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SEMINAR REPORT 2013

THERMOACOUSTIC REFRIGERATION

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
From creating comfortable home environment to manufacturing fast and efficient
electronic devices, air conditioning and refrigeration remain essential services for both
homes and industries.
It is becoming increasingly important in the design and development of
refrigerating systems to consider environmental impacts. To eliminate the use of
environmentally hazardous refrigerants, research efforts are focussing more on the
development of alternative refrigerants and alternative refrigeration technologies. An
approach in the category of alternative technologies is thermoacoustic refrigeration
which produces cooling from sound.
The thermoacoustic effect was first discovered in the 19th century when heat
driven acoustic oscillations were observed in open-ended glass tubes. These devices were
the first thermoacoustic engines, consisting of a bulb attached to a long narrow tube. It
was in the 1980s that thermoacoustic refrigerator was first developed, when a research
group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory showed that the effect could be used to
pump heat. The technology has seen rapid growth since then, developing it to a
promising asset as a clean and environmentally friendly refrigeration method.

1.1 LITERATURE SURVEY


Emmanuel c. Nsofor and Azrai Ali (2009) studied on the performance of the
thermoacoustic refrigerating system with respect to some critical operating parameters.
Experiments were performed on the system under various operating conditions. The
experimental setup consists of the thermoacoustic refrigerating system with appropriate
valves for the desired controls, instrumentation and the electronic data acquisition
system. The resonator was constructed from aluminium tubing but it had plastic tube
lining on the inside to reduce heat loss by conduction. Significant factors that influence
the performance of the system were identified. The cooling produced increases with the
temperature difference between the two ends of the stack. High pressure in the system

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does not necessarily result in a higher cooling load. There exists an optimum pressure
and an optimum frequency for which the system should be operated in order to obtain
maximum cooling load. Consequently, for the thermoacoustic refrigeration system, there
should be a related compromise between cooling load, pressure and frequency for best
performance.
Ramesh Nayak.B. et al. (2011) proposed the design of a Thermo Acoustic
Refrigerator (TAR) stack. The design strategy has been described along with the values
of the important working gas parameters as well as the non-dimensional parameters. The
design and optimisation of thermo acoustic refrigerator for a cooling power of 10 watt
was designed. An attempt has been made to design the TAR by using CATIA. Further
modelling and optimization of the design is carried out using MATLAB.
Jonathan Newman et al. (2006) explored the basic principles of thermoacoustic
refrigeration, to produce a small thermoacoustic refrigerator out of readily available
parts. The model constructed for this research project employed inexpensive, household
materials. Although the model did not achieve the original goal of refrigeration, the
experiment suggests that thermoacoustic refrigerators could one day be viable
replacements for conventional refrigerators.

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CHAPTER 2
PRINCIPLE
Thermoacoustics is based on the principle that sound waves are pressure waves.
These sound waves propagate through air via molecular collisions. The molecular
collision cause a disturbance in the air, which in turn creates constructive and destructive
interference. The constructive interference makes the molecules compress, and the
destructive interference makes the molecules expand. This principle is the basis behind
the thermoacoustic refrigerator.
Refrigeration relies on two major thermodynamic principles. First, a fluids
temperature rises when compressed and falls when expanded. Second, when two
substances are placed in direct contact, heat will flow from the hotter substance to the
cooler one.
There are two types of thermoacoustic devices namely thermoacoustic engine and
thermoacoustic refrigerator. In a thermoacoustic engine, heat is converted into sound
energy and this energy is available for the useful work. In a thermoacoustic refrigerator
the reverse process occurs, i.e. it utilises work in the form of acoustic pewr to absorb heat
from a low temperature medium and reject it to a high temperature medium.

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CHAPTER 3
THERMOACOUSTIC EFFECT
Acoustic waves experience displacement oscillations, and temperature
oscillations in association with the pressure variations. In order to produce
thermoacoustic effect these oscillations in the gas should occur close to a solid
surface so that heat can be transferred to or from the surface. A stack of closely
spaced parallel plates is placed inside the thermoacoustic device in order to provide
such a solid surface. The thermoacoustic phenomenon occurs by the interaction of the
gas particles and the stack plate. When large temperature gradients are created across
the stack, sound waves are generated i.e. work is produced in the form of acoustic
power(forming a thermoacoustic engine). In the reverse case, the acoustic work is
used in order to create temperature gradients across the stack, which is used to
transfer heat from a low temperature medium to a high temperature medium(as the
case of thermoacoustic refrigerator).
A thermoacoustic refrigerator consists of a tube filled with a gas. This tube is
closed at one end and an oscillating device(a loud speaker) is placed at the other end
to create an acoustic standing wave inside the tube. Standing waves are natural
phenomena exhibited by sound waves. In a closed tube, columns of air demonstrate
these patterns as sound waves reflect back on themselves after colliding with the end
of the tube. When the incident and reflected

