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Joule-Thomson Valve

The temperature change of a real gas when it is forced through a valve/porous plug can be
quantified via the Joule-Thomson coefficient, 𝜇𝐽𝑇 . A positive value of 𝜇𝐽𝑇 indicates a cooling
of the fluid.
𝛿𝑇
𝜇𝐽𝑇 = ( )
𝛿𝑃 𝐻
The adiabatic expansion of the fluid may be carried out in a number of ways. The change in
temperature in the fluid during expansion depends on the initial and final pressure, but also
the way in which the expansion is carried out. Free expansion is when the internal energy of
the fluid does not change, but the temperature is lowered due to the Kinetic energy of the
fluid being converted into potential energy. If work is done on or by the fluid as it expands,
then the total internal energy does change, which is what happens in a Joule-Thomson
expansion. This can produce much larger cooling than free expansion.
In a Joule-Thomson expansion the enthalpy remains constant. The enthalpy, 𝐻, is defined
as
𝐻 = 𝑈 + 𝑃𝑉
Where 𝑈 is the internal energy, 𝑃 is the pressure and 𝑉 is the volume. Under the conditions
of a Joule-Thomson expansion, the change in 𝑃𝑉 represents the work done by the fluid. If
𝑃𝑉 increases, at constant enthalpy 𝐻, then 𝑈 must decrease as a result. This means that the
fluid experiences a reduction in temperature and results in a positive value for the Joule-
Thomson coefficient. Conversely, a decrease in 𝑃𝑉 (i.e. work is done on the fluid) means
that the internal energy increases for enthalpy to remain constant. If the increase in internal
energy is greater than the increase in potential energy (or decrease in kinetic energy) then
the temperature of the fluid will increase, and the Joule-Thomson coefficient will be negative.
For an ideal gas, 𝑃𝑉 does not change as it is throttled. As a result, there is no change in
internal energy of the fluid and thus no change in kinetic energy and consequently
temperature. However, in real gases, the quantity 𝑃𝑉 does change.
The ratio of the value of 𝑃𝑉 to that expected for an ideal gas at the exact same temperature
is called the compressibility factor, 𝑍.
The rate of change of temperature with respect to pressure 𝑃 in a Joule-Thomson process
(at constant 𝐻) is the Joule-Thomson coefficient:
𝑉 𝐾
𝜇𝐽𝑇 = (𝛼𝑇 − 1) [ ]
𝐶𝑝 𝑃𝑎

Where 𝐶𝑝 is the heat capacity at constant pressure, 𝛼 is the coefficient of thermal expansion
and 𝑇 is the absolute temperature in Kelvin.

Application
In industry and in our process, the Joule-Thomson effect is achieved by allowing the gas to
expand through a throttling device (usually a valve). This must be well insulated to prevent
any heat transfer to or from the surroundings and gas.

Thermal Expansion Valve?


Throttling (T-S Diagram)

Figure 1 T-s diagram of nitrogen. The red dome represents the two-phase region with the low-entropy side (the
saturated liquid) and the high-entropy side (the saturated gas). The black curves give the T-s relation along
isobars. The pressures are indicated in bar. The blue curves are isenthalps (curves of constant specific enthalpy).
The specific enthalpies are indicated in kJ/kg.