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Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511


www.elsevier.com/locate/buildenv

Experimental study on dehumidier and regenerator of liquid desiccant


cooling air conditioning system
Yonggao Yin, Xiaosong Zhang, Zhenqian Chen
School of Energy and Environment, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China
Received 15 November 2005; received in revised form 17 February 2006; accepted 4 July 2006

Abstract
A new type of air conditioning system, the liquid desiccant evaporation cooling air conditioning system (LDCS) is introduced in this
paper. Desiccant evaporation cooling technology is environmental friendly and can be used to condition the indoor environment of
buildings. Unlike conventional air conditioning systems, the system can be driven by low-grade heat sources such as solar energy and
industrial waste heat with temperatures between 60 and 80 1C. In this paper, a LDCS, as well as a packed tower for the regenerator and
dehumidier is described. The effects of heating source temperature, air temperature and humidity, desiccant solution temperature and
desiccant solution concentration on the rates of dehumidication and regeneration are discussed. Based on the experimental results, mass
transfer coefcients of the regeneration process were experimentally obtained. The results showed that the mean mass transfer coefcient
of the packing regenerator was 4 g/(m2 s). In the experiments of dehumidication, it was found that there was maximal tower efciency
with the suitable inlet humidity of the indoor air. The effective curves of heating temperature on the outlet parameters of the regenerator
were obtained. The relationships of regeneration mass transfer coefcient as a function of heating temperature and desiccant
concentration are introduced.
r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Desiccant cooling; Dehumidier; Regenerator; Experimental study; Packing tower; Air conditioning

1. Introduction
Many papers on energy sources and environment
research have been published since refrigeration and air
conditioning equipment became widely used during the last
decades. The conventional air conditioning equipment
consumed large amounts of electrical energy and caused
serious electricity tension on hot summer days. Whats
more, the air handling in air conditioning systems was
moist because of the dehumidication process in summer,
so bacteria were easily propagated and developed. In
addition, the air humidity in most central air conditioning
systems is seldom controlled; this causes people to feel
uncomfortable in such air conditioning rooms. Solar
energy-driven liquid desiccant cooling air conditioning
systems (LDCS) can improve indoor air quality and reduce
electrical energy consumption, and have been regarded
Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 025 83792722.

E-mail address: minigao_79@hotmail.com (Y. Yin).


0360-1323/$ - see front matter r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2006.07.009

highly by researchers and engineers in recent years. The


principle of their operation has been known for years. In
the dehumidication process, the strong desiccant solution
that has been brought into contact with the air absorbs the
moisture from the air and gets diluted. After that, the
desiccants must be regenerated to a useful level of
concentration. Desiccant solutions such as LiClH2O can
be regenerated below temperatures of 80 1C for which heat
resources with low temperatures, such as solar energy and
industrial exhaust gas can be utilized.
A liquid desiccant cooling system using solar energy was
put forward rstly by Lof [1]. Many studies in the area had
been conducted since then. Factor and Grossman investigated a packed bed dehumidier/regenerator for solar
conditioning with liquid desiccant, and developed a
theoretical model to predict the performance of the packed
bed dehumidier and regenerator under various operating
conditions [2]. In addition, a renement apparatus
arrangement was introduced. Kessling carried out the
experiments for absorbers using LiCl and reported the

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Y. Yin et al. / Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511

Nomenclature
at
specic surface area of packing, m2/m3
aw
effective wetted surface area of packing, m2/m3
Mde
dehumidication rate, g/s
Mair,de air mass ow rate at the dehumidier, kg/s
Msol,de solution mass ow rate at the dehumidier, g/s
g
acceleration of gravity, m/s2
W
air humidity ratio, g/kg
D
diameter of the packing, m
H
height of the packing, m
L
supercial desiccant ow rate, kg/m2 s
Gair
mass ux of air, g/s
Gsol
mass ux of solution desiccant, g/s
Gsol/Gair the ratio between air and solution mass ux
X
desiccant concentration, kg/kg
Mreg
regeneration rate, g/s
Mair,reg air mass ow rate at the regenerator, kg/s
Msol,reg solution mass ow rate at the regenerator, g/s
Mair,eva air mass ow rate at the evaporator, kg/s