waves overlap, they interfere

constructively, producing a single waveform. This wave cause the medium to vibrate
in isolated sections as the travelling waves are masked by the interference. Therefore
these standing waves seem to vibrate in constant position and orientation around
stationary nodes. These nodes are located where the two component sound waves
interfere to create areas of zero net displacement. The areas of maximum net
displacement are located halfway between two nodes and are called antinodes. The
maximum compression of the air also occurs at the antinode. Due to these node and
antinode properties, standing waves are useful because only a small input of power is
needed to create a large amplitude wave to cause thermoacoustic effect.

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CHAPTER 4
BASIC CONSIDERATIONS
4.1 THERMODYNAMIC CONSIDERATION
A thermoacoustic device consists of an acoustic driver attached to an acoustic
resonator tube filled with the working fluid. Inside the resonator tube, a stack of thin
parallel plates and two heat exchangers(hot and cold) are installed for the heat
transfer. The schematic of a typical thermoacoustic device is shown in fig.

Fig1 (a)Schematic of a thermoacoustic refrigerator,(b)velocity and pressure variation


across the resonance tube, (c)temperature variation across the resonance tube,
(thesis,Concordia university)
The acoustic driver, connected to one end of the resonator tube, excites the working
fluid and creates a standing wave inside the tube. Hence the gas oscillates inside the
resonator with expansions and compressions. The length of the resonator tube is
typically set equal to one-half of the wavelength of the standing wave, i.e.

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The standing wave creates velocity nodes at the two ends of the tube and a
pressure node at the middle of the tube as in the fig . if a stack of parallel plates is
placed inside the tube, the gas will be at a higher pressure at the end of the stack,
which is closer to the end of the tube(i.e. left side of the stack in fig), than the other
end of the stack. This high pressure results in an increase in the temperature of the gas
and the excess heat is transferred to the stack, causing an increase in the temperature
of the stack at that end and an average longitudinal temperature gradient along the
stack is established.

4.2 ACOUSTIC THEORY


The understanding of acoustic wave dynamics, i.e. the pressure and velocity
fields created by an acoustic wave, is necessary to understand the working of a
thermoacoustic device. The acoustical theory deals with the study of the longitudinal
acoustic waves. The longitudinal acoustic waves are generated as a result of the
compression, and expansion of the gas medium. The compression of a gas
corresponds to the crust of a sine wave, and the expansion corresponds to the trough
of a sine wave. An example of how these two relate to each other is shown in the
figure.
In a longitudinal wave, the particle displacement is parallel to the direction of
wave propagation i.e. they simply oscillate back and forth about their respective
equilibrium position. The compression and expansion of a longitudinal wave result in
the variation of pressure along its longitudinal axis of oscillation. A longitudinal wave
requires a material medium such as air or water to travel. That is, they cannot be
generated and/or transmitted in a vaccum. All sound(acoustic)waves are longitudinal
waves and therefore, hold all the properties of the longitudinal waves discussed
above. Three characteristics of the acoustic waves are necessary for the understanding
of the thermoacoustic process. These properties are amplitude, frequency and
wavelength.

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Fig2. Comparison of a longitudinal acoustic wave with a sine wave (thesis, Concordia
university)

The displacement of a wave from its equilibrium position is called the wave
amplitude. It is also a measure of the wave energy. Larger the amplitude, higher will
be the wave energy. Thus, the energy of an acoustic wave can be estimated by
measuring its amplitude. The energy or intensity of an acoustic wave is measured in
terms of decibel. If the given acoustic wave is comprised of the superposition of
different sine waves, then the amplitude and hence the energy of the given wave can
be estimated by integrating the energy in all the frequency components of the given
wave. The time period of a wave is the time required for the complete passage of a
wave at a given point. The fundamental wave frequency is the inverse of the time
period. In other words, it is the number of waves that pass a given point in a unit time.

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It is measured in hertz(Hz), i.e. the number of waves that pass a given point in one
second.
The wavelength is defined as the horizontal distance from the beginning of the
wave to the end of the wave. It can also be measured as the distance from one wave
crest to the next wave crust, or one wave trough to the next wave trough. In acoustics,
we can define wavelength as the distance between the two successive compressions
or expansions.
The compression and expansion of an acoustic wave result in pressure
variations along the waveform. This pressure variation is the key process that causes
the thermoacoustic phenomenon. These pressure variations can also be used to
estimate the sound intensity.
From the ideal gas equation of state,
= RT
where P is the pressure,

is the density, T is the absolute temperature, and R is the

universal gas constant. The above equation indicates that if the density variations are
very small, the change in pressure causes a change in temperature. That is, an
increase in pressure causes an increase in temperature and vice versa.

