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Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

Design and testing of an automobile waste heat adsorption

cooling system
L.Z. Zhang*
HVAC Division, Department of Thermal Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, People's Republic of


This paper describes an experimental adsorption cooling system driven by the waste heat of a diesel
engine. Zeolite 13  ±water is used as the working pair and a ®nned double-tube heat exchanger is used
as the adsorber. To evaluate the performance of the system, some control and instrumentation facilities
are also designed. The time evolutions of the ¯uids and bed temperature are measured. The coecient
of performance and the speci®c cooling power of the prototype are obtained. Some challenges facing the
commercialization of the automobile waste heat driven adsorption cooling system are discussed. # 1999
Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

In general, diesel engines have an eciency of about 35% and thus the rest of the input
energy is wasted. In a water-cooled engine about 35 and 30% of the input energy is wasted in
the coolant and exhaust gases, respectively. Because the wasted energy represents about two-
thirds of the input energy, it is relevant to investigate various possibilities for the recovery of
such energy. Among those technologies, adsorption cooling is an excellent alternative, because
the supply of waste heat and the need for air conditioning both reach maximum levels at the
same time (just like solar refrigeration). With waste heat-driven adsorption cooling, reduction
of gas consumption and easy maintenance could also result for an automobile, compared to

* Tel.: +86-10-6277-2072; fax: +86-10-6277-0544.

E-mail address: (L.Z. Zhang)

1359-4311/00/$ - see front matter # 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 1 3 5 9 - 4 3 1 1 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 0 0 9 - 5
104 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114


COP coecient of performance

dio outer diameter of the inner tube (m)
doo outer diameter of the outer tube (m)
dp diameter of the adsorbent particles (m)
ge fuel consumption coecient (g/kWh)
H®n height of ®ns (m)
L length of the adsorbent bed (m)
me fresh air required by fuel for complete combustion (kg/kg)
mz mass of zeolite in the adsorber (kg)
mÇ wst mass ¯ow rate of waste gas (kg/s)
N shaft power of engine (kW)
Qe evaporating heat (kJ)
Qin heat transmitted from the heating ¯uid to the adsorber (kJ)
Qwst waste heat that can be recovered without dew point corrosion (kJ)
r0 radius of the inner tube (m)
r1 radius of the net (m)
SCP speci®c cooling power (W/kg adsorbent)
tcyc cycle time (s)
T temperature (K)
w water uptake (kg/kg adsorbent)
WCOP coecient of waste heat cooling
z axial coordinate (m)

Greek letters
a excess air coecient
rz density of zeolite (kg/m3)
l thermal conductivity (W/m/K)
d thickness (m)
f angle (rad)
f1 half the angle between two ®ns (rad)

ad adsorption
c condenser
e evaporator
g regenerate
®n ®n
fhi heating ¯uid inlet
fci cooling ¯uid inlet
i inner tube, inlet
inert insulation
o outer tube, outlet
L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114 105

one with a vapor compression air conditioner, which has the additional problem of CFC
The concept of automobile waste heat-driven adsorption cooling looks very attractive and a
couple of studies have already been conducted [1±3]. However, until now, very few
experimental results have been reported, most of them dealing with simulations. A successful
practical application of the system requires a sound understanding of the operational behavior
of the system, from experiments as well as from modeling.
To evaluate the system performance and investigate the challenges facing the practical
application of the system, an experimental adsorption cooling unit driven by the waste heat of
a diesel engine has been built and tested in our laboratory. It is an intermittent cycle where
exhaust gas and cooling air ¯ow through the adsorber alternately. A detailed description of the
unit and the experimental results are presented and interpreted in this paper.

