Commissioning of a refrigerant test unit and assessing the performance of refrigerant blends.
MetadataShow full item record
This study has two major purposes; to commission and to demonstrate that a new refrigerant test rig can be used for investigating the performance of different refrigerants and refrigerant blends. The motivation for this work is the need for testing new refrigerants or refrigerant blends to replace current refrigerants which are on the verge of being phased out due to environmental concerns (Montreal and Kyoto protocols). These protocols seek to implement refrigerants without any environmental impacts such as global warming potential and ozone depletion. In literature, several refrigerant test rigs that have been assembled and used in the investigation of different refrigerants are outlined, but there is limited coverage of refrigerant blends due to technical difficulties associated with the use of blends. Consequently, this places restrictions on their application, necessitating further research into properties, operating procedures, and equipment development. A refrigerant test rig was designed and assembled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal to operate on the following cycles; simple vapour compression cycle, two-stage vapour – compression cycle, cascade system and vapour –compression cycle with a suction-line heat exchanger. In this study, the simple vapour compression cycle was used, with the refrigerant R134a being employed to validate the reliability and reproducibility of the refrigerant test rig. The main components of the cycle were the evaporator, the condenser, the compressor and the throttle valve. Water was used as the heat load and heat sink medium in the evaporator and the condenser, respectively. The temperature was measured by thermocouples and; pressure transducers were used for the measurement of pressure, and their combined expanded uncertainties were 0.1 ℃ and 0.026 MPa respectively. Commercial blends R507a and R413a, as well as a laboratory synthesised blend R134a/R125 in the ratio (66/34) and (50/50) by wt-%, were used in the investigation. The simulation of the refrigeration cycles was carried out using the Reference Fluid Properties Package (REFPROP) property method, which is a component within Aspen Plus ® V8.6. This software package allowed the prediction of the theoretical performance of the refrigerants, and refrigerant blends studied. One objective of this study was to compare the performance of the test rig against the simulated results to assess the extent of the deviation between the practical and theoretical (ideal) results. Mollier charts were used to analyse experimental data. Refrigerant blend R507 displayed the best performance when compared to the refrigerants investigated in this study, with a coefficient of performance (COP) value of 5.00, while R413a had the lowest COP value of 4.00. Considering environmental aspects, R134a/R125 (66/34 wt %) with COP value of 4.88 has the least negative impact. The deviation between the theoretical and experimental values was within the experimental uncertainty, with a notable difference occurring in the evaporator inlet temperature. The results show that the test rig is fit for use in refrigeration experimental work. Furthermore, refrigerant blends showed good performance on the vapour compression cycles employed in this study proving that it is feasible to use the test rig in the investigation of refrigerant blending.