Title:
In-Line Bubble Reducer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An in-line bubble reducer for inducing turbulent flow in a liquid fluid stream in which gaseous bubbles are entrained. The bubble reducer includes a chamber with an inlet and an outlet, an axial flow diverter for directing the fluid stream outwardly and towards a subsequent annular flow diverter. The annular flow diverter extends from an inner wall of the chamber and induces turbulent flow in the fluid stream to reduce the size of the gaseous bubbles entrained in the fluid stream.



Inventors:
Wooten, Russ (Oxford, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/839959
Publication Date:
02/19/2009
Filing Date:
08/16/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
261/108
International Classes:
E04H4/12
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LEE, CHEE-CHONG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH, GAMBRELL & RUSSELL (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. An apparatus comprising: a hollow chamber having an inlet at an upstream end, and an outlet at a downstream end; at least one axial flow diverter contained within said chamber, said axial flow diverter having a first surface section axially aligned along a longitudinal axis of said hollow chamber, oriented facing towards said upstream end, and at least one aperture defined between a periphery of said first surface and an inner surface of said chamber; and at least one annular flow diverter contained within said chamber and spaced apart from said axial flow diverter towards said downstream end, said annular flow diverter having a second surface comprising an annular flange having a first end proximal said inner surface of said chamber and a second end that extends inwardly and towards said upstream end, said annular flange defining an orifice through an axial portion of said annular flow diverter.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said first surface section comprises a generally conic section having an apex and a base, with said apex oriented facing said upstream end, and said base facing said downstream end.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said axial flow diverter further comprises a plurality of support members extending between said inner surface of said chamber and said first surface section.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein said axial flow diverter further comprises an annular support interconnecting said support members.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein said annular support has a longitudinal length corresponding with a height of said generally conic section.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said annular flower diverter further comprises a sidewall substantially parallel to said inner surface of said chamber and having a longitudinal length that is greater than the height of annular flange so as to provide sufficient longitudinal spacing between the base of said axial diverter and said at least one aperture to permit fluid flow through the apparatus.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said chamber has a cross sectional area that is substantially greater than a cross sectional area of said inlet.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein said chamber cross sectional area is approximately two times the cross sectional area of said inlet.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said aperture has a cross sectional area that is substantially the same as a cross sectional area of said inlet.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said orifice has a cross sectional area substantially the same as a cross sectional area of said inlet.

11. An apparatus comprising: a hollow chamber having an inlet at an upstream end, and an outlet at a downstream end; at least one axial flow diverter contained within said chamber, said axial flow diverter having a first surface section oriented facing towards said upstream end, and at least one aperture defined between a periphery of said first surface and an inner surface of said chamber; and at least one annular flow diverter contained within said chamber and spaced apart from said axial flow diverter towards said downstream end, said annular flow diverter having a second surface comprising an annular flange having a first end adjacent said inner surface of said chamber and a second end that extends inwardly and towards said upstream end, said annular flange defining an orifice through said annular flow diverter.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said first surface section comprises a generally dome shaped section having an apex and a base, with said apex oriented facing said upstream end, and said base facing said downstream end.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said first surface section comprises a generally conic shaped section having an apex and a base, with said apex oriented facing said upstream end, and said base facing said downstream end.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said axial flow diverter further comprises at least one support member supporting said first surface section in alignment with said inlet.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein said axial flow diverter further comprises an annular support interconnecting ends of said support member.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein said annular support has a longitudinal length corresponding with a height of said generally conic section.

17. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said chamber has a cross sectional area that is substantially greater than a cross sectional area of said inlet.

18. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein said chamber cross sectional area is approximately two times the cross sectional area of said inlet.

19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said aperture has a cross sectional area that is substantially the same as a cross sectional area of said inlet.

20. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said orifice has a cross sectional area substantially the same as a cross sectional area of said inlet.

