Review Articles

A Review of Refrigeration Methods in the Temperature Range 4–300 K

[+] Author and Article Information
Vijayaraghavan S. Chakravarthy

 Praxair, Inc., Tonawanda, NY 14150vijay_chakravarthy@praxair.com

Ramesh K. Shah

 Retired Professor Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai 400076, Indiarkshah@gmail.com

G. Venkatarathnam

 Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai 600036, Indiagvenkat@iitm.ac.in

The terminology regenerator is used for recuperator in gas turbine industry since it is a heat exchanger that recovers the thermal energy.

In two single refrigerant component cascade cycle, the condenser of low temperature cascade cycle rejects heat to the evaporator of high temperature cascade cycle in a two-fluid heat exchanger (the common heat exchanger for two cascades). Each cycle has its own compressor and expansion device; the low temperature cascade cycle has its own evaporator, and the high temperature cascade cycle has its own condenser.

An azeotrope is a mixture of two refrigerants that behaves like a single refrigerant having properties different from either of its constituents. The difference between the dew and the bubble point (condensation and boiling points) temperatures (known as glide in the refrigeration industry) is zero in the case of azeotropes, and nonzero in the case of zeotropes (also known as nonazeotropes). Zeotropes having a very small glide are also known as near azeotropes.

LCCP is an index to measure the refrigerant emission through the life of that application. For example, we continue to measure the equivalent CO2 emissions from automobiles due to air-conditioning. In current vehicles, its value ranges from about 50 tons/yr to 450 tons/yr equivalent CO2 emissions. There is no government regulation on this parameter yet in any country.

Typical COP range for auto-air-conditioning is 1.5–4 while Carnot COP is about 17.

Note that there is no condensation taking place, only single-phase heat transfer.

The inversion temperature is the temperature below which gases can cool on isenthalpic expansion from a higher pressure to a lower pressure. The inversion temperature of all gases other than hydrogen, helium, and neon is above the ambient temperature. Helium, hydrogen, and neon need to be cooled to a temperature below their inversion temperature before they can cool on isenthalpic expansion.

J. Thermal Sci. Eng. Appl 3(2), 020801 (Jul 13, 2011) (19 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4003701 History: Received September 15, 2010; Revised February 14, 2011; Published July 13, 2011; Online July 13, 2011

In this paper, a comprehensive review of the principles of different refrigeration methods covering the temperature range from 4 K to 300 K is presented. The methods covered are based on steady state systems, such as the Carnot cycle, the vapor compression cycles: basic, cascade, and mixed gas refrigeration cycles, and the recuperative type cryocooler cycles: Joule–Thomson cycle, Brayton cycle, and Claude cycle, and periodic systems such as the regenerative type cryocooler cycles: Stirling cycle, pulse tube cycle, and Gifford–McMahon cycle. The current state of technology and challenges for further improvements are briefly summarized. Some comparisons and assessments are provided for these methods. It is seen that among other things, the selection of a proper refrigeration method is dependent on the following principal factors: (i) the refrigeration capacity required, (ii) the temperature level, and (iii) the application environment. Even though more than one refrigeration method may be suitable for a given application, the selection is further guided by considerations such as cost, reliability, size/compactness, and unit power. An attempt has been made in this paper to (1) present in-depth relevant details to understand the current state of engineering and technology, (2) provide a handy document for refrigeration designers in the industry, and (3) present the guiding principles in the selection of refrigeration methods.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Classification of refrigeration methods based on the type of variation of pressure and flow rate in the cycle during steady state operation

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Figure 2

Stirling cycle: (a) 1-2 isothermal compression at Ta, (b) 2-3 constant volume regenerative cooling, (c) 3-4 isothermal expansion at Ta, and (d) 4-1 constant volume regenerative heating

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Figure 3

Temperature chart: boiling point at atmospheric pressure

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Figure 4

(a) Ideal constant temperature refrigeration cycles (Carnot, Erricson, and Stirling) and (b) ideal variable temperature (gas cooling) cycle

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Figure 5

Unit power of a constant temperature refrigeration cycle as a function of refrigeration temperature at various Carnot cycle efficiencies

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Figure 6

(a) Vapor compression cycle, (b) T-s diagram, (c) P-H diagram, and (d) superimposition of Carnot refrigeration (continuous lines) and ideal vapor compression cycles (dashed lines)

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Figure 7

Ideal versus real vapor compression cycles

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Figure 8

Cascade system with two levels. In the upper sketch, the left-hand circuit is low temperature circuit

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Figure 9

Mixed gas refrigeration or autocascade system

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Figure 10

Recuperative cryocooler cycles

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Figure 11

Temperature: entropy diagrams of recuperative cryocooler cycles: (a) Joule–Thompson cryocooler cycle, (b) Brayton cycle: vapor compression cycle with turbo-expansion, and (c) Claude cycle

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Figure 12

Kleemenko cycle mixed gas refrigeration cycle for the liquefaction of natural gas

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Figure 13

Typical temperature profiles of the hot and cold fluid streams of the heat exchangers of a Kleemenko cycle natural gas liquefier operating with refrigerant mixtures

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Figure 14

Regenerative cryocoolers

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Figure 15

Thermo-acoustically driven orifice pulse tube refrigerator

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Figure 16

Two-stage pulse tube refrigerator



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