Vapour Absorption Refrigeration Systems

Vapour Absorption Refrigeration Systems

The vapour absorption refrigeration system is one of the oldest method of
producing refrigerating effect. The principle of vapour absorption was first discovered by Michael Faraday in 1824 while performing a set of experiments to liquify certain gases. The first vapour absorption refrigeration machine was 
developed a French scientist Ferdinand Carre in 1860. This s stem ma be used in both the domestic and large industrial refrigerating plants. The refrigerant, commonly used in a vapour absorption system, is ammonia.
                    The vapour absorption system uses heat energy, instead of mechanical energy as in vapour compression systems, in order to change the conditions of the refrigerant required for the operation of the refrigeration cycle. We have discussed in the previous chapters that the function of a compressor, in a vapour compression system, is to withdraw the vapour refrigerant from the evaporator. It then raises its temperature and pressure higher than the cooling agent in the condenser so that the higher pressure vapours can reject heat in the condenser. The liquid refrigerant leaving the condenser is now ready to expand to the evaporator conditions again.

          In the vapour absorption system, the compressor is replaced by an absorber, a pump, a generator and a pressure reducing valve. These components in vapour absorption system perform the same function as that of a compressor in vapour compression system. In this system, the vapour refrigerant from the evaporator is drawn into an absorber where it is absorbed by the weak solution of the refrigerant forming a strong solution. This strong solution is pumped to the generator where it is
heated by some external source. During the heating process, the vapour refrigerant is driven off by the solution and enters into the condenser where it is liquefied. The liquid refrigerant then flows into the evaporator and thus the cycle is completed.

Simple Vapour Absorption System -

The simple vapour absorption system, as shown in Fig. 3.1, consists of an
absorber, a pump, a generator and a pressure reducing valve to replace the
compressor of vapour compression system. The other components of the system are condenser, receiver, expansion valve and evaporator as in the vapour compression system.

                                   Simple vapour absorption system

In this system, the low pressure ammonia vapaur leaving the evaporator
enters the absorber where it is absorbed by the cold water in the absorber. The water has the ability to absorb very large quantities of ammonia vapour and the solution thus formed, is known as aqua-ammonia. The absorption of ammonia vapour in water lowers the pressure in the absorber which in turn draws more ammonia vapour from the evaporator and thus raises the temperature of solution. Some form of cooling arrangement (usually water cooling) is employed in the absorber to remove the heat of solution evolved there. This is necessary in order to increase the absorption capacity of water, because at higher temperature water absorbs less ammonia vapour. The strong solution thus formed in the absorber is pumped to the generator by the liquid pump. The pump increases the pressure of the solution up to 10 bar.

                 The strong solution of ammonia in the generator is heated by some external source such as gas or steam. During the heating process, the ammonia vapour is driven off the solution at high pressure leaving behind the hot weak ammonia solution in the generator. This weak ammonia solution flows back to the absorber at low pressure after passing through the pressure reducing valve. The high pressure ammonia vapour from the generator is condensed in the condenser to a high pressure
liquid ammonia. This liquid ammonia is passed to the expansion valve through the receiver and then to the evaporator. This completes the simple vapour absorption cycle.

Practical Vapour Absorption System

The simple absorption system as discussed in the previous article is not very economical. In order to make the system more practical, it is fitted with an analyser, a rectifier and two heat exchangers as shown in Fig. 3.2. These accessories help to improve the performance and working of the plant, as discussed below :-

1. Analyser. When ammonia is vapuorised in the generator, some water is

also vapuorised and will flow into the condenser along with the ammonia vapours in the simple system. If these unwanted water particles are not removed before entering into the condenser, they will enter into the expansion valve where they freeze and choke the pipe line. In order to remove these unwanted particles flowing to the condenser, an analyser is used. The analyser may be built as an integral part of the generator or made as a separate piece of equipment. It consists of a series of trays
mounted above the generator. The strong solution from the absorber and the aqua from the rectifier are introduced at the top of the analyser and flow downward over the trays and into the generator. In this way, considerable liquid surface area is exposed to the vapour rising from the generator. The vapour is cooled and most of the water vapour condenses, so that mainly ammonia vapour leaves the top of the analyser. Since the aqua is heated by the vapour, less external heat is required in the generator.

2 Rectifier. In case the water vapours are not completely removed in the
analyser, a closed type vapour cooler called rectifier (also known as dehydrator) is used. It is generally water cooled and may be of the double pipe, shell and coil or shell and tube type. Its function is to cool further the ammonia vapours leaving the analyser so that the remaining water vapours are condensed. Thus, only dry or anhydrous ammonia vapours flow to the condenser. The condensate from the rectifier is returned to the top of the analyser by a drip return pipe.

3. Heat exchangers. The heat exchanger provided between the pump and the generator is used to cool the weak hot solution returning from the generator to the absorber. The heat removed from the weak solution raises the temperature of the strong solution leaving the pump and going to analyser and generator. This operation reduces the heat supplied to the generator and the amount of cooling required for the absorber. Thus the economy of the plant increases. The heat exchanger provided between the condenser and the evaporator may also be called liquid sub-cooler. In this heat exchanger, the liquid refrigerant leaving the condenser is sub- cooled by the low temperature ammonia vapour from the evaporator as shown in Fig. 7.2. This sub-cooled liquid is now passed to the expansion valve and then to the evaporator. In this system, the net refrigerating effect is the heat absorbed by the refrigerant in the evaporator. The total energy supplied to the system is the sum of work done by the pump and the heat supplied in the generator. Therefore, the coefficient of performance of the system is given by
                                Heat absorbed in evaporator
C.O.P. -      ----------------------------------------------------------
                  Work done by pump + Heat supplied in generator

Advantages of Vapour Absorption Refrigeration System over
Vapour Compression Refrigeration System

Following are the advantages of vapour absorption system over vapour
compression system:
1. In the vapour absorption system, the only moving part of the entire
system is a pump which has a small motor. Thus, the operation of this system is essentially quiet and is subjected to little wear. The vapour compression system of the same capacity has more wear, tear and noise due to moving parts of the compressor.

2 The vapour absorption system uses heat energy to change the condition of the refrigerant from the evaporator. The vapour compression system uses mechanical energy to change the condition of the refrigerant from the evaporator.

3. The vapour absorption systems are usually designed to use steam, either at high pressure or low pressure. The exhaust steam from furnaces and solar energy may also be used. Thus this system can be used where the electric power is difficult to obtain or is very expensive.

4. The vapour absorption systems can operate at reduced evaporator
pressure and temperature by increasing the steam pressure to the generator, with little decrease in capacity. But the capacity of vapour compression system drops rapidly with lowered evaporator pressure.

5. The load variations does not effect the performance of a vapour
absorption system. The load variations are met by controlling the quantity of aqua circulated and the quantity of steam supplied to the generator.
The performance of a vapour compression system at partial loads is poor.

6 In the vapour absorption system, the liquid refrigerant leaving the
evaporator has no bad effect on the system except that of reducing the refrigerating effect. In the vapour compression system, it is essential to superheat the vapour refrigerant leaving the evaporator so that no liquid may enter the compressor.

7. The vapour absorption systems can be built in capacities well above 1000 tonnes of refrigeration each which is the largest size for single compressor units.

8 The space requirements and automatic control requirements favour the
absorption system more and more as the desired evaporator temperature drops.







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