21. A method for treating circulated water in a spa comprising the steps of: a. providing a first station for entraining gaseous bubbles of air into a pressurized stream of said circulated water as it is carried through a conduit; b. providing a second station for ozonizing said gaseous bubbles of air to produce gaseous bubbles of ozonized air; and c. providing a bubble reducer in communication with said conduit and downstream from said first station, said bubble reducer adapted to impart turbulent flow in said fluid stream to break apart and minimize the size of said gaseous bubbles of ozonized air, wherein said bubble reducer comprises: at least one first surface axially disposed within said reducer to impart an outward flow of said water through said reducer and at least one second surface subsequent to said first surface, annularly disposed adjacent to an inner wall of said reducer to impart turbulent flow in said fluid stream, whereby the turbulent flow minimizes the size of the entrained gaseous bubble of ozonized air.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates to reducing bubble size in a fluid circulation circuit. More particularly, the present invention relates to a device for reducing the size of air bubbles in a fluid circulation circuit for a spa, or whirlpool, where an air induction circuit for the spa has an ozone generator. The present invention also relates to a device that improves the efficacy of ozone bubbles to disinfect the water introduced and circulating in the spa.

2. Related Art

Spas and whirlpools tubs are well know in the art and are becoming increasingly popular for their therapeutic and recreational attributes. These devices include a tub to contain a volume of water that is usually large enough to accommodate at least one seated occupant. In such devices a fluid, most often water, and more particularly heated water, is circulated by a large volume capacity pumping system in which a portion of the circulated water is directed through a plurality of fluid jets disposed at various locations throughout the tub. The jets may be selectively positioned by the user so that a pressurized water flow is directed towards a particular part of the occupant's body so that the desired therapeutic effect can be obtained.

To improve the therapeutic efficiency and effects of the directed water flow, the fluid circuit for the jets will normally have an air induction circuit. The air induction circuit will include an orifice having an adjustable opening that can be varied to selectively restrict or permit a desired airflow through the circuit. The air induction circuit will generally connect with the fluid circulation circuit via a venturi so that the air may be entrained in the circulating water in the fluid circuit.

Due to the substantial volume of water carried in such systems it desirable that the water be retained in the tub for subsequent use, much like a swimming pool. Consequently, it is necessary that provisions be made for treating the water to avoid the growth of bacteria, algae, and other organisms, as well as to remove particulates such as dirt, leaves, grass and other contaminants that tend to accumulate in the water if left untreated. Gross contaminants are normally removed by circulation of the water through a filtration system. Fine contaminants and organism growth are generally treated chemically, such as by chlorine for disinfecting, pH stabilizers and adjusters, flocculants, and the like.

Chemical treatment of the water presents its own issues. For example the costs associated with the chemicals can become prohibitive. Chemically treated water can present dermatologic issues for certain users. In addition, should it become necessary to drain the tub, disposal of the chemically treated water can potentially present environmental issues. Consequently, alternative water treatment regimens have been sought.

One such alternative water treatment method includes the introduction of ozone (O3) into the air induction circuit so that when circulated in the water, the ozone will treat organism growth and disinfect the water. While these systems are generally effective, current systems are inefficient in application due to the often large size of the bubbles containing the ozonized air. Moreover, when the oversized ozonized air bubbles rise to the surface and remain contained within an enclosure, such as a cover frequently used for spas, the ozone can have deleterious effects on the parts associated with the spa, particularly those made of plastics such as pads, pillows, and the cover itself. Accordingly, there remains a need for improving the efficiency of water treatment systems utilizing ozone generators and for reducing, if not eliminating the deleterious effects of ozone on the spa components.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly, the present invention includes a method and apparatus of treating water circulated through the pump and conduit system of a spa, whirlpool, or similar device. Ozonized air is entrained with the water circulating through the system. Embodiments of the invention include structures for reducing the bubble size of the ozonized air to improve its efficacy

The invention includes an apparatus comprising a bubble reducer placed in line with a conduit in the system. The bubble reducer includes a hollow chamber, an inlet at an upstream end of the hollow chamber, and an outlet at a downstream end of the chamber. The apparatus includes at least one axial flow diverter and at least one annular flow diverter contained within said chamber. The axial flow diverter has a generally dome shaped or conical first surface section axially aligned along a longitudinal axis of the hollow chamber. This first surface section directs flow through the device outwardly for passage through an aperture around the periphery of the first surface section. The annular flow diverter has a second surface comprising an annular flange having a first end proximal the inner surface of the chamber and a second end that extends inwardly and towards the inlet end of the apparatus. Additional turbulence is induced in the fluid stream when fluid directed by the first surface encounters the annular flange, with the creation of eddies in the flow near the annular flange. Fluid flow continues through an orifice defined through an axial portion of the annular flow diverter.

