condenser inlet, condenser water, at thecondenser outlet and evaporator were recorded usingthermocouple and digital monitor. Figure 3 shows thesetemperatures.It was at this time the sound of pressure being releasedwas heard. It was also at this point when the evaporatorwas observed to decrease in temperature to the pointwhere condensation formed on the refrigerant receiverand cooling coil. The temperature was recorded asaround 6
C. The fact that the evaporator became coldleads us to believe that the release of pressure was fromthe condenser to the collector. The pressure gauge hadread approximately 840 kPa at the time of release andreduced to 280 kPa. The evaporator did remain cold forsome time until the pressure inside the system rose to apoint at which the boiling of the refrigerant would haveceased. The evaporator temperature then rose to a pointwhich was close to ambient (24.5
C). Themeasurements were taken at intervals of 15 minutes.This was done because the acquisition and recording of all the necessary temperature, pressure and electricalreadings took approximately 7 to 10 minutes to achieve.The system pressure and collector temperature reached amaximum at 13:00. The maximum pressure was 930kPa and the maximum collector tube temperature was129
System Temperatures T1
0204060801001201400 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Recording Number
    T   e   m   p   e   r   a    t   u   r   e     D   e   r   e   e   s     C   e    l   s   u    i   s
Condenser In Condenser Out Condenser Water Evaporator Collector Tube
Figure 3: Temperature profiles of different componentsduring Test 1
Clouds played a major part in the reduction of heat to thesystem. By observing the pressure and temperaturereadings at times where the sun had been covered by a

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