2. System description

2.1. Characteristics of the engine

The engine is a four-stroke, non turbo-charged, water-cooled, direct inject diesel engine. The
standard speed of the engine is 1500 rpm. The shaft power output can be adjusted in the range
0±30 kW by adding/decreasing the load through a power gage. The rotating speed is controlled
by a computer. Performance experiments of the engine have been done to investigate the fuel
consumption coecient ge and the excess air coecient a of the engine. Then the waste gas
¯ow rate is estimated as
Nge me …1 ‡ a†
m_ wst ˆ …1†
3600  103
where N is the shaft power measured; me is the fresh air required by unit mass of fuel for
complete combustion. The value of ge is measured as 253.6 g/kWh. The excess air coecient is
deduced as 1.24 by analyzing the gas composition. For diesel engine, it has been found that the
value of me is 14.36 kg(air)/kg(oil).

2.2. The working pair

Adsorbent±adsorbate pairs usually used in adsorption cooling include zeolite±water, zeolite±

ammonia, activated carbon±methanol and silica gel±water. The zeolite±water combination is
superior when the temperature lift (adsorption-evaporating temperature) exceeds 458C [4] and
it is also the most suitable pair for air conditioning [5]. Another bene®t of using zeolite±water
is that it can withstand high regenerating temperatures. This is important since the temperature
of exhaust gas of an engine is relatively high (>2508C). In this study, synthetic zeolite 13
pallets with diameters of 2±3 mm are selected as adsorbent and distilled water is used as
The adsorption equilibrium for water in zeolite 13 are measured at various temperatures
and pressures. The equilibrium data were correlated with the linear driving force model [6] as
106 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

ln…Pz † ˆ a…weq † ‡ b…weq †=Tz …2†

a…weq † ˆ a0 ‡ a1 weq ‡ a2 w2eq ‡ a3 w3eq …3†

b…weq † ˆ b0 ‡ b1 weq ‡ b2 w2eq ‡ b3 w3eq …4†

where Tz is the adsorbent temperature (K); Pz is the pressure of the adsorber (mbar); and weq
is the equilibrium adsorption mass of water for unit mass of adsorbent. Numerical values of ai
and bi (i = 0±3) are: a0=13.4167; a1=1.1197; a2=ÿ73.205  10ÿ3; a3=1.7211  10ÿ3;
b0=ÿ7373.04; b1=ÿ67.3361; b2=0.56291; b3=ÿ3.5003  10ÿ3. These values are similar to
those presented by [7].
Using this model, the isosteres and isopars of the zeolite-13 pair are drawn in Figs. 1 and
2, respectively. They are more convenient to use than isotherms since an ideal adsorption cycle
consists of two isosteres and two isopars.

2.3. Adsorber and heat exchangers

The resistance of the adsorber to exhaust gas must be controlled to within a limit (4000±
8000 Pa for non turbo-charged engines and 2400±3000 Pa for turbo-charged engines), to
alleviate the in¯uence of waste heat recovery on an engine's performance. For this reason, one
passage of exhaust gas in the adsorber is designed. The con®gurations of the adsorber are
shown in Fig. 3. The adsorber is a 0.8 m long cylindrical steel double-tube. The heating or

Fig. 1. Isosteres of zeolite 13  ±water.

L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114 107

Fig. 2. Isopars of zeolite 13  ±water.

cooling ¯uid ¯ows through the inner tube to supply or to extract heat to/from the adsorber
that is insulated outside the outer tube. Twelve radial ®ns that are symmetrically distributed in
the adsorbent and are welded to the inner tube are used to intensify heat conduction in the
bed. And the height of the ®ns is equal to the thickness of the adsorbent. The ®ns are made in
copper. The adsorbent particles are packed outside the inner tube and between the ®ns and
surrounded by a stainless steel net to give a space for water vapor passage between the net and
the outer tube. The adsorber is alternatively heated and cooled by engine's exhaust gas and
ambient air pumped by a blower, respectively. Note that the water vapor in the adsorber can
be transferred to or from the bed radially or axially through the net which could minimize the
mass transfer resistance in adsorbent. The main characteristics of the adsorber are: dio=57 mm,
di=4 mm, doo=159 mm, do=5 mm, H®n=32 mm, d®n=0.5 mm and rz=700 kg/m3. The mass

Fig. 3. Schematic of the adsorber showing the two tubes, the ®ns, the net, the insulation and the adsorbent.
108 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

of zeolite in the adsorber is 6.2 kg and the total mass of the adsorber is 31 kg. Due to thick
insulation (linert=0.017 W/mK, dinert=50 mm) outside the adsorber, the heat ¯ux to ambient
is negligible.
The evaporator and the condenser are air-®nned-tube heat exchangers. Table 1 gives the
main characteristics of the evaporator and the condenser. Other components used in the
experimental set-up include diesel engine, power gage (0±55 kW), blower (centrifugal, 2.4 m3/
min, 30 mmH2O), graduated bottle (0±1800 ml), and fans.