energy storage idea using the liquid desiccants [3]. Lazzarin


investigated both experimentally and theoretically the
chemical dehumidication of air by liquid desiccants for
air conditioning and industrial applications, and the
solutions H2O/LiBr and H2O/CaCl2 were used as liquid
desiccants [4]. Data were reported and compared against
the results of computer simulations. In addition, Goswami
investigated an aqueous lithium chloride desiccant system,
mostly on the processes of air dehumidication and
desiccant regeneration and some typical data were
obtained [5,6]. Grossman did some experimental research
on the performance of LDCS and some useful experimental results were obtained [7,8]. Recently, more investigations in this eld were carried out with greater attention
paid to the liquid desiccant cooling system [9,10]. In
addition, the computer simulation of the liquid desiccant
system is important to evaluate its potential quantitatively
and to analyze the cycle congurations and performance
under varying working conditions and parameters. In
conducting the simulation processes, the mass transfer
coefcients are indispensable. Also during changing
operational conditions, sufcient practical data should be
available to direct the practical running of the system. In
fact, the detailed experimental data about packed-tower
bed dehumidiers and regenerators are not sufcient and
complete.
In this paper, an experimental investigation into the
performance of a packed-tower regenerator, including its
mass transfer coefcients with the heating temperatures from
55 to 80 1C and the effect of heating temperatures on outlet
parameters of the regenerator is reported. The dehumidier
performance was studied under different operating conditions. The results will be valuable to the system optimizing
operation under the specied conguration.

Tai
Th

inlet temperature of the air, 1C


temperature of heat source, 1C

Greek letters
g
m
r
areg
etower

surface tension, N/m


viscosity, N/m2
density, kg/m3
mass transfer coefcient of regenerator, g/m2 s
efciency of the packing tower

Subscripts
sol
air
in
out
equ
c
L

desiccant solution
air
inlet
outlet
equilibrium
critical
liquid desiccant

2. Experimental apparatus and procedure


The schematic diagram of the experimental facility is
shown in Fig. 1. Both air and concentrated desiccant lm
enter the dehumidier at low temperature, and the water
vapor content is transferred from the air to the desiccant
lm. In the regenerator, the air temperature is low and the
diluted desiccant is heated to a high temperature by heat
source producer equipment. The air and the desiccant lm
enter into the regenerator and water vapor is transferred
from the desiccant solution to the air. The heat producer
equipment can simulate all sources of low-grade heat. The
main components of the dehumidier and the regenerator
are the most challenging tasks in developing the experimental system. Here both regenerator and dehumidier
have the structure of a packed tower. The regenerator is
constructed as a tower of 70 cm in diameter (D) and 80 cm
in height (H) with specic surface area of 16.9 m2/m3. The
transparent dehumidier is cuboid with 100 cm in length,
60 cm in width and 45 cm in height, and its specic surface
area is 315 m2/m3. In order to distribute the desiccant over
the packing, four spray heads are used in the dehumidier
and regenerator. There are two desiccant storage tanks and
two pumps in this system. One tank is used for storing
diluted LiCl/H2O solution while the other is for the
concentrating liquid desiccant. The temperatures of air
and liquid desiccant are measured by K-type thermocouples with an accuracy of 70.1 1C. Similarly, the wet bulb
temperature of the air is measured by the K-type
thermocouple wrapped with wet gauze. Using the dry
and wet bulb temperatures of the air, the humidity
and relative humidity of the air can be obtained.
The desiccant is maintained at a constant temperature by
a PID temperature controller and concentration in a

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Y. Yin et al. / Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511

2507

Evaporative
Cooler
Regenerator

Flow meter
Dehumidifier
Ambient Air
Heat Exchanger

Pump

Ambient
Water
Valve

Flow meter

Desiccant
Storage
Pump
Heater

Temper ature Control


Unit
Fig. 1. Experimental facility of liquid desiccant cooling air conditioning system.

