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Rudolf Hilsch, Shining a Light on the Vortex Tube

The Vortex Tube is also known as the Ranque – Hilsch tube is a device that takes a single source of compressed gas and splits it into two streams a hot and a cold. The Vortex Tube was invented in 1933 by French physicist Georges J. Ranque, however his findings never really went main stream until Physicist Rudolf Hilsch improved the design and published a widely read paper in 1947 on the device, which he called a Wirbelrohr. (Original publication in German can be found here.)

The Original drawing from Rudolf Hilsche’s 1947 Publication.

Compressed air is supplied into the tube where it passes through a set of nozzles that are tangent to the internal counter-bore. The design of the nozzles force the air to spin in a vortex motion at speeds up to 1,000,000 RPM. The spinning air turns 90° where a valve at one end allows some warmed air to escape. What does not escape, heads back down the tube in the inner stream where it loses heat and exhausts through the other end as cold air.

How a Vortex Tube Works

Both streams rotate in the same direction and at the same angular velocity. Due to the principle of conservation of angular momentum, the rotational speed of the inner vortex should increase. However, that’s not the case with the Vortex Tube. The best way to illustrate this is in Olympic Figure Skating. As the skater is wider, the spinning motion is much slower. As she decreases her overall radius, the velocity picks up dramatically and she spins much quicker. In a Vortex Tube, the speed of the inner vortex remains the same as it has lost angular momentum. The energy that is lost in this process is given off in the form of heat that has exhausted from the hot side of the tube. This loss of heat allows the inner vortex to be cooled, where it can be ducted and applied for a variety of industrial applications.

This Vortex Tube theory is utilized in basic Vortex Tubes, along with a variety of other products that have additional features specific for your application. EXAIR’s line of Cabinet CoolersCold GunsAdjustable Spot CoolersMini Coolers, and Vortex Tubes all operate off of this same principle.

If you’re fascinated by this product and want to give it a try, EXAIR offers an unconditional 30-day guarantee. We have them all in stock and ready to ship as well, same day with an order received by 2:00 ET. Feel free to get in contact with us if you’d like to discuss how a vortex-based product could help you in your processes.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Rudolf Hilsche’s Publication Drawing provided by Die Zeitschrift für Naturforschung

(Photo Link https://zfn.mpdl.mpg.de/data/1/ZfN-1946-1-0208.pdf )