Title:
Cooling unit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cooling unit for cooling an enclosed interior space of a vehicle. Also provided are methods of cooling the interior of the vehicle.



Inventors:
Sullivan, Shaun E. (Salem, OR, US)
Application Number:
12/380285
Publication Date:
06/24/2010
Filing Date:
02/25/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/230, 62/419, 62/507
International Classes:
F25B1/00; F25B39/04; F25B49/02; F25D17/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
JONES, MELVIN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREENCENTAIRE LLC (SALEM,, OR, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A cooling unit for an armored vehicle, the unit including: a. a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the armored vehicle; b. a compressor or pump located within the housing; and c. an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows, the energy transfer tube apparatus being located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump.

2. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the cooling unit has first and second operating modes, the armored vehicle has a vehicle power system, the cooling unit is powered by the vehicle power system, the cooling unit operates at a first electric current level when operating in the first operating mode, and the cooling unit operates at a second electric current level when operating in the second operating mode, said first electric current level being greater than said second electric current level.

3. The cooling unit of claim 2 wherein said first electric current level is at least 35% greater than said second electric current level.

4. The cooling unit of claim 2 wherein said first electric current level is at least 50% greater than said second electric current level.

5. The cooling unit of claim 2 wherein a limiting device limits operation of the cooling unit to said second electric current level when operating in the second operating mode.

6. The cooling unit of claim 1 comprising a battery pack or another device energy source configured to power the compressor or pump, the battery pack or other device energy source either being within the housing or on the housing.

7. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the cooling unit is configured such that the compressor or pump is powered by different power sources at different times.

8. The cooling unit of claim 7 wherein one of the power sources is a battery pack and another of the power sources is a vehicle power system.

9. The cooling unit of claim 8 wherein the compressor or pump is powered by the battery pack when the armored vehicle is operating in a first mode, and the compressor or pump is powered by the vehicle power system when the armored vehicle is operating in a second mode.

10. The cooling unit of claim 9 wherein the battery pack is a rechargeable battery pack, and when the compressor or pump is being powered by the vehicle power system the battery pack is simultaneously recharged by the vehicle power system.

11. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the housing has a modular configuration and can be removably mounted at an interchangeable module position inside the armored vehicle.

12. The cooling unit of claim 11 wherein the cooling unit itself comprises one or more sub-assembly modules that can be removed individually from the cooling unit.

13. The cooling unit of claim 12 wherein the cooling unit includes a discharge blower module, the discharge blower module including a blower, such that if the blower needs replacement or repair the blower can be readily accessed by individually removing the discharge blower module from the cooling unit.

14. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates two fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, wherein the flow separator diverts one of said two fluid flows along an outer pathway while the other of said two flows is channeled along an inner pathway.

15. The cooling unit of claim 14 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

16. The cooling unit of claim 15 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates said two flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

17. The cooling unit of claim 16 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

18. The cooling unit of claim 1 comprising a shock reducer to provide the unit with resistance against being damaged when the armored vehicle experiences shock.

19. The cooling unit of claim 18 wherein the shock reducer comprises a shock absorbing gel or foam.

20. The cooling unit of claim 19 wherein the shock absorbing gel or foam at least partially encapsulates the compressor, the energy transfer tube apparatus, or both.

21. The cooling unit of claim 19 wherein the shock absorbing gel or foam is positioned in the housing so as to leave open at least a warm air pathway and a cool air pathway.

22. The cooling unit of claim 21 wherein a warm air blower is adapted to move air along the warm air pathway, and a cool air fan is adapted to move air along the cool air pathway.

23. The cooling unit of claim 18 wherein the shock reducer comprises at least one flexible shock absorbing mount.

24. The cooling unit of claim 23 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is mounted on at least one flexible shock absorbing mount.

25. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the cooling unit includes a pressurized discharge system comprising an exhaust compartment from which warm air can be discharged through a discharge outlet such that the warm air discharged through the discharge outlet has a super-atmospheric pressure.

26. The cooling unit of claim 25 wherein the super-atmospheric pressure is greater than 1.5 atmospheres.

27. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein the housing has one or more outlet vents adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the armored vehicle.

28. The cooling unit of claim 27 wherein the cooling unit has a cool air circuit and a warm air circuit, a warm air blower is adapted to move air along the warm air circuit, and a cool air fan is adapted to move air along the cool air circuit.