Table 1
Specication of the different measuring devices
Devices

Type

Accuracy

Range

Thermometers
Air ow meter
Solution ow meter
Heater
Measuring cylinder
Electronic balance

Thermocouple K
Swirl gas ow meter LUX-150I2-II
Glass rotameter
TYR-15

YB1201

0.1 1C
0.01 m3/h
10 L/h

5 ml
0.1 g

10120 1C
1502250 m3/h
60600 L/h
15 kW
50500 ml
01200 g

stainless-steel tank. The main features of the different


measuring devices in the experimental system are shown in
Table 1. All data of temperatures of air and solution are
collected into the computer by data acquisition instrumentAgilent 34970A.

For the desiccant solution, its concentration decreases from


Xin to Xout, and therefore the dehumidication mass rate
can alternatively be described as


X in
M de M sol;de
1 ,
(2)
X out

3. Methodology

where Msol,de is the solution mass ow rate at the


dehumidier inlet, Xin, Xout are the desiccant solution
concentrations at the dehumidier inlet and outlet.
By the same method, to depict the regenerator performance, the regeneration mass rate Mreg (g/s) is dened by
the amount of water mass rate evaporating from the
solution to the air.

In the liquid desiccant evaporative cooling air conditioning system the dehumidier and regenerator are very
important components. In order to describe the performance of the dehumidier, the parameter dehumidication
mass rate Mde (g/s) is dened by the rate of water
transferring from the air to solution:
M de M air;de W in  W out ,

(1)

where Mair,de is the air mass ow rate at the dehumidier


inlet, Win is the air humidity in the dehumidier inlet and
Wout is the air humidity at the dehumidier outlet. These
parameters can be measured by the experimental system.

M reg M air;reg W out  W in ,

(3)



X in
M reg M sol;reg 1 
,
X out

(4)

where Mair,reg is the air mass ow rate at the regenerator


inlet, Win is the air humidity at the regenerator inlet and

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Y. Yin et al. / Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511

Wout is the air humidity at the regenerator outlet. Msol,reg is


the solution ow rate at the regenerator inlet. Xout, Xin are
the desiccant solution concentration at the regenerator
outlet and inlet.
The mass transfer coefcient of the regenerator between
the air and desiccant solution is dened as regeneration
mass rate per unit area. It is assumed that the interfacial
area is the same for heat and mass transfer, and is equal to
the specic surface area of the packing. Because of the high
surface tension of LiCl solution the packing is wetted
insufciently causing a considerable reduction of the area
for mass transfer. To estimate the efcient wet area, an
equation for wetted surface area proposed by Goswami
(2002) is used [5]:
"
 0:75 

aw
gc
L 0:1
1  exp 1:45
at m L
at
gL
 2 0:05 
0:2 #
L at
L2
 2
.
5
rL gL at
rL g
This equation takes in to account the liquid surface tension
and the surface energy of packing materials. Here at is
specic surface area of packing about 17 m2/m3 for the
regenerator and 315 m2/m3 for the dehumidier. The
parameter aw is the effective wetted surface area of
packing. The mass transfer coefcient of regenerator
between air and liquid desiccant is described as follows:
areg

M sol;reg 1  X in =X out
.
aw p=4D2 H

(6)

The performance of the dehumidier can be evaluated by


specic tower efciency as the ratio between the absolute
value of the actual humidity change of the air and the
absolute value of the maximum humidity change possible
under the conditions:
tower

W in  W out
,
W in  W out;equ

(7)

where Win and Wout are the humidity ratios of the air at the
inlet and outlet of the tower. Wout,equ is the humidity ratio
of the air, which is in equilibrium with the desiccant
solution at the conditions.