2.4. Instrumentation

The heating source is the exhaust gas from the engine. Its mass ¯ow rate is estimated by the
output power of the engine with the help of Eq. (1). In the adsorbent, the temperature is
measured at ®ve di€erent positions (shown in Table 2) by a number of thermocouples (3 mm
in diameter, type K). The accuracy of temperature measurement is 0.58C. The temperature is
also measured at the inlet and outlet of the heating/cooling ¯uids, as well as near the
evaporator and the condenser. Vapor pressure is measured in the space between the adsorbent
and the outer tube, and in the condenser/evaporator, by vacuum meters. The mass of
desorbed/adsorbed adsorbate is estimated by the variations of water level in the graduated
bottle. All data acquisition is realized by a micro-computer. A real-time measurement is
realized with a data-sampling interval of 0.001 s. The data is stored in hard disk for every
2 min. The diesel engine is operated and controlled automatically through the power gage. The
placement of the components in the test rig is shown in Fig. 4.

3. The experimental procedure

3.1. Preparations

All valves are closed. Before the adsorption cooling, vacuum test and the addition of
adsorbate to the system must be done. First, the adsorber is evacuated while valves 16 and 17

Table 1
Characteristics of the evaporator and the condenser

Evaporator Condenser

Number of tubes 1 4
Number of tube passage 8 6
Length of a passage (mm) 300 160
Number of ®ns 186 53
Fin thickness (mm) 0.2 0.2
Fin spacing (mm) 2.5 2.5
Area of a ®n (mm2) 102  26 102  152
Dimensions (mm3) 300  114  52 160  102  152
L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114 109

Table 2
The positions of thermocouples in the bed

Index f/f1 (rÿr0)/(r1ÿr0) z/L

Dot 1 0.5 0.2 0

Dot 2 1 0.5 0.25
Dot 3 1 0.8 0.5
Dot 4 1 0.5 0.75
Dot 5 0.5 0.2 1.0

are closed, and valves 14 and 15 are opened. A vacuum pump is used to bring the pressure of
the system to 10 Pa. Then other parts of the system are evacuated to 10 Pa while valve 15 is
closed, and valves 16 and 17 are opened. After evacuations, valves 14, 16 and 17 are all closed.
The variations of pressure in the adsorber and other parts of the system are monitored by
vacuum meters 22 and 23, respectively. After 24 h, if those variations of pressure are smaller
than 50 Pa, then the vacuum test is passed.
Then the adsorber is heated by exhaust gas to 2008C to purge water vapor and other gases
adsorbed on zeolite in the adsorber, prior to the experiments. The adsorber is evacuated again
while valves 14 and 15 are opened. The purge process continues for about 3 h. After that,
valves are closed. Then 1.5 kg of distilled water is introduced into the graduated bottle through
valve 18. After this step, valve 18 is closed, and valves 15, 19 and 21 are opened. The blower is
started at the same time. For 12 h after that, water is adsorbed in the adsorber. Then the

Fig. 4. Schematic diagram of the test rig: (1) power gage; (2) engine; (3) blower; (4) adsorber; (5) computer; (6)
vacuum pump; (7) condenser; (8) graduated bottle; (9) evaporator; (10±13) valves; (14±21) vacuum valves; (22±23)
pressure gages; (24±32), thermocouples; (33±34) fans.
110 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

blower is stopped, and all the valves are closed. Write down the initial water level in the bottle.
It is ready now for experiments.

