If you’ve been in the compressed air and gas industry for any length of time, chances are that you’re familiar with industrial chillers (or process cooling chillers) as well. Chillers, while not directly related to compressed air, are a type of industrial equipment that is specially designed to circulate cooling water (or a mixture of water and glycol) through process equipment. Keep in mind that chillers aren’t actually cooling the equipment; they’re simply transferring heat! They are used in a wide range of industrial processes, including food and beverage, machine cooling, medical & pharmaceutical, plastics, and printing.
What is an Industrial Chiller?
So what is an industrial chiller, exactly? At a very basic level, you can think of process cooling chillers as being similar to the refrigerator in your kitchen! Industrial chillers essentially move heat from one place to another in your process in order to protect the integrity of equipment, quality of end products, and applications. An industrial chiller typically has a pumping system within the chiller which circulates cool water (or a water/glycol solution) from the chiller to the process. This liquid is responsible for removing the heat from the process; from there, the liquid (now warm, as it has absorbed some energy from the process) returns to the chiller. The cycle then starts again!
Looking for a more detailed explanation? Industrial chillers include four basic components, in addition to the refrigerant: an evaporator, a compressor, a condenser, and an expansion unit. These units work together to chill your process, according to the below steps:
Refrigeration. A sealed system within the chiller that circulates a refrigerant to absorb heat directly from the returning process cooling water. This removal of heat from the water to the boiling refrigerant lowers the temperature of the water to the required cooling water temperature.
Evaporation. The liquid refrigerant pressure is reduced by a metering device and the resulting pressure drop lowers the boiling point of the refrigerant. The flowing refrigerant boils in the evaporator absorbing the energy from the water.
Compression. Once the refrigerant completely evaporates and is a cool gas, it returns to the compressor, which increases its pressure and temperature.
Condensation. The compressed hot vapor travels from the compressor to a condenser. The condenser removes the heat of compression and energy absorbed from the process cooling water to the ambient. The removal of this much temperature from the refrigerant turns the vapor back into a liquid!
The Benefits of Industrial Chillers
Process cooling chillers have a variety of benefits for industrial processes. One key benefit is providing exact temperature control for your processes. A great example of this is in the food processing industry, which requires a very high degree of temperature precision to guarantee a product’s integrity. Another example is in injection molding, which requires precise temperature limits to be maintained to prevent cracks, warping, and other issues with the final product.
A second benefit is removing excess heat. If the heat isn’t removed, it keeps accumulating and compounding; to avoid issues like equipment shutdowns, reduced production times, and equipment failure, removing the heat is essential. Chillers achieve that! A third benefit is decreasing water consumption; instead of a single-pass-through system, the chiller recirculates the cooling water. The recirculation minimizes environmental impact and the cost of water consumption, which can be quite expensive.
Want to learn more about process cooling chillers? Visit us at www.atlascopco.com/industrial-chillers!