An unsung hero of many medical, manufacturing, and industrial processes, the humble chiller is a simple piece mechanical equipment that handles the important task of dissipating heat in high temperature processes. That purpose spans many different types of machines across many different industries. That means that chillers must also be diverse to meet the demands placed upon them by usage across a wide spectrum of fields.
Industrial chillers systems are a critical component in any process that generates excess heat that can cause damage to sensitive equipment or endanger the health and safety of personnel. Industrial chillers use air, water, evaporation, or refrigerant to remove heat from high temperature machinery and processes before releasing it into the environment. Keep reading to learn more about what chillers are, how they work, and the applications in which they are used.
What Is a Chiller?
In brief, a chiller is a device that removes heat from a liquid or gas via vapor-compression or an absorption-refrigeration cycle. The liquid or air is forced through a heat exchange unit or water or vapor are used to dissipate heat from the equipment. The heat that is collected is then discharged into the ambient atmosphere away from sensitive machinery or processes. In some cases, the heat is recaptured and used for processes that require high heat.
Types of Chillers
Despite a diversity of styles of chillers used in different industries, there are three primary types of chillers that are distinguished by their cooling media. There are air-cooled chillers which allow heat to be transferred to cool air which is used to remove the heat from the process. Water-cooled chillers have a similar methodology for removing heat, only the exchange medium is water instead of air. Finally, some chillers work on evaporative principals, which use mist and evaporation to rid processes of heat.
How Chillers Are Used
Chillers can be found in a wide assortment of applications. For example, they are used in commercial and institutional HVAC systems to cool and dehumidify the air in much the same way that an air conditioner cools and dehumidifies a residence. They are also commonly used in the medical field to cool pieces of sensitive diagnostic equipment that generate high heat during usage. For example, chillers are often required for use with MRI machines, CT scans, and PET scans to prevent damage to the costly equipment and vent ambient heat generated by use from the diagnostic area. Chillers are often used alongside lasers, as laser technology generate heat that can cause damage to equipment or nearby facilities. In the industrial and manufacturing sectors, chillers are commonly used in processes such as plastics manufacturing, food and beverage preparation, welding, casting, pharmaceutical manufacturing, power generation, chemical processing, and semiconductor manufacturing.
While there are distinct types of chillers that function in slightly different ways, most of them share a common set of components. Most chillers consist of a vapor compression mechanical refrigeration system connected to the process water system, an evaporator where heat exchange takes place, a compressor, a condenser, and an expansion device.
How Chillers Work
The way that chillers work depends largely on the type of chiller in question. Water-cooled chillers use chilled water or other liquid such as glycol, for example, to remove heat from equipment and processes. The liquid is circulated in proximity to the heat, which is transferred to the liquid. The liquid is then pumped or otherwise circulated through a looped system that travels away from the heat-producing equipment. Many water-cooled chillers use a cooling tower to further enhance cooling efficiency. The liquid then discharges the gathered heat into the ambient atmosphere before beginning the cycle anew. Water-cooled systems are installed indoors with an outdoor cooling tower fed by a condenser water loop. Air-cooled systems function in a similar way but can be installed outdoors. They rely on the ambient air for cooling purposes. The air is drawn into the machine and circulated through the condenser coil to remove heat, which is then expelled into the atmosphere. Evaporator chillers are basically air-cooled chillers with one important addition. Evaporator chillers use a cooling mist sprayed over the condenser coil to remove heat, which increases the chilling efficiency of evaporator chillers when compared to basic air-cooled chillers. Water-cooled chillers are more efficient than any other type.
Industrial chillers are a critical part of many medical, manufacturing, and industrial processes as they protect costly equipment from the damaging effects of their own heat generation. To learn more about industrial chillers, contact KKT Chillers at (847) 734-1600.