29. The cooling unit of claim 28 wherein cool air from the cool air circuit passes through said one or more outlet vents when being delivered to the interior of the armored vehicle.

30. The cooling unit of claim 29 wherein the cooling unit has a discharge outlet through which warm air from the warm air circuit is adapted to pass when being discharged from the cooling unit to outside the armored vehicle.

31. The cooling unit of claim 1 wherein a refrigeration circuit is located within the housing, the refrigeration circuit comprising the following components: i. the compressor or pump; ii. the energy transfer tube apparatus; and iii. an evaporator.

32. The cooling unit of claim 31 wherein the cooling unit has a cool air circuit and a warm air circuit, the housing has a first compartment and a second compartment, the warm air circuit is in the first compartment, the cool air circuit is in the second compartment, and the energy transfer tube apparatus, a condenser, or both are located in the first compartment such that air moving along the warm air circuit passes over the energy transfer tube apparatus, the condenser, or both.

33. The cooling unit of claim 32 wherein the evaporator is in the second compartment.

34. The cooling unit of claim 32 comprising a warm air blower configured to cause air to pass over the energy transfer tube apparatus, the condenser, or both and to remove heated air from the first compartment, and a cool air fan configured to cause air to pass over the evaporator and to remove cooled air from the second compartment.

35. The cooling unit of claim 31 wherein the refrigeration circuit is provided with an accumulator.

36. The cooling unit of claim 35 wherein the accumulator is located on the refrigerator circuit between the pump or compressor and the evaporator.

37. A cooling unit for an armored vehicle, the unit including: a. a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the armored vehicle; b. a compressor or pump located within the housing; and c. an energy transfer tube apparatus in which inner and outer rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from the inner flow to the outer flow, the energy transfer tube apparatus being located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump, the energy transfer tube apparatus having a flow separator that mechanically separates the inner and outer flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator being configured to divert the outer flow along an outer pathway while the inner flow is channeled along an inner pathway.

38. The cooling unit of claim 37 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

39. The cooling unit of claim 38 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

40. The cooling unit of claim 39 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

41. A cooling unit for an armored vehicle, the cooling unit including a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the armored vehicle, the cooling unit being equipped to provide both an output of greater than 12,000 BTU/hr and a coefficient of performance of greater than 2.25 while the vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F., the cooling unit having a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows, the energy transfer tube apparatus being located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump.

42. The cooling unit of claim 41 wherein the coefficient of performance is greater than 2.4.

43. The cooling unit of claim 41 wherein the coefficient of performance is at least about 2.48.

44. The cooling unit of claim 41 wherein the cooling unit has a single discharge outlet through which warm air is adapted to pass when being discharged from inside the cooling unit to outside the armored vehicle, the discharge outlet having a cross-sectional area that is no greater than about eight square inches

45. The cooling unit of claim 41 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates inner and outer flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator being configured to divert the outer flow along an outer pathway while the inner flow is channeled along an inner pathway.

46. The cooling unit of claim 45 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

47. The cooling unit of claim 46 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

48. The cooling unit of claim 47 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

49. A cooling unit for an armored vehicle having a vehicle interior of between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet, the cooling unit being equipped to overcome a heat load of at least about 12,000 BTU/hr, the cooling unit including a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the armored vehicle, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows, the energy transfer tube apparatus being located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump, the cooling unit having an output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr.

50. The cooling unit of claim 49 wherein the cooling unit can provide said output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr while the vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F.

51. The cooling unit of claim 49 wherein the output is at least 19,000 BTU/hr.

52. The cooling unit of claim 49 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates inner and outer flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator being configured to divert the outer flow along an outer pathway while the inner flow is channeled along an inner pathway.

53. The cooling unit of claim 52 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

54. The cooling unit of claim 53 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

55. The cooling unit of claim 54 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

56. The cooling unit of claim 49 wherein the cooling unit has a single discharge outlet through which warm air is adapted to pass when being discharged from inside the cooling unit to outside the armored vehicle, the discharge outlet having a cross-sectional area that is no greater than about four square inches

57. A method of cooling an interior of an armored vehicle equipped with a cooling unit, the cooling unit including a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump, the method comprising operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the armored vehicle, wherein said operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows.

