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Refrigeration

and Air
Conditioning

Absorptio
n Cycle
and
properties
of
refrigerant
s
The Absorption Cycle was invented in 1846 by Ferdinand Carr for the purpose of
producing ice with heat input. It is based on the principle that absorbing ammonia
in water causes the vapor pressure to decrease. Absorption cycles produce cooling
and/or heating with thermal input and minimal electric input, by using heat and
mass exchangers, pumps and valves.

An absorption cycle can


be viewed as a mechanical vapor-compression cycle, with the compressor
replaced by a generator, absorber and liquid pump. The absorption cycle enjoys
the benefits of requiring a fraction of the electrical input, plus uses the natural
substances ammonia and water, instead of ozone depleting halocarbons. The
absorption cycle enjoyed widespread use from the 1920s as gas powered
refrigerators/ice-makers.

The basic operation of an ammonia-water absorption cycle is as follows. Heat is


applied to the generator, which contains a solution of ammonia water, rich in
ammonia. The heat causes high pressure ammonia vapor to desorb the solution.

Heat can either be from combustion of a fuel such as clean-burning natural gas, or
waste heat from engine exhaust, other industrial processes, solar heat, or any
other heat source. The high pressure ammonia vapor flows to a condenser,
typically cooled by outdoor air. The ammonia vapor condenses into a high pressure
liquid, releasing heat which can be used for product heat, such as space heating.

The high pressure ammonia liquid goes through a restriction, to the low pressure
side of the cycle. This liquid, at low pressures, boils or evaporates in the
evaporator. This provides the cooling or refrigeration product. The low pressure
vapor flows to the absorber, which contains a water-rich solution obtained from the
generator.

This solution absorbs the ammonia while releasing the heat of absorption. This
heat can be used as product heat, or for internal heat recovery in other parts of the
cycle, thus unloading the burner and increasing cycle efficiency. The solution in the
absorber, now once again rich in ammonia, is pumped to the generator, where it is
ready to repeat the cycle.

An absorption cycle can use a variety of working pairs. The working pair is made
up of a refrigerant, typically ammonia or water; and a solution which absorbs the
refrigerant. Other working pairs include lithium-bromide-water; TriDroxide-water;
and Alkitrate-water. Tridroxide and Alkitrate are Energy Concepts patented working
pairs with specialty applications in industry.

Absorption cycles can operate at high efficiency by utilizing advanced cycles, using
generator-absorber heat exchange, multiple pressures, and multiple effects. These
cycles use extensive internal heat recovery to require less prime fuel input to
produce the same thermal output. High efficiency operation, plus benefits of
environmentally friendly refrigerants, clean-burning fuels, and few moving parts
requiring maintenance make absorption a very good choice for consumers.

Absorption cycles can produce a variety of thermal outputs. In common


commercial use today are gas-fired absorption chillers, which produce chilled water
for space cooling applications. The absorption cycle can produce low temperature
cooling for ice production or cold storage.

Turbine inlet cooling is a very efficient use of absorption cooling, boosting turbine
efficiency by up to 15%. Many other applications exist in industry, where waste
heat is available and cooling is required. Advanced cycles can also produce
electrical or shaft power by producing steam or high pressure vapor to power a
turbine/generator pair.

Absorption cycle theory

As well as a refrigerant, an absorption system needs an absorbent solution and


various pairs of fluids are available. For air conditioning applications operating with
evaporating temperatures above 0C, lithium bromide solution is the absorbent,
while water is the refrigerant. Below 0C, the most common pairing is water as the
absorbent and ammonia as the refrigerant. In this article, only the air conditioning
case is considered.
Figure 2 : Temperature/pressure/concentration data for lithium bromide
solution

Lithium bromide is a solid salt crystal that readily absorbs water vapour (it is used
to keep electronic equipment like cameras free of moisture), eventually becoming a
liquid solution of lithium bromide and water. This solution exerts a water vapour
pressure that is a function of the solution temperature and concentration. These
temperature/pressure/ concentration properties are shown in Figure 2 for lithium
bromide/water solutions.

For example, a lithium bromide solution at 50% concentration and 25C would
have a vapour pressure of 0.87kPa. This is a typical condition for the solution in the
absorber vessel in Figure 1. Connected to the absorber is the evaporator,
containing water as refrigerant, which we would like to be at a saturation
temperature of 5C for producing chilled water at say 7C. If the evaporator
temperature starts at 7C, its vapour pressure as pure water is 1.0kPa and for
equilibrium between the evaporator and absorber to be achieved, water would
have to evaporate in the evaporator and condense into the solution in the absorber.
Provided that a fresh supply of lithium bromide solution at 25C is continuously
available, the process could go on indefinitely and the water in the evaporator
would evaporate until its vapour pressure drops to about 0.87kPa, and a
temperature of 5C, cooling the chilled water. The lithium bromide solution acts like
a compressor in drawing off refrigerant vapour, in this case water, from the
evaporator, causing the pressure and saturation temperature to reduce to the
required cooling temperature. This process is the basic principle by which the
absorption cycle operates.

To complete the cycle shown in Figure 1, the weak solution in the absorber is
pumped to a generator, where external heat is applied to boil off or vaporise the
water from the solution. This results in the water (refrigerant) vapour leaving the
generator and being condensed in a water or air cooled condenser, back to a
liquid. Its pressure is then reduced before feeding back into the evaporator to
continue the cooling process. Meanwhile, the now strong solution in the generator
is fed back to the absorber, also reducing in pressure as it goes and continuing the
absorption process.