3.2. Desorption

The engine is started at ®rst, while valve 10 is opened, and valves 11±13 are closed. The
exhaust gas temperature is adjusted slowly to a prescribed value by increasing/decreasing the
load of the engine. Then the valves 11 and 13 are opened, and valve 10 is closed, the exhaust
gas is introduced through the inner tube of the adsorber. The pressure in the adsorber
increases with increasing bed temperature. When the pressure in adsorber exceeds the designed
condensing pressure, valves 15 and 17 are opened and the fan 33 is started. The water vapor
begins to ¯ow from the adsorber and condense in the condenser. The condensed water liquid is
then stored in the graduated bottle. When the average temperature of adsorbent is higher than
the designed regenerating temperature, the engine and the fan 33 are stopped. Then the valves
15 and 17 are closed, and the desorption process is complete. At this time, write down the
water level in the bottle again.

3.3. Adsorption

This is the second half of the whole cycle. Instantly after the desorption process, valve 10 is
opened and then valve 11 is closed, and the valves 12 and 13 are opened. The blower is started
to pump the ambient air to cool down the adsorber. The pressure in the adsorber goes down
with decreasing bed temperature. When the bed pressure goes below the evaporating pressure,
the fan 34 is started and valves 15, 16 and 19 are all opened. Water in the bottle ¯ows through
the throttle valve 21, evaporates in the evaporator, and then gets adsorbed by the adsorbent.
When the average temperature in adsorbent is smaller than the designed adsorption
temperature, the blower and the fan are stopped. All the valves are also closed. The adsorption
process is complete. The water level at this moment minus the water level instantly after the
desorption process is the variation of water level during a whole adsorption cooling cycle.

4. Results and discussion

The various heat duties are calculated by the following. The heat condensed
Qc ˆ mz L…Tc † dt …5†
des dt
The cooling production
Qe ˆ mz L…Te † dt …6†
ads dt
L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114 111

The heat transferred to the adsorber during the isosteric heating and the desorption periods is
Qin ˆ m_ wst cpwst …Twst,i ÿ Twst,o † dt …7†

The performance parameters are de®ned as: the coecient of performance,

COP ˆ Qe =Qin …8†
the speci®c cooling power during a cycle on the basis of the unit weight of adsorbent,
SCP ˆ Qe =…tcyc mz † …9†

the coecient of waste heat cooling,

WCOP ˆ Qe =Qwst …10†
where Qwst is the potential waste heat energy that can be recovered without dew point
corrosion, and it can be estimated by
Qwst ˆ cpwst mwst …Twst,i ÿ Tdew † …11†

where mwst is the total mass of exhaust gas ¯owing through the adsorber during the isosteric
heating and the desorption periods, and Tdew is the dew point temperature of the exhaust gas,
which is considered to be 1808C for a diesel engine. Among the coecients, WCOP determines
the cooling capacity an engine can produce with its exhaust gas, while SCP yields the required
size of a cooling unit.
Many tests have been conducted. One prototype test will be discussed here. Table 3 shows
the operating parameters of the engine and the cycle. Table 4 shows the results of the
corresponding experiment. The evolutions of ¯uids and bed temperature are shown in Figs. 5
and 6, respectively. To compare the experimental data with the simulated results, a three-

Table 3
Operating parameters used in the test

Symbol or name Value Unit

Engine speed 1500 rpm

Engine power 15 kW
Engine coolant inlet 63 8C
Engine coolant outlet 68 8C
Temperature of lubrication 48 8C
Tad 80 8C
Tg 200 8C
Tfhi 310 8C
Tfci 25 8C
tc 45 8C
te 10 8C
112 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

