Here’s How Metallic Plates Are Used in Refrigeration
Technology has come on a long way since early humans began gathering seasonal snow and ice to create ice cellars somewhere around 1000 BC. It has widely been reported that humans have begun using more power and energy to cool rather than to heat for the first time.
In the modern world, the rising demand for cooling technology has seen metallic plates begin to be used in a number of different ways to aid the refrigeration process. Let’s take a look at some of those ways throughout this article, and other important information that you need to know as a result of being interested in this topic.
Heat Exchange Systems
A heat exchanger is simply a device that takes heat from either a liquid or a gas and then transfers it to another liquid or gas. This happens without the need for any direct contact, meaning the two liquids or gasses don’t need to touch or bump into each other for it to work. While you might be thinking this only works for heat, you should think of ‘heat’ as ‘temperature’ instead. For example, hot water that flows through metal pipes which themselves are run through a tank of nitrogen would be an example of a heat exchanger system focusing on cooling water. So, you might be asking how metallic plates are used in heat exchangers. It’s simple!
The modern world places a high concern on how energy is being consumed, and this has led to increased environmental protections and safety regulations being introduced by many industrialized countries. Plate heat exchangers, sometimes called Plate-fin heat exchangers, are stacked with lots of very thin metal plates with a large surface area. Those metal plates are often known as fins. The sheer number of fins helps to exchange a higher volume of heat in a shorter time period. This means that there’s a minimization of the energy that’s used in the first place, while also reducing the amount of energy that’s lost through convection… good news for environmental campaigners and businesses looking to be more efficient.
There are a number of ways that a plate or a plate-fin heat exchanger can be optimized and set up, so the configuration can vary widely from purpose to purpose.
Humble Home Fridges
Your humble home kitchen fridge is likely to be using a metallic plate as part of its job keeping your food and drinks cold. Essentially, a compressor constricts refrigerant vapour in order to increase its pressure and then pushes it through a metal plate full of coils. The metal plate, usually found on the back of the fridge transfers the air temperature in your kitchen into the vapour which causes it to turn into a liquid. This liquid cools down as it flows through the inside of the fridge system while also absorbing the heat, thus, cooling down the air inside the fridge. This is a good example of a heat exchange system being used.
Innovative researchers have begun looking at alternative ways that metal plates can be used in fridges. USA based scientists have been looking at how sound waves travel in different gasses and eventually stumbled upon sound waves as a method of cooling metal plates.
Essentially, they found that the compression and expansion of sound waves travelling through gasses – like Oxygen – can be used to cool and heat metal plates. By stacking up metal plates and pushing sound waves through them, then attaching a heat exchanger at the two ends of the stacks, refrigeration can be achieved. While the technology is still being developed, prototypes were sent on NASA’s space shuttle missions!
Refrigerant Dehumidifier Systems
Refrigerant Dehumidifiers work similarly to how home fridges work and are another example of how heat exchange can be put to use. They operate by cooling a metal plate which causes moisture from the air to condense on it. A fan then draws the air from the room over that metal plate which then causes more moisture to form on the plate. This moisture goes on to drip down into the Dehumidifier’s water tank. After the amount of moisture in the air reduces to a normal level, the dehumidifier’s job is done, all thanks to a metal plate being cooled.
Air Conditioning Units
Metallic plates also play an important part in the refrigeration of the air – or air conditioning as it’s more commonly known. While air is being pushed around a system and cooled thanks to a heating element, it’s the metal plates that help disperse hot air back outside of a building to allow ‘room’ for the colder air. These metal plates sit in the units which are commonly seen on the roof tops of buildings, and an electric fan often blows air over these plates to help accelerate the dispersal of the heat.
The Future: Thermodynamic Refrigeration?
For the past two decades, scientists have been hard at work developing theories around how Thermodynamic Refrigeration could work in practice. Thermodynamic Refrigeration is essentially the use of two metal plates which have a current passing through them but are separated apart from one another by a vacuum. Experiments have shown that cooling is achieved as excited electrons escape past barriers. While it’s not quite a reality just yet, Thermodynamic Refrigeration could be an interesting option in the future.
Summary: Take Away Information
There are a number of different ways that metallic plates are used in refrigeration, and more are on their way to being realized beyond scientific experiments. They often have very different jobs from cooling the air around us to the food we eat, cooling down machinery to capturing the moisture in the air, metal plates help do it all… even out in space.
The debate could go on and on in terms of which method is best to use when it comes to using metal plates in refrigeration, but it’s usually down to personal choice, and the space and budget available to get a job done correctly and effectively.
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