The energy flows in Figure 1 indicate:

The cooling duty heat input is to the evaporator; and

Heat is generated by the absorption process and this heat has to be


removed;
The heat input at the generator will be the heat source selected; and

The heat rejected from the condenser produces the condensation of the
refrigerant (water).

The only electrical input is for circulating pumps (see figure 3) and control valves.
Note that the removal of heat from the absorber and condenser can be by ambient
air in small absorption units and are available as air cooled, air cooling units up to
about 80kW cooling duty. Perhaps the most common absorption application since
its conception has been in domestic refrigeration, where a system has been
developed that has no electrical requirement and the system is driven by gas. In
building services applications it is more common to find large capacity absorption
plant, chilling water and rejecting heat through water cooled condensers and
absorbers by cooling tower/ dry cooler water, passing through the absorber first,
then the condenser.

For maximum heat exchange contact in the evaporator, the refrigerant pump
sprays refrigerant water over the chilled water tubing similarly in the absorber,
where solution is sprayed over the heat rejection tubing. The heat exchanger
improves the efficiency between absorption and generation.

It should be noted that heat rejection from absorption systems will be greater than
that for an equivalent vapour compression system, because of the cooling required
in the absorber about 2.5 times the cooling capacity, for air conditioning
applications, which means larger heat rejection equipment.

Operation and performance

In a typical absorption system producing chilled water, the evaporating temperature


might be 5C, chilling water to about 7C, and a condensing temperature of 40C.
The absorber will be at a temperature of about 25C. The solution is pumped to the
generator, where heat is supplied at a temperature ranging from 80C to 140C,
say 100C, driving the refrigerant from the solution to the condenser. The
interesting feature of using water as the refrigerant is the low pressures within the
system. In the evaporator and absorber the pressure will be 0.87kPa for an
evaporating temperature of 5C. In the condenser and generator the pressure will
be 7.38kPa corresponding to a condensing temperature of 40C. In other words the
whole system operates well below atmospheric pressure. This means that any
point of leakage in the components will result in air being drawn into the absorption
system, which will reduce cooling capacity or at worst stop the process altogether.
Properties of refrigerants
n Low boiling point and high latent heat of vaporization
n Dense vapor
n Low toxicity
n Non flammable
n Low miscibility with oil
n Low cost
Ammonia
n Has good heat transfer properties
n Not miscible with oil
n But
n Toxic
n Flammable
n Corrosive to copper pipes
Carbon dioxide
n Non toxic
n Non flammable
n But
n Higher cost

Halogens (freons)
n Non toxic
n Non flammable
n Have good heat transfer properties
n Lower cost
n But
n Miscible with oil
n Widely used despite miscibility
Chilling medium
n Air
n Uses forced convection
n Increases rate of heat transfer
n Water
n Direct immersion on chilled water (hydrocooling)
n Metal
n Products cooled by contact with chilled metal surface

Cryogenic cooling
n Absorbs heat directly from the product
n Uses a cryogen as the refrigerant
n Changes phase by absorption of heat
n Differs from mech. Refrigeration
n Changes phase due to change in pressure
n Most common cryogens are
n Solid carbon dioxide
n Liquid carbon
Cook chill systems
n Used to replace warm holding of foods
n Cook chill system
n Foods are prepared normally
n Chilled to 3oC within 30 min
n Completely chilled within 90 min
n Stored at 0 3oC
n Have a shelf life of 5 days
Cook chill systems
n Cook pasteurize chill system
n Hot food is packaged in a flexible container
n A partial vacuum is formed to remove oxygen
n Package is heat sealed
n Pasteurized to a min. of 80oC for 10 min
n Cooled to 3oC
n Shelf life of 2 3 weeks
Effects of Refrigeration on eating habits
n Increased availability of perishable products
n Increased variety of products available through out the country
Respiration
n Metabolic activity continues in plant tissue after harvest
n Aerobic respiration involves
n Metabolism of CHO and organic acids in the presence of atmospheric oxygen
n Produces
nCO2 , water and heat
nSmall amount of organic volatiles and other substances
Respiration
n Heat of respiration is sufficient to influence refrigeration requirement
n Rate of quality loss is associated with the rate of respiration

Respiration Rates
n Not all fruits and vegetables respire at the same rate
n Climacteric respiration
n Irregularity in rate of respiration
n Limited to certain fruits
Respiration of climacteric and non-climacteric fruits
Examples
n Climacteric
n Apples
n Avocado
n Mango
n Banana
n Orange
n Papaya
n Peach
n Plum
n Non climacteric
n Cherry
n Cucumber
n Fig
n Grape
n Grapefruit
n Lemon
n Melon
n Strawberry
Controlled and Modified Atmosphere storage
n Air is composed of:
n 78% nitrogen
n 21% oxygen
n Remainder is CO2 and other gasses
n By increasing [CO2] or decreasing [O2] can increase shelf life
CAS
n Useful for crops that
n ripen after harvest
n Deteriorate quickly
n The levels of O2 are decreased and CO2 increased to 21%
n Total concentration of O2 and CO2 are reduced to 4-5%

Limitations of CAS
n Low levels of O2 and high levels of CO2 are toxic to many foods
n Conditions may increase ethylene
n May produce off odors and flavors
n Lead to anaerobic respiration

MAS
n Stored under air tight conditions
n [O2] decreased down to 0%
n [CO2] increase up to 20%
n Limitations are the same as CAS