58. The method of claim 57 wherein the method includes operating the cooling unit in first and second operating modes, wherein the armored vehicle has a vehicle power system, the method comprises using the vehicle power system to power the cooling unit, and the method includes operating the cooling unit at a first electric current level when in the first operating mode, and operating the cooling unit at a second electric current level when in the second operating mode, said first electric current level being greater than said second electric current level.

59. The method of claim 58 wherein the method includes using a limiting device to limit operation of the cooling unit to said second electric current level when in the second operating mode.

60. The method of claim 57 wherein the cooling unit includes a pressurized discharge system comprising an exhaust compartment from which warm air is discharged through a discharge outlet such that the warm air discharged through the discharge outlet has a super-atmospheric pressure.

61. The method of claim 60 wherein the super-atmospheric pressure is greater than 1.5 atmospheres.

62. The method of claim 57 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates inner and outer rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator diverting the outer flow along an outer pathway while channeling the inner flow along an inner pathway.

63. The method of claim 62 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

64. The method of claim 63 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

65. The method of claim 64 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

66. A method of cooling an interior of an armored vehicle equipped with a cooling unit, the cooling unit including a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump, the method comprising operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the armored vehicle, the cooling unit providing an output of greater than 12,000 BTU/hr and having a coefficient of performance of greater than 2.25, wherein said operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows.

67. The method of claim 66 wherein the coefficient of performance is greater than 2.4.

68. The method of claim 66 wherein the coefficient of performance is at least about 2.48.

69. The method of claim 66 wherein the cooling unit is equipped to provide both said output of greater than 12,000 BTU/hr and said coefficient of performance of greater than 2.25 even when the armored vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F.

70. The method of claim 66 wherein the vehicle interior being cooled is between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet.

71. The method of claim 66 wherein the cooling unit has a single discharge outlet through which warm air passes from inside the cooling unit to outside the armored vehicle, the discharge outlet having a cross-sectional area that is no greater than about eight square inches.

72. The method of claim 66 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates inner and outer flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator diverting the outer flow along an outer pathway while channeling the inner flow along an inner pathway.

73. The method of claim 72 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

74. The method of claim 73 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

75. The method of claim 74 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

76. A method of cooling an interior of an armored vehicle equipped with a cooling unit, the vehicle interior having between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet, the cooling unit being equipped to overcome a heat load of at least about 12,000 BTU/hr, the cooling unit including a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump, the method comprising operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the armored vehicle, the cooling unit providing an output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr, wherein said operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows.

77. The method of claim 76 wherein the cooling unit is equipped to provide said output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr even when the armored vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F.

78. The method of claim 76 wherein the output is at least 19,000 BTU/hr.

79. The method of claim 76 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates inner and outer rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus, the flow separator diverting the outer flow along an outer pathway while channeling the inner flow along an inner pathway.

80. The method of claim 79 wherein the inner pathway extends along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway.

81. The method of claim 80 wherein the energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus.

82. The method of claim 81 wherein said single stream extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

83. The method of claim 76 wherein the cooling unit has a single discharge outlet through which warm air passes from inside the cooling unit to outside the armored vehicle, the discharge outlet having a cross-sectional area that is no greater than about four square inches.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This patent application claims priority to provisional U.S. Patent Application No. 61/032,340, filed on Feb. 28, 2008, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

Armored vehicles commonly have limited interior space. As a result, operator and passenger comfort may be sacrificed for utility. Armored vehicles are deployed in a variety of environments, in some cases in climates so severe that operational effectiveness may be compromised by a hot or cold vehicle interior. Many armored vehicles have simple heaters to heat the passenger compartments in cold climates, but suitable cooling systems for use in hot climates remain elusive.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Certain embodiments of the present invention provide a cooling unit for a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle). The cooling unit includes a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. The energy transfer tube apparatus is located within the housing and is configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

In some embodiments, the invention provides a cooling unit for a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle). In the present embodiments, the cooling unit includes a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which inner and outer rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from the inner flow to the outer flow. The energy transfer tube apparatus is located within the housing and is configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. In the present embodiments, the energy transfer tube apparatus has a flow separator that mechanically separates the inner and outer flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus. Preferably, the flow separator is configured to divert the outer flow along an outer pathway while the inner flow is channeled along an inner pathway. The cooling unit preferably includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