on regenerator performance, such as the effect of heating


temperature on mass transfer coefcient of the regenerator
and on the humidity increment of the ambient air, and the
effect of temperature of the inlet solution on the outlet
parameters of the regenerator, were rstly conducted.
Experiments on dehumidier performance, such as the
effect of humidity of the moist air on condensation and
effect of the inlet air temperature on condensation of water
vapor in constant concentration of solution and humidity
of the air, were also conducted. The main operating
conditions of the experimental tests, such as the air inlet
temperature Tair,in, humidity Win, solution inlet temperature Tsol,in, concentration Xin, air mass ux Ga, solution
mass ux Gs, and the ratio between air and solution mass
ow rates Gs/Ga, are shown in Table 2.
The effect of heating temperatures on mass transfer
coefcients between air and the desiccant lm is shown in
Fig. 2. The mass transfer coefcients obviously increase
with increasing heating temperature. But the mass transfer
coefcients decrease with increasing concentration of the
desiccant solution. Results show that the average value of
mass transfer coefcient of the packing-tower regenerator
is about 4 g/(m2 s). When the desiccant solution mass
concentration is 20% and heating temperature is 77.5 1C,
the maximal mass transfer coefcient is 7.5 g/(m2 s). The
data results are important for the practical design of the
key regenerator component, as well as quantitative data for
its performance. From the experimental data, the average
mass transfer coefcient in terms of heating temperature
and liquid desiccant concentration for the packed tower

Mass transfer coefficient / (g/(m2 s))

2508

28%
20%

Desiccant : LiCl / H2O

5
4
3
2
1

4. Results and discussion

55

The effects of inlet parameters on outlet parameters of


the regenerator and dehumidier are studied. Experiments

60

65
70
Heating Temperature /C

75

80

Fig. 2. Effect of heating temperature on mass transfer coefcient.

Table 2
Operational conditions of experimental tests
Test

Desiccant

Tair,in (1C)

Win (g/kg)

Tsol,in (1C)

Xin (%salt)

Gair (g/s)

Gsol (g/s)

Gsol/Gair

Regeneration
Dehumidication

H2O/LiCl
H2O/LiCl

3036
28.534.5

1420
11.818.5

5580
2530

2030
3840

97.68
74.9

71
104.2

0.7269
1.3912

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Y. Yin et al. / Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511

regenerator were correlated in the following relations:


areg  234:53989 11:11492T h  0:17487T 2h
9:20914  104 T 3h

X 28%,

areg  341:53136 16:18758 T h  0:25523 T 2h


0:00135 T 3h

X 20%.

In the regeneration processes changing humidity of the


ambient air, which means increasing or decreasing of
regeneration ratio, is shown in Fig. 3. In these experimental
tests, the humidity of the inlet air is varied from 11.5 to
35 g/kg, and its temperature is 28.5 1C. The desiccant
solution temperatures are in the range from 55 to 70 1C.
The solution outlet temperatures range between 39.5 and
43 1C, and the air outlet temperatures range between 32
and 35 1C. Effects of the heating temperature on the outlet
parameters of the regenerator are shown in Fig. 4. The air
humidity increment depends on the heating temperature.

35
30
25

The outlet temperatures of the air and desiccant solution


increase slightly with the heating temperatures.
The effect of humidity of the air on the dehumidication
rate for the dehumidifying experimental tests is shown in
Fig. 5. Under the operational conditions of 40% desiccant
solution concentration and 70% inlet air relative humidity,
the results of dehumidication rate changing with the
humidity of inlet air are shown in Fig. 5(a). From the
graph, the dehumidication rate increases with increasing
humidity of the inlet air. Fig. 5(b) also shows dehumidication rate changing with the different humidity of inlet
air at Xin 40% and Tair,in 27.5 1C. From the graph, the
dehumidication rate increases obviously with increasing
humidity of the inlet air. The dehumidication rate in
terms of inlet air humidity is correlated in the following
relation:
M de 111:51566  22:99696 W air;in
1:53792W 2air;in  0:0329 W 3air;in .