dimensional nonequilibrium model has been set up [8]. The simulated ¯uids outlet temperature
and bed temperature are also plotted in Figs. 5 and 6.
It can be shown that the agreement of the results calculated and experimentally obtained is
generally good. From Fig. 6, it is obvious that the slopes of time evolutions of bed temperature
for isosteric heating or cooling processes are much steeper than those for isobaric heating or
cooling processes. The total cycle time is 131.5 min. The adsorption process (76.5 min) is much
longer than the adsorption process (55 min), so a bigger mass ¯ow rate of cooling air from the
blower is bene®cial for an increased SCP and a shortened cycle time. From Fig. 5, we know
that the heating ¯uid (waste gas) outlet temperature increases from 255 to 2968C with a rise in
bed temperature, while the cooling ¯uid (air) outlet temperature decreases from 56 to 308C
with a decrease in bed temperature, but the temperature variation slope of the waste gas is
steeper than that of the cooling ¯uid.
The COP of the system is 0.38. Surely, the COPs can be increased with heat recovery, but it
must do so at the expense of a rise in complexity of system. For an intermittent cycle with no
internal heat recovery, the value of 0.38 can be accepted. The WCOP of the system is 0.31; and
the SCP is 25.7 W/kg.
For a standard bus (12.2 m long, 2.6 m wide, 3 m high, 49 seats) with a 207 kW diesel
engine, the cooling load is about 17.6 kW, and a conventional air conditioner weighs about
300 kg [9]. The waste heat that can be recovered through the exhaust gas from such a bus is at
least 70 kW. So a WCOP of 0.25 is required to meet the demand for cooling load and a SCP
of the order of 200 W/kg is desired to keep the bulk and cost of the equipment within the
economic limits demanded by commercial applications. From the experimental results, it is
clear that the demand of WCOP can be easily satis®ed. However, the SCP currently available
is very low. This is due to the low thermal conductivity of the bed (0.2 W/mK) and the low
wall heat transfer coecient between the bed and the exchanger (25 W/m2K). To increase the
system performance, in terms of SCP, an adsorbent with high heat transfer parameters must be
used. Fortunately, many e€orts [10±12] have been made to obtain an improved conductivity (a
value of 40 W/m/K for thermal conductivity was reported by Mauran et al. [10]), and it seems
possible that an overall heat transfer coecient of more than 100 kW/m3/K can be achieved
[13]. If so, the SCP of the system could be greatly increased.
However, the intensi®cation of heat transfer in the adsorbent bed leads in general to lower

Table 4
Experimental results of performance

Symbol Simulated Experimental Unit Error (%)

Qin 2640.1 2956.8 kJ 10.71

Qc 1340.2 1367.8 kJ 8.5
Qe 1140.1 1113.6 kJ 2.3
tcyc 130.1 131.5 min 1.1
wcyc 0.089 0.082 kg/kg 7.9
COP 0.43 0.38 13.2
SCP 26.6 25.7 W/kg 3.5
L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114 113

Fig. 5. Time evolutions of heating/cooling ¯uid outlet temperature.

permeability. Studies have shown that the system performance could be seriously deteriorated
by external mass transfer resistance if the bed's permeability is smaller than a critical value
[14]. This problem can be solved by such methods as reducing the bed dimensions and using
arteries to increase vapor passage space. It is certain that much work needs to be done.

Fig. 6. Time evolutions of bed temperature at two di€erent bed positions: Dot 1, f/f1=0.5, (rÿr0)/(r1ÿr0)=0.2, z/
L = 0; Dot 3, f/f1=1.0, (rÿr0)/(r1ÿr0)=0.8, z/L = 0.5.
114 L.Z. Zhang / Applied Thermal Engineering 20 (2000) 103±114

5. Conclusions

In this paper, an experimental intermittent adsorption cooling system driven by the exhaust
gas of a diesel engine is designed and tested. The adsorber is a double-tube pipe packed with
zeolite 13 pallets inside. To intensify heat transfer, 12 radial ®ns are welded to the inner tube.
To evaluate the performance, the control and instrumentation facilities of the test rig are also
developed. Experimental results show that this prototype can be successfully used for waste
heat driven air conditioning. The COP of the system is 0.38, and the SCP is 25.7 W/kg. For a
stationary system (like heat-cooling-electricity co-generation), these parameters may be very
encouraging. However, for a practical automobile waste heat adsorption cooling system
(mobile), the demand for WCOP is satis®ed, but for SCP (concerning bulk and cost), further
research is needed. Modi®cations to the system are being made in our laboratory.


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