Some embodiments of the invention provide a cooling unit for a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle). The cooling unit includes a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle. In the present embodiments, the cooling unit is equipped to provide both an output of greater than 12,000 BTU/hr and a coefficient of performance of greater than 2.25 while the vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F. The cooling unit has a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. The energy transfer tube apparatus is located within the housing and is configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

In certain embodiments, the invention provides a cooling unit for a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle) having a vehicle interior of between about 300 and about 1,200 cubic feet, such as between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet. In the present embodiments, the cooling unit preferably is equipped to overcome a heat load of at least about 12,000 BTU/hr. The cooling unit includes a housing adapted to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the vehicle, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. The energy transfer tube apparatus is located within the housing and is configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. In the present embodiments, the cooling unit preferably has an output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

In some embodiments, the invention provides a method of cooling an interior of a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle) that is equipped with a cooling unit. The cooling unit includes a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. The method comprises operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the vehicle, and the operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

Certain embodiments of the invention provide a method of cooling an interior of a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle) that is equipped with a cooling unit. The cooling unit includes a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. The method comprises operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the vehicle. In the present embodiments, the cooling unit provides an output of greater than 12,000 BTU/hr and has a coefficient of performance of greater than 2.25. The operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

Some embodiments of the invention provide a method of cooling an interior of a vehicle (optionally an armored vehicle) that is equipped with a cooling unit. In the present embodiments, the vehicle interior has between about 300 and about 1,200 cubic feet, such as between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet, and the cooling unit preferably is equipped to overcome a heat load of at least about 12,000 BTU/hr. The cooling unit includes a housing, a compressor or pump located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus located within the housing and being configured to receive fluid directly or indirectly from the compressor or pump. The method comprises operating the cooling unit so as to pass cool air from inside the housing to the interior of the vehicle. In the present embodiments, the cooling unit preferably provides an output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr. The operation of the cooling unit includes establishing at least two rotating fluid flows in the energy transfer tube apparatus so as to transfer energy from one of the rotating fluid flows to another of the rotating fluid flows. Preferably, the cooling unit also includes an evaporator or another heat exchanger over which air moving through the housing flows and is cooled before passing from inside the housing to an interior of the vehicle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a cross section and partial cutaway drawing of a cooling unit in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the cooling unit of FIG. 1, with the front open.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view with a partial cutaway of the cooling unit of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the cooling unit of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5A is a schematic longitudinal sectional view of an energy transfer tube apparatus in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 5B is a schematic cross sectional view of the energy transfer tube shown in FIG. 5A along the line A-A.

FIG. 6 is a longitudinal sectional view of an energy transfer tube apparatus in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 7A is a view of an intake manifold shown in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 7B is a perspective view of the intake manifold shown in FIG. 7A.

FIG. 7C is a partially broken-away sectional perspective view of an intake manifold, a flow generator, and an energy transfer tube in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 8A is a perspective view of a flow generator in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 8B is a sectional view of the flow generator shown in FIG. 8A.

FIG. 8C is a cross sectional view of an intake manifold and flow generator in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 8D is another cross sectional view of the intake manifold and flow generator shown in FIG. 8C.

FIG. 9A is a perspective view of a flow separator in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 9B is a side elevation view of the flow separator shown in FIG. 9A.

FIG. 9C is a sectional view of the flow separator shown in FIG. 9A.

FIG. 10 shows a refrigeration system in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 11 shows another refrigeration system in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 12 is an exploded side view of the energy transfer tube apparatus shown in FIG. 5A.

FIG. 13 is a schematic top view of an armored vehicle equipped with a cooling unit in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 14 is a broken-away side view of an energy transfer apparatus mounted on shock absorbing mounts in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 15 is a schematic top plan view of a cooling unit equipped with shock absorbing gel or foam in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 16 is a cross section and partial cutaway view of a cooling unit in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 17 is another cross section and partial cutaway view of the cooling unit of FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 is a top plan view with a partial cutaway of the cooling unit of FIG. 16.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the cooling unit of FIG. 16.

FIG. 20 is another cross section and partial cutaway view of the cooling unit of FIG. 16.

