Cryocool Brewing

FIG. 11-116 Propane precooled mixed-refrigerant cycle cooling curve for natural gas.

A Enthalpy

FIG. 11-116 Propane precooled mixed-refrigerant cycle cooling curve for natural gas.

coolers are generally classified as regenerative or recuperative. Regenerative coolers use reciprocating components that move the working fluid back and forth through a regenerator. The recuperative coolers, on the other hand, use countercurrent heat exchangers to accomplish the heat transfer operation. The Stirling and Gifford-McMahon cycles are typically regenerative coolers while the JouleThomson and Brayton cycles are associated with recuperative coolers.

The miniature split single-stage Stirling cooler developed by Philips Laboratories produces 5 W of cooling at 65 K with the aid of linear motors and magnetically moving parts. A smaller split Stirling cycle cooler that uses a stacked diaphragm spring rather than magnetic means to levitate the piston and displacer has been developed at Oxford University (Bradshaw, et al., Advances in Cryogenic Engineering, Vol. 31, Plenum, New York, 1986, p. 801). The promise of higher reliability has spurred interest in the pulse-tube refrigerator (PTR). In the latest version of this device, an orifice and reservoir have been added to the warm end of the pulse tube (OPTR) to permit control of the phase shift required for optimum resonance in the system.

The Joule-Thomson cycle has also benefited from creative thinking. For example, Little (6th International Cryocooler Conference, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 1989, p. 3) has introduced a new method of fabricating J-T refrigerators using a photolithographic manufacturing process in which gas channels for the heat exchangers, expansion capillary, and liquid reservoir are etched on planar, glass substrates that are fused together to form the sealed refrigerator. These microminiature refrigerators have been made in a wide range of sizes and capacities.

Mixtures of highly polar gases are receiving considerable attention for J-T cycles since the magnitude of the Joule-Thomson coefficient increases with nonideality of the gas. Little (op.cit) and Longsworth (8th International Cryocooler Conference, JPL, Vail, CO, 1994, in press) have shown considerable ingenuity with gas mixtures for J-T cycles, developing small, lightweight, low-cost, but reliable cryocool-ers for a number of applications.

Thermodynamic Analyses of Cycles The thermodynamic quality measure of either a piece of equipment or an entire process is its reversibility. The second law, or more precisely the entropy increase, is an effective guide to this degree of irreversibility. However, to obtain a clearer picture of what these entropy increases mean, it has become convenient to relate such an analysis to the additional work that is required to overcome these irreversibilities. The fundamental equation for such an analysis is

where the total work, W, is the sum of the reversible work, Wrev, plus a summation of the losses in availability for various unit operations in the analysis. Application of this method has been demonstrated numerically by Timmerhaus and Flynn (Cryogenic Process Engineering, Plenum Press, 1989, p. 175).

Numerous analyses and comparisons of refrigeration and liquefaction cycles are available in the literature. Great care must be exercised in accepting these comparisons since it is quite difficult to put all processes on a strictly comparable basis. Many assumptions need to be made in the course of the calculations, and these can have considerable effect on the conclusions. Major factors upon which assumptions generally have to be made include heat leak, temperature differences in the exchangers, efficiencies of compressors and expanders, number of stages of compression, fraction of expander work recovered, state of expander exhaust, purity and condition of inlet gases, pressure drop due to fluid flow, and so on. In view of this fact, differences in power requirements of 10 to 20 percent can readily be due to differences in assumed variables and can negate the advantage of one cycle over another. Barron (Cryogenic Systems, 2d ed., Oxford University Press, New York, 1985, p. 94] has made an analysis of some of the more common liquefaction systems described earlier that emphasize this point rather well.

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