To reduce backpressure and maintain flow through in the system, the diameter of the chamber is approximately twice that of the inlet. Similarly, the surface area of the aperture through the axial flow diverter and the orifice through the annular diverter are substantially the same as that of the inlet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 depicts a simplified water circulation circuit for a spa.

FIG. 2 depicts a side elevational view of a bubble reducer.

FIG. 3 depicts a side cross-sectional view of a bubble reducer.

FIG. 4A depicts a side elevational view of an axial flow diverter.

FIG. 4B depicts a side cross-sectional view of an axial flow diverter.

FIG. 4C depicts a top plan view of an axial flow diverter.

FIG. 5A depicts a side cross sectional view of an annular flow diverter.

FIG. 5B depicts a top plan view of an annular flow diverter.

FIG. 6 depicts the assembly of a bubble reducer.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A simplified water circulation circuit for a spa, whirlpool or similar apparatus is depicted in FIG. 1. The circulation circuit includes a tub 10 containing a large fluid volume F, typically water, a pump 11, a suction conduit 12, which communicates fluid F, from tub 10 to pump 11, and an pressure conduit 13, which communicates fluid F, under pressure, from pump 11 to tub 10. As will be appreciated by those familiar with the art of spas, both the input and output fluid circuits, represented by suction conduit 12 and pressure conduit 13, may have one or more manifolds (not shown) interconnecting a plurality of conduits in the respective circuits.

One or more air inlet valves 14 are provided to in communication with the output circuit for selectively introducing air B into the pressurized fluid stream F, via an air conduit 15 and a venturi 16 connected to pressure conduit 13. Valve 14 is variably operable between an open, air communicating position, and a closed, air restricting position, to control the volume of air introduced into the fluid stream F.

An ozone generator 17, or ozonizer, is positioned along air conduit 15 and is operable to ozonize the air communicated through air conduit 15 such that ozonized air is entrained in the pressurized fluid flow F. The in-line bubble reducer 20 of the present invention is positioned along output conduit 13 intermediate venturi 16 and a jet 18 directing fluid F into tub 10. As will be appreciated, the above described components are usually contained within an enclosure 19 extending from tub 10.

In the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIGS. 2 and 3, the bubble reducer 20 has an inlet port 21 and an outlet port 22 to operatively couple bubble reducer 20 to conduit 13, in any suitable manner, such as the barbed connection depicted, threaded connections, quick disconnect fittings, a nipple, or the like. Reducer 20 comprises a generally cylindrical casing 23 enclosing at least one axial flow diverter 30 and at least one annular flow diverter 40. To avoid introducing significant back pressure in the fluid flow F, the inner diameter of casing 23 should be substantially larger than that of the inner diameter of inlet 21 or conduit 13, preferably about twice as large. Fluid flow F through proceeds from inlet 21, through casing 23, and then outlet 22, as indicated by flow arrow F. Preferably inlet 21, casing 23, and outlet 22 are coaxially aligned.

While the bubble reducer of the present invention may be made of any suitable material, plastics, such as for an illustrative example PVC, provide a convenient, cost effective means for producing the same. In the embodiment shown, casing 23 is comprised of a elongated hollow cylindrical member in which a barbed inlet 21 is integrally formed to provide a watertight seal. The outlet port 22 may comprise a barbed fitting 25 that may be sealingly attached to reducer 20 by any suitable means, such as adhesives, sonic welding, or even threaded engagement.