FIG. 21 is another top plan view with a partial cutaway of the cooling unit of FIG. 16.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention involves a cooling unit for cooling (e.g., air conditioning) an interior space (e.g., a crew cabin) of a vehicle. The vehicle may be an armored vehicle (e.g., a vehicle equipped with armor), a tracked vehicle (e.g., a track-laying vehicle), or both, such as a tank or another fighting vehicle. Other types of military vehicles can also be cooled using a cooling unit of this invention. In some cases, the vehicle is equipped with at least one missile, large-caliber gun, machine gun, or any combination comprising two or more of those armaments. In other cases, the vehicle is not equipped with armaments, and/or is non-armored (e.g., the vehicle can alternatively be an automobile, a truck, or an airplane). Thus, certain embodiments of the invention provide a vehicle (optionally of any vehicle type described in this paragraph) equipped with the present cooling unit. The cooling unit in such embodiments preferably is incorporated into the vehicle (e.g., is mounted or otherwise located in the vehicle) such that the unit can be operated so as to deliver a flow of cool air into a space of the vehicle (this space preferably is an interior space that can be occupied by one or more people, e.g., a “vehicle occupant space”).

The cooling unit generally includes a housing and at least one energy transfer tube apparatus. In some embodiments, the cooling unit also has a battery pack or another device energy source (such as a hydrogen fuel cell). Alternatively, the cooling unit can be adapted to run solely on the vehicle power system. The cooling unit preferably includes a compressor or pump, which when provided can optionally be configured to be powered by the battery pack (or other device energy source) or by the vehicle power system. More will be said later about the various options for powering the cooling unit.

Thus, the cooling unit preferably includes a housing. Depending upon the cooling unit's intended location within the vehicle, it may be preferable for the housing not to have large sharp corners, shoulders, or other protrusions that occupants of the vehicle may bump against when the vehicle bounces, shakes, etc. Thus, it may be desirable for certain exposed sections (such as a front panel FP) of the cooling unit to have a generally smooth exterior, e.g., so as to avoid having parts jutting into the vehicle's interior. For example, some corners and edges of the housing may be tapered or beveled to provide a safer environment for vehicle occupants.

Preferably, the cooling unit is adapted for being installed (e.g., in a removable manner) in the vehicle. In some embodiments, the housing 10 has a modular configuration adapted for being removably mounted at an interchangeable module position 299 inside the vehicle V. Reference is made to FIG. 13. The interchangeable module position, for example, can be a mounting location that is otherwise occupied by a removable heater. Thus, the present cooling unit can optionally be configured for being retrofit into the heater location (after the heater has been removed) of an existing armored vehicle. The specific way in which the housing is configured for being removably mounted in the vehicle is by no means limiting to the invention. As just one example, mounting holes 200 can be provided in a top wall, or a bracket BR, of the housing 10 to enable the cooling unit to be removably installed using corresponding studs or bolts. Reference is made to FIGS. 4 and 19. In FIG. 4, the mounting holes 200 are irregular in shape so that each hole can fit over a head of a stud or bolt, and then by moving the housing laterally the shaft of each stud or bolt moves into a smaller portion of the hole 200 while the head of the stud or bolt serves to support the housing. This, however, is merely one way to provide for removable mounting of the cooling unit. For example, the bracket shown in FIG. 19 has conventional round mounting holes 200. In both cases, the mounting structure (mounting holes 200, bracket BR, etc.) is located on a top portion of the cooling unit, although this is by no means required. Furthermore, the cooling unit could alternatively be a permanent component of the vehicle, rather than being a removable module.

In certain embodiments, the cooling unit is a replaceable module adapted for being mounted removably in the vehicle, and the cooling unit itself includes one or more sub-assembly modules that can be removed individually from the cooling unit. For example, the cooling unit can optionally include one or more of the following sub-assembly modules: 1) a discharge blower module, 2) a cool air fan module, 3) a pump or compressor module, 4) an energy transfer tube module, 5) a condenser module, 6) an evaporator module, and 7) an electronic components module. In FIGS. 16-21, the cooling unit includes three compartments 160, 170, 550, and one or more (optionally all) of them can be defined (at least in part) by removable modules. These modules, for example, can be cases, trays, or housings that can be removed individually (and then repaired or replaced). In FIG. 21, for example, walls 180A-180C form a removable case in which a blower 80 is housed. Thus, if the blower 80 needs replacement or repair, the blower can be readily accessed by individually removing the discharge blower module from the cooling unit (e.g., after removing the front panel FP of the unit). If desired, the same can be true of the warm compartment 170, the cool compartment 160, or both. It is to be appreciated, however, that the cooling unit is not required to have a modular design.