10

From Fig. 5, when the inlet air humidity is less than


12.1 g/kg, the dehumidication rate increment with the air
inlet humidity (Wair,in) is almost linear, and the rate of
change of the dehumidication rate DM de =DW air is very
small, but subsequently increases with continual increase of
humidity of the inlet air till it reaches 16.8 g/kg. So the
second derivative with the respect to the inlet air humidity is
d2 M de
0.
dW 2

20
15
10
55

60

65

70

75

80

Heating temperature /C
Fig. 3. Effect of heating temperature on humidity increase.

It is found that there is an inexion in the curve, which


indicates the specic tower efciency of the dehumidier.
Therefore there is maximal tower efciency for a specic
dimension packing-tower dehumidier when the humidity
of the inlet air is adjusted to a suitable value. This is very
important in the design of a packing-tower dehumidier. In
the experiment, the maximum value of specic tower

70.0
65.0
Heating Source
60.0
Temperature / C

Humidity increase / g. kg-1

36

2509

55.0
50.0
45.0

Solution

40.0

Outlet Air

35.0
Inlet Air

30.0
25.0
15:21

15:36

15:50

16:04

16:19

16:33

16:48

17:02

17:16

17:31

Time
Fig. 4. Effect of heating temperature on the outlet parameters of the regenerator.

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Y. Yin et al. / Building and Environment 42 (2007) 25052511

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Concentration 40%

0.30

0.150
0.145

0.28
Dehumidification / g/s

Dehumidification / g/s

Relative Humidity 70%

0.26
0.24
0.22

Concentration 40%
Inlet Air Temperature 27.6C

0.140
0.135
0.130
0.125
0.120
0.115

0.20

0.110
0.18
11.8

16.2 16.4 16.6 16.8 17.0 17.2 17.4 17.6 17.8 18.0 18.2
Humidity of inlet air /g/kg

(a)

12.0

(b)

12.2

12.4

12.6

12.8

13.0

Humidity of inlet air / g/kg

Fig. 5. Effect of humidity of the air on dehumidication ratio. (a) Constant concentration and relative humidity and (b) constant concentration and
temperature of the air.

0.105
Concentration 40%
Dehumidification / g/s

0.100

Humidity 11.35 g/kg

0.095
0.090
0.085
0.080
0.075
0.070
29

30

31

32

33

34

35

Inlet Air Temperature /C

process with packing tower structure by the liquid


desiccant H2O/LiCl. The air conditioning system utilizes
low-grade heat such as solar energy, and can provide
comfortable air temperature and humidity with good
indoor air quality. Water is used as the refrigerant so that
it is environmentally friendly.
From the results of experiments, the average mass
transfer coefcient of the packing regenerator is 4 g/
(m2 s). In the experiments of dehumidication, it is found
that there is maximal tower efciency at a suitable
humidity of the inlet air. Effective relations of heating
temperature with the outlet parameters of the regenerator
are obtained. The dehumidier and regenerator are the key
components of the new type of healthy air conditioning
system-liquid desiccant evaporation cooling system, and
the measured data for them is presented in this paper.

Fig. 6. Effect of the inlet air temperature on the dehumidication ratio.

efciency of the dehumidier is achieved when the inlet air


humidity is 15.6 g/kg.
Fig. 6 shows the effect of the inlet air temperature on the
dehumidication rate at the concentration of 40% and
humidity of 11.35 g/kg for the dehumidifying experimental
test. The experimental result shows that the dehumidication rate of the air decreases from 0.104 to 0.073 g/s when
the temperature of the inlet air changes from 29 to 34.1 1C.
The dehumidication rate in terms of inlet air-dry bulb
temperature is correlated in the following relation:
M de  11:09394 1:09123 T air;in  0:03523 T 2air;in
3:76415  104 T 3air;in .

11

5. Conclusions
This paper presents the experimental research on the
sorption dehumidication of air and solution regeneration

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the grants from the fund
of National Natural Science Foundation of China under
the Contract no. 50376052 and the Foundation for
Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of Southeast University.
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