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In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a gaseous substance into a liquid state through cooling. In so doing, the latent heat is released by the substance and transferred to the surrounding environment. Condensers are used for efficient heat rejection in many industrial systems. Condensers can be made according to numerous designs, and come in many sizes ranging from rather small (hand-held) to very large (industrial-scale units used in plant processes). For example, a refrigerator uses a condenser to get rid of heat extracted from the interior of the unit to the outside air.
Condensers are used in air conditioning, industrial chemical processes such as distillation, steam power plants and other heat-exchange systems. Use of cooling water or surrounding air as the coolant is common in many condensers.
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The earliest laboratory condenser, a "Gegenstromkühler" (counter-flow condenser), was invented in 1771 by the Swedish-German chemist Christian Weigel.By the mid-19th century, German chemist Justus von Liebig would provide his own improvements on the preceding designs of Weigel and Johann Friedrich August Göttling, with the device becoming known as the Liebig condenser.
A condenser is designed to transfer heat from a working fluid (e.g. water in a steam power plant) to a secondary fluid or the surrounding air. The condenser relies on the efficient heat transfer that occurs during phase changes, in this case during the condensation of a vapor into a liquid. The vapor typically enters the condenser at a temperature above that of the secondary fluid. As the vapor cools, it reaches the saturation temperature, condenses into liquid and releases large quantities of latent heat. As this process occurs along the condenser, the quantity of vapor decreases and the quantity of liquid increases; at the outlet of the condenser, only liquid remains. Some condenser designs contain an additional length to subcool this condensed liquid below the saturation temperature.
Countless variations exist in condenser design, with design variables including the working fluid, the secondary fluid, the geometry and the material. Common secondary fluids include water, air, refrigerants, or phase-change materials.
Condensers have two significant design advantages over other cooling technologies:
Other Types of Condensers
There are three other condensers used in HVAC systems:
Most common uses for this condenser are domestic refrigerators, upright freezers and in residential packaged air conditioning units. A great feature of the air cooled condenser is they are very easy to clean. Since dirt can cause serious issues with the condensers performance, it is highly recommended that these be kept clear of dirt.
They also require a cooling tower to conserve water. To prevent corrosion and the forming of algae, water cooled condensers require a constant supply of makeup water along with water treatment.
Depending on the application you can choose from tube in tube, shell and coil or shell and tube condensers. All are essentially made to produce the same outcome, but each in a different way.
Typically these are used in large commercial air-conditioning units. Although effective, they are not necessarily the most efficient.
For an ideal single-pass condenser whose coolant has constant density, constant heat capacity, linear enthalpy over the temperature range, perfect cross-sectional heat transfer, and zero longitudinal heat transfer, and whose tubing has constant perimeter, constant thickness, and constant heat conductivity, and whose condensible fluid is perfectly mixed and at constant temperature, the coolant temperature varies along its tube according to:
A heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from a source of heat to what is called a thermal reservoir. Heat pumps move thermal energy in the opposite direction of spontaneous heat transfer, by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. A heat pump uses external power to accomplish the work of transferring energy from the heat source to the heat sink. The most common design of a heat pump involves four main components – a condenser, an expansion valve, an evaporator and a compressor. The heat transfer medium circulated through these components is called refrigerant.
A heat exchanger is a system used to transfer heat between two or more fluids. Heat exchangers are used in both cooling and heating processes. The fluids may be separated by a solid wall to prevent mixing or they may be in direct contact. They are widely used in space heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, power stations, chemical plants, petrochemical plants, petroleum refineries, natural-gas processing, and sewage treatment. The classic example of a heat exchanger is found in an internal combustion engine in which a circulating fluid known as engine coolant flows through radiator coils and air flows past the coils, which cools the coolant and heats the incoming air. Another example is the heat sink, which is a passive heat exchanger that transfers the heat generated by an electronic or a mechanical device to a fluid medium, often air or a liquid coolant.
A dehumidifier is an electrical appliance which reduces and maintains the level of humidity in the air, usually for health or comfort reasons, or to eliminate musty odor and to prevent the growth of mildew by extracting water from the air. It can be used for household, commercial, or industrial applications. Large dehumidifiers are used in commercial buildings such as indoor ice rinks and swimming pools, as well as manufacturing plants or storage warehouses.
The Liebig condenser or straight condenser is a piece of laboratory equipment, specifically a condenser consisting of a straight glass tube surrounded by a water jacket.
A heat pipe is a heat-transfer device that combines the principles of both thermal conductivity and phase transition to effectively transfer heat between two solid interfaces.
A chiller is a machine that removes heat from a liquid via a vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycle. This liquid can then be circulated through a heat exchanger to cool equipment, or another process stream. As a necessary by-product, refrigeration creates waste heat that must be exhausted to ambience, or for greater efficiency, recovered for heating purposes. Chillers may use hermetic scroll, or semi hermetic screw, or centrifugal compressors.
A shell and tube heat exchanger is a class of heat exchanger designs. It is the most common type of heat exchanger in oil refineries and other large chemical processes, and is suited for higher-pressure applications. As its name implies, this type of heat exchanger consists of a shell with a bundle of tubes inside it. One fluid runs through the tubes, and another fluid flows over the tubes to transfer heat between the two fluids. The set of tubes is called a tube bundle, and may be composed of several types of tubes: plain, longitudinally finned, etc.