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CHAPTER 5
BASIC COMPONENTS
A thermoacoustic machine generally consists of:
1. Acoustic driver
2. Stack or regenerator
3. Heat exchanger
4. Resonator

5.1 ACOUSTIC DRIVER


The purpose of the loudspeaker is to supply work to the system in the form of sound
waves.

Fig 3 loudspeaker(wikipaedia)

5.2 STACK
In the thermoacoustic refrigerator the stack is the main component where the
thermoacoustic phenomenon takes place. Below shown are two stacks of different
materials used in a standing wave thermo acoustic refrigerator.
The stack material must have a low thermal conductivity and a heat capacity larger
than the capacity of the working gas, in order that the temperature of the stack plates
is steady.

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(a)

(b)
Fig 4. (a)ceramic stack, (b)glass tubing stack(wikibooks)

5.3 HEAT EXCHANGER


The heat exchangers employed in a thermoacoustic refrigerator influence the acoustic
field created in the resonator. There are many design constraints such as porosity of
the heat exchanger and high heat transfer coefficient for efficiency. Due to these
constraints, special kind of heat exchangers are used. One typical micro channel
aluminum heat exchanger is shown below.

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Fig 5 aluminium heat exchanger(wikibooks)

5.4 RESONATOR
This part of refrigerator which is only there for maintaining the acoustic wave.
Because it is a dead volume which causes heat loss and adds bulk, quarter wavelength
resonators are preferred over half wavelength.

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CHAPTER 6
WORKING

Fig 6 P-V diagram (GSET Research Journal 2006)


Starting from point 1, the packet of gas is compressed and moves to the left.
As the packet is compressed, the sound wave does work on the packet of gas,
providing the power for the refrigerator. When the gas packet is at maximum
compression, the gas ejects the heat back into the stack since the temperature of the
gas is now higher than the temperature of the stack. This phase is the refrigeration
part of the cycle, moving the heat farther from the bottom of the tube.
In the second phase of the cycle, the gas is returned to the initial state. As the
gas packet moves back towards the right, the sound wave expands the gas. This
process results in a net transfer of heat to the left side of the stack. Finally, in step 4,
the packets of gas reabsorb heat from the cold reservoir to repeat the heat transfer
process.

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CHAPTER 7
EXPERIMENTAL STUDY AND RESULTS
7.1 INFLUENCING FACTORS
1.Penetration Depth
The thermal penetration depth corresponds to the thickness of the layer around
the stack plate through which the heat can diffuse during a complete oscillating cycle
of a gas parcel. It is defined as

=
where K is thermal conductivity of the gas, Cp is specific heat per unit mass at
constant pressure,

is the density of gas at the mean temperature(Tm), and

is the

angular velocity.
At a distance greater than the thermal penetration depth from the plate, the gas
does not feel any thermal effects of the plate. In other words, the heat exchange
between the gas parcel and the stack plate occurs only at a distance less than the
penetration depth from the stack plate.
The optimal value for spacing between the stack layers is

to

2. Viscous Depth
The viscous penetration depth is the thickness of the layer around the stack
plate where the viscous effects are significant. It is defined as

=
where

is dynamic viscosity of the gas.


The viscous effects are not desirable for the thermoacoustic process. The

viscous effect decreases as the distance from the solid boundary i.e. the stack plate
increases. However, away from the solid boundary, the thermal contact between the
gas and the stack plate decreases which reduces the thermoacoustic heat transfer.

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3.Mean pressure
Since the power density in a thermoacoustic device is proportional to the
average pressure pm, it is favourable to choose pm as large as possible. This is
determined by the mechanical strength of the resonator. On the other hand, k is
inversely proportional to square root of pm, so a high pressure results in a small k
and a small stack plate spacing. This makes the construction difficult.
4.Drive ratio
It is the ratio of the dynamic pressure amplitude to the mean pressure.
D=

5.Normalised stack position

xn=

xs

6.Normalised stack length

Lsn=

Ls

7.Blockage ratio

B=
where

is half the spacing between the stack and l is half the thickness of the stack.