At least one axial flow diverter 30 having a first surface 31 disposed in alignment with inlet 21 such that fluid flow F encounters first surface 31 and is directed radially outwardly towards an inner surface 24 of casing 23 and at least one aperture for passage of fluid F through axial flow diverter 30. As may best be seen in reference to FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C, an exemplary embodiment of an axial flow diverter 30 is shown in which axial flow diverter 30 comprises a generally dome shaped or conic surface section 31 oriented with an apex of conic section 31 projecting towards inlet 21 and a base of conic surface 31 projecting towards outlet 22. More preferably, conic surface 31 is coaxially aligned with inlet 21. In the embodiment shown, conic surface 31 is maintained in position by a plurality of support members 32 extending radially outward from conic surface 31 and supported against an inner surface 24 of casing 23. Preferably, the base 34 of conic surface 31 will have a diameter approximately one half that of casing 23 such that apertures 35 defined between base 34, support members 32 and inner surface 24, will have a combined surface area substantially the same or larger than that of inlet 22. Flow of fluid F through axial flow diverter 30 occurs through apertures 35 around the periphery of base 31.

Support members 32 may be vertically disposed in substantial alignment with a longitudinal axis A of reducer 20, so as limit disruptions fluid flow F. Alternatively, support members may be angled with respect to axis A, so as to present a lateral surface 36 in the fluid flow F, to provide additional fluid flow F disruptions. For ease of assembly, support members 32 may be interconnected by an annular support 33. More preferably, annular support 33 can have an elongated sidewall 37 having an outer surface that is substantially parallel to and dimensioned to fit in abutment with inner surface 24. Sidewall 37 should have a length corresponding to the height of conic surface 31, such that axial flow diverter 30 is substantially disc shaped. The disc shaped axial flow diverter 30 is readily insertable within casing 23, as depicted in FIG. 6.

As may best be seen in reference to FIGS. 5A and B, an exemplary embodiment of an annular flow diverter 40 is depicted in which annular flow diverter 40 comprises a tapered annular flange 41 having a first end 42 proximal to casing inner surface 24 and a second end 43 that extends inwardly towards axis A, and projects upstream, towards inlet 21, such that second end 43 defines an orifice 44 concentric with casing 23 and a lip 47 to induce eddies in fluid flow F. In the preferred embodiment shown, annular flange 42 is shaped as conic extension of axial flow diverter 30, such that orifice 44 has a diameter corresponding to the diameter of base 34.

For ease of assembly, an annular sidewall 45 surrounds flange 41 at its first downstream end 42 and extends upstream, substantially parallel with axis A, towards inlet 22, such that annular flow diverter 40, like axial flow diverter 30, is essentially disc shaped and easily insertable within chamber 23, as depicted in FIG. 6. In this instance, annular sidewall 45 has a longitudinal length that is greater than the height of tapered flange 41 so as to provide sufficient longitudinal spacing between the base 34 of axial diverter 30 and aperture 44 to permit fluid flow F through the device 20. Preferably, orifice 42 has a cross sectional area substantially the same as that of inlet 22. Support members 46 may be provided to support annular flange 42 with sidewall 45.

Referring back to FIG. 3, axial diverter 30 and annular diverter 40 are disposed within casing 23 in at least one paired configuration to sequentially divert fluid flow F throughout the longitudinal length of reducer 20. Upon entry through inlet port 21, fluid F encounters conic surface 31 which diverts the fluid stream outwardly towards casing inner surface 24. As the fluid stream encounters inner surface 24 and annular flow diverter 40, eddies are formed in proximity to lip 47, permitting large bubbles of ozonized air to break apart and achieve greater dispersion of within fluid F as it passes through orifice 42. As may be seen, additional pairs of alternating axial flow diverters 30 and annular flow diverters 40 may be sequentially disposed to further mix the ozonized air in fluid F. Ideally, a sufficient number of paired diverters are included within casing 20 so that large undesired bubbles may be completely reduced so as to impart substantially smaller bubbles of ozonized air into the fluid stream F With the substantially reduction in the size of the ozonized bubbles in the fluid F, the ozone can more efficiently disinfect fluid F.

It will be appreciated that each additional pair of axial 30 and annular 40 flow diverters will tend to increase the back pressure in the system. Accordingly, for optimum performance, the selection of the number and flow characteristics of the bubble reducer 20 should be appropriately matched to the respective circulation system.

While certain exemplary embodiments of the invention have been described in considerable detail, by way of illustration and for clarity of understanding, a number of modifications, adaptations, and changes will be recognized to those of skill in the art. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention is limited solely by the appended claims.