Thermosiphon is a method of passive heat exchange, based on natural convection, which circulates a fluid without the necessity of a mechanical pump. Thermosiphoning is used for circulation of liquids and volatile gases in heating and cooling applications such as heat pumps, water heaters, boilers and furnaces. Thermosiphoning also occurs across air temperature gradients such as those utilized in a wood fire chimney or solar chimney.
A surface condenser is a commonly used term for a water-cooled shell and tube heat exchanger installed to condense exhaust steam from a steam turbine in thermal power stations. These condensers are heat exchangers which convert steam from its gaseous to its liquid state at a pressure below atmospheric pressure. Where cooling water is in short supply, an air-cooled condenser is often used. An air-cooled condenser is however, significantly more expensive and cannot achieve as low a steam turbine exhaust pressure as a water-cooled surface condenser.
An absorption refrigerator is a refrigerator that uses a heat source to provide the energy needed to drive the cooling process. The system uses two coolants, the first of which performs evaporative cooling and is then absorbed into the second coolant; heat is needed to reset the two coolants to their initial states. The principle can also be used to air-condition buildings using the waste heat from a gas turbine or water heater. Using waste heat from a gas turbine makes the turbine very efficient because it first produces electricity, then hot water, and finally, air-conditioning—trigeneration. Absorption refrigerators are commonly used in recreational vehicles (RVs), campers, and caravans because they can be powered with propane fuel, rather than electricity. Unlike more common vapor-compression refrigeration systems, an absorption refrigerator can be produced with no moving parts other than the coolants.
Economizers, or economisers (UK), are mechanical devices intended to reduce energy consumption, or to perform useful function such as preheating a fluid. The term economizer is used for other purposes as well. Boiler, power plant, heating, refrigeration, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) uses are discussed in this article. In simple terms, an economizer is a heat exchanger.
Vapour-compression refrigeration or vapor-compression refrigeration system (VCRS), in which the refrigerant undergoes phase changes, is one of the many refrigeration cycles and is the most widely used method for air-conditioning of buildings and automobiles. It is also used in domestic and commercial refrigerators, large-scale warehouses for chilled or frozen storage of foods and meats, refrigerated trucks and railroad cars, and a host of other commercial and industrial services. Oil refineries, petrochemical and chemical processing plants, and natural gas processing plants are among the many types of industrial plants that often utilize large vapor-compression refrigeration systems. Cascade refrigeration systems may also be implemented using 2 compressors.
An evaporator is a device in a process used to turn the liquid form of a chemical substance such as water into its gaseous-form/vapor. The liquid is evaporated, or vaporized, into a gas form of the targeted substance in that process.
Thermodynamic heat pump cycles or refrigeration cycles are the conceptual and mathematical models for heat pumps and refrigerators. A heat pump is a mechanical system that allows for the transference of heat from one location at a lower temperature to another location at a higher temperature. Thus a heat pump may be thought of as a "heater" if the objective is to warm the heat sink, or a "refrigerator" if the objective is to cool the heat source. In either case, the operating principles are identical. Heat is moved from a cold place to a warm place.
In chemistry, a condenser is laboratory apparatus used to condense vapors — that is, turn them into liquids — by cooling them down.
A direct exchange (DX) geothermal heat pump is a type of geothermal heat pump in which refrigerant circulates through copper tubing placed in the ground. It is a closed-loop, refrigerant-based geothermal system.
HVAC is a major subdiscipline of mechanical engineering. The goal of HVAC design is to balance indoor environmental comfort with other factors such as installation cost, ease of maintenance, and energy efficiency. The discipline of HVAC includes a large number of specialized terms and acronyms, many of which are summarized in this glossary.
Pumpable ice (PI) technology is a technology to produce and use fluids or secondary refrigerants, also called coolants, with the viscosity of water or jelly and the cooling capacity of ice. Pumpable ice is typically a slurry of ice crystals or particles ranging from 5 micrometers to 1 cm in diameter and transported in brine, seawater, food liquid, or gas bubbles of air, ozone, or carbon dioxide.
The term subcooling refers to a liquid existing at a temperature below its normal boiling point. For example, water boils at 373 K; at room temperature (293 K) the water is termed "subcooled". A subcooled liquid is the convenient state in which, say, refrigerants may undergo the remaining stages of a refrigeration cycle. Normally, a refrigeration system has a subcooling stage, allowing technicians to be certain that the quality, in which the refrigerant reaches the next step on the cycle, is the desired one. Subcooling may take place in heat exchangers and outside them. Being both similar and inverse processes, subcooling and superheating are important to determine stability and well-functioning of a refrigeration system.
The Hygroscopic Cycle is a thermodynamic cycle converting thermal energy into mechanical power by the means of a steam turbine. It is similar to the Rankine cycle using water as the motive fluid but with the novelty of introducing salts and their hygroscopic properties for the condensation. The salts are desorbed in the boiler or steam generator, where clean steam is released and superheated in order to be expanded and generate power through the steam turbine. Boiler blowdown with the concentrated hygroscopic compounds is used thermally to pre-heat the steam turbine condensate, and as reflux in the steam-absorber.
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