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7.2 EXPERIMENTAL PARAMETERS

7.3EXPERIMENTAL SETUP
The experimental system in general can be broken down into (a) the
thermoacoustic refrigerating system, (b) the test section and (c) the data acquisition
system. There are a number of valves in the system for effecting operations such as
charging and vacuuming the system, water-cooling and controls for running the
experiments.
The refrigerating system consists mainly of the resonator tube or resonator,
the stack, the acoustic driver and the heat exchangers. An electrical resistance heater
arrangement was located at the cold side of the resonator to supply the variable load
for the refrigerating system. An audio generator with frequency range from 10 Hz to
1 MHz was used to produce the sound that was transferred to the amplifier. The
amplified sound is transferred to the acoustic driver which powers the thermoacoustic
system. Fluid inside the resonator interacts with the stack plates which are aligned in
the direction of vibration of the standing waves.

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The test section involves specific parts of the system were the measurements
were made. Fig 7 illustrates the locations of thermocouples in the system. One
thermocouple was installed near the electric heater, one was installed at the surface of
the acoustic driver, two were each installed at the inlet and outlet of the heat
exchanger and one was installed at the middle of the resonator tube. All the
thermocouples installed inside the vacuum vessel (labelled in Fig 7 as vessel
addition), were type-T Teflon insulated. These were capable of measuring from low
temperatures up to 300 C. Outside the vacuum vessel, the thermocouples used were
type-T Nylon insulated.
The data acquisition system includes thermocouples, pressure

transducer,

oscilloscope, flow meter, data acquisition board and a personal computer for the data
display. In Fig 7, T, M and P stand for temperature, mass flow and pressure
connections, respectively

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Fig 7 Experimental setup


Experiments were conducted to investigate the thermal response of the system
under various operating conditions. The mean pressure was set initially at the lowest
pressure of 3 bars to begin the experiments. The desired frequency was selected and
then increased slowly from the minimum to the maximum value for the course of
each of the experiments. The cooling load which was controlled using resistance
heating in place of the cold side heat exchanger was initially set at a constant load.
For each experiment, the data readings were taken from the initial time until
conditions became stable. The frequency was then set at the next level and the
experiment was repeated. After running the experiments for the desired frequency
range, the pressure was adjusted to 4bars and the experiment was repeated for the
same set of frequencies and cooling load. Further experiments were performed for
pressure values of 5 bars and 6 bars. The experiments were also repeated in the same
way for various values of the cooling load from the selected lowest cooling load to
the highest. The results show the ranges of the operational parameters.

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7.4 EXPERIMENTAL RESULT

Fig 8 Temperature-time history(at the hot end of the stack) for constant cooling load
and mean pressure for various frequencies

Fig 9 Temperature-time history(at the hot end of the stack) for constant mean
pressure and frequency and variable load

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Fig 10 Temperature-frequency history(at the hot end of the stack) for constant mean
pressure and variable load

Fig 11 Temperature difference at the ends of the stack at constant frequency verses
mean pressure

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Fig 12 Cooling load verses temperature difference at the ends of the stack at constant
frequency and mean pressure

Fig 13 Temperature difference at the ends of the stack verses frquency for constant
cooling load and mean pressure

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7.5 EXPERIMENTAL CONCLUSION


1.The temperature difference between the hot end and cold end of the stack ranged
from 0C to 15C.
2. Cooling load increases with the increase in the temperature difference between the
two ends of the stack.
3. For a thermoacoustic refrigerating system, there exist for a given frequency, an
optimum pressure that results in a higher cooling temperature difference and thus a
higher cooling load. This frequency is the resonance frequency.

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CHAPTER 8
CONCLUSION
Thermoacoustic engines and refrigerators were already being considered a
few years ago for specializer application, where their simplicity, lack of lubrication
and their use of environmentally harmless working fluids were adequate
compensation for their lower efficiencies. This latest breakthrough, coupled with
other developments in the design of high power, single frequency loud speakers and
reciprocating electric generators suggests that thermoacoustics may soon emerge as
an environmentally attractive way to power hybrid electric vehicles, capture solar
energy, refrigerate food, air condition buildings, liquefy industrial gases and serve in
other capacities.
In future let us hope that these thermoacoustic devices which promise to
improve standard of living while helping to protect the planet by completely
eliminating the use of refrigerants.

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REFERENCES
1. Tasnim S.H.,S. Mahmud,R.A.Fraser, Effects of variation in working fluids and
operating conditions on the performance of a thermoacoustic refrigerator.
International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 39, 2012, 762-768
2. Emmanuel C. Nsofor,Azrai Ali, Experimental study on the performance of the
thermoacoustic refrigerating system. Applied Thermal Engineering 29, 2009, 26722679.
3. Jonathan Newman, Thermoacoustic refrigeration, GSET Research Journal 2006,
1-8.
4. www.wikipedia.org

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