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FAQs: Vortex Tubes

      1. Can the Vortex Tube withstand back-pressure on the cold exhaust?
      The performance is negatively impacted with back-pressure on the cold end exhaust. A Back-pressure of 5 PSIG will change performance by approximately 5°F. A low pressure up to 2 PSIG will not affect performance.
      2. How does the Vortex Tube work?
      Compressed air is injected into the vortex tube and flows at a rate of up to 1,000,000 RPM towards the 'hot' end of the tube. Once this hot air reaches the end, a small amount is exhausted through a control valve. The rest of the air is forced backwards towards the other end and exits as 'cold' air.
      3. What is the Vortex Tube?

      The Vortex Tube is a product of STREAMTEK™ Corp. Using compressed air as their only power source, cold air is produced on one end and hot air on the other. All this is done with no moving parts!

      Cold air is typically used for spot cooling and refrigeration applications. The hot air can be used for spot heating applications, but the temperatures are not very high.

      4. How long has the Vortex Tube been around?

      The vortex tube was invented in 1933 by French physicist Georges J. Ranque. German physicist Rudolf Hilsch improved the design and published a widely read paper in 1947 on the device, which he called a Wirbelrohr (meaning whirl pipe).

      In the past, the Vortex Tube has been known as the "Hilsch Tube", the "Ranque Vortex Tube", the "Maxwells’s Demon”, and the "Ranque-Hilsh Tube". It’s a reliable, simple and low cost answer to various spot cooling problems within industrial plants.

      5. Which Vortex Tube should I use?
      STREAMTEK offers Small and Medium sized Vortex Tubes, each with a wide variety of cooling capacities. The Vortex Tube Generator Kits allow you to experiment with a variety of temperatures and air flows. We recommend you talk to a STREAMTEK™ Application Engineer, as they can aid you in selecting the appropriate Vortex Tube for your application.
      6. Is there anything in the Vortex Tube that can wear out or need replacing?
      No. There are no moving parts, it will never wear out. They may need cleaning from time to time if there is contamination within the air supply. The Vortex Tube is constructed of type 303 stainless steel, brass generators, and a brass control valve.
      7. Where can the Vortex Tube be used?
      The Vortex Tube is typically used in spot cooling applications. Use it to cool, mold, machine operations, hot parts, electronics, etc. The hot end could be used to heat glues, shrink wraps, or dry parts.
      8. Can I use a Vortex Tube to cool my electrical enclosure instead of the Cabinet Panel Cooler?

      Yes, however there are clear-cut advantages to using the STREAMTEK™ Cabinet Panel Cooler for this application.

      • Cabinet Panel Coolers have a pressure release valve to allow warm air from the electrical enclosure to escape the cabinet.
      • Cabinet Panel Coolers have been fine tuned to achieve maximum refrigeration; this cannot be adjusted. Vortex Tubes on the other hand can be adjusted by the user, leaving them open to poor operation and miss-adjustment.
      • Cabinet Panel Coolers have been engineered to reduce noise levels drastically from that of the sole Vortex Tube.
      9. Can I connect the cold end of a Vortex Tube to an Air Amplifier or Air Knife?
      No. The Air Amplifier and Air Knife would both restrict the air flow of the Vortex Tube to the point where back-pressure would limit the cooling capacity of the Vortex Tube. The cold end of the Vortex Tube should not be subjected to a backpressure in excess of 5 PSIG.
      10. Can I connect the hot end of a Vortex Tube to an Air Amplifier or Air Knife?
      Yes. However, the hot end exhaust can only withstand pressure up to 30 PSIG (depending on the cold fraction). If backpressure exceeds 30 PSIG, then the performance of the Vortex Tube will deteriorate.
      11. Why is the Vortex Tube Performance Chart important?
      The Vortex Tube Performance Charts give approximate temperature drops (and rises) from inlet air temperature produced by a STREAMTEK Vortex Tube set at each various cold fraction. Assuming there is no fluctuation of inlet pressure or temperature, the Vortex Tube will reliably maintain temperature within ±1°F.
      12. How can I tell what Cold Fraction my Vortex Tube is set to?

      There are two ways to find out what Cold Fraction you are currently using on your STREAMTEK Vortex Tube.

      (1) By using the Performance Data chart found here. You can measure the temperature of cold air exhausting and compare it to the chart. It's important to note that the air temperature should be taken immediately out of the Vortex Tube as the airflow will quickly warm as it mixes with ambient air.

      (2) An air flow meter can also be used to measure the volume of air both coming out of the unit and going into Vortex Tube. Then use these values and compare the cold or hot flow of the unit. By comparing the cold or hot flow rate to the total will give you accurate hot or cold fraction.

      13. How is the STREAMTEK Vortex Tube rated?
      The Vortex Tube is rated in BTU/Hr. based on inlet temperatures of 68F and pressure of 100 PSIG. Any change of temperature or pressure will affect the rating of the Vortex Tube. Please contact a STREAMTEK Application Engineer to determine the effect of pressure and/or temperate changes on the Vortex Tube's rating.