The cooling unit is provided with at least one energy transfer tube apparatus. Preferably, the energy transfer tube apparatus is one in which at least two rotating fluid flows can be established so as to transfer energy from one (i.e., from at least one) of the rotating fluid flows to another (i.e., to at least one other) of the rotating fluid flows. Generally, the flow(s) from which energy (e.g., heat) is being transferred is/are closer to a central axis AX of the tube than is/are the flow(s) to which the energy is being transferred. In other words, the flow(s) to which energy is being transferred is/are closer to the tube's wall than is/are the flow(s) from which energy is being transferred. Depending upon the type of energy transfer tube used, there may be more than two rotating flows in the tube. More will be said of this later.

In connection with the energy transfer tube apparatus, different types can be used. For example, the cooling unit can include an energy transfer tube apparatus adapted to produce (e.g., to output) separate cold and hot fluid streams (e.g., such cold and hot streams may emanate from opposed ends of the energy transfer tube apparatus), and/or it can include an energy transfer tube apparatus in which the flows inside the tube all travel in one direction (i.e., toward one end of the tube) and exit from the same end of the tube (e.g., as a single stream of output), and/or it can include an energy transfer tube apparatus that is one component of a closed-loop vapor-compression refrigeration cycle. Exemplary systems of the first type are described in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US2006/0150643, entitled “Refrigerator” (Sullivan), and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/937,569, entitled “Energy Transfer Apparatus And Methods” (Sullivan), and in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/132,158, entitled “Energy Transfer Apparatus And Methods” (Sullivan). The entire teachings of U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/937,569 and 12/132,158 are incorporated herein by reference. The '569 and '158 applications disclose energy transfer tube apparatuses wherein more than two rotating flows are established in the tube. Exemplary systems of the second and third types are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/028,785, entitled “Energy Transfer Tube Apparatus, Systems, And Methods” (Sullivan), the entire teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference. In the '785 application, embodiments are disclosed wherein separate warm and cool rotating flows travel in the same direction through the tube, and are separated from each other (e.g., mechanically) for a distance before being combined so as to leave the energy transfer tube apparatus in a single stream emanating from one end of the apparatus.

Preferably, the energy transfer tube apparatus is located within the housing of the cooling unit. Generally, the energy transfer tube apparatus is adapted to receive working fluid (in some cases air, in other cases a refrigerant) directly or indirectly from a compressor or pump, which may also be located within the housing. A fluid connector may deliver working fluid directly (e.g., without first passing through any coil, accumulator, or expansion valve) from the compressor or pump to the energy transfer tube apparatus. Alternatively, one or more other components may be connected in series between the compressor or pump and the energy transfer tube apparatus. When provided, the compressor or pump could alternatively be mounted on a side (such as a top side, bottom side, rear side, front side, left side, or right side) of the unit, rather than being inside the housing. In some cases, it may even be desirable to use a compressor or pump remote from the cooling unit, and to run one or more fluid connectors between the cooling unit and the compressor or pump. Variants of this nature will be apparent to skilled artisans given the present teaching as a guide.

In some embodiments, the cooling unit is equipped with a battery pack or another device energy source, such as a hydrogen fuel cell. When provided, the device energy source may be adapted for powering (e.g., may be operably connected to) the compressor or pump. The device energy source may be mounted inside the housing. However, this is not required. For example, it may be preferable to provide the device energy source on a side of the housing. In some cases, it may even be desirable to use a device energy source remote from the cooling unit, and to run one or more electrical connections between the cooling unit and the device energy source. Moreover, the cooling unit is not required to have a battery pack or any other device energy source. Instead, the cooling unit may be powered by the vehicle power system.

Turning now to the figures, FIG. 1 is a cross sectional, partially cut away drawing of a cooling unit in accordance with certain embodiments of the invention. The cooling unit of FIG. 1 includes a housing 10, a compressor or pump 20 located within the housing, a battery pack or other device energy source 130 adapted for powering the compressor or pump, and an energy transfer tube apparatus 50 located within the housing and adapted to receive fluid from the compressor or pump. The energy transfer tube apparatus shown in FIG. 1 is adapted to have warm and cool rotating flows traveling in the same direction through the tube, and these flows are separated from each other (e.g., mechanically) for a distance before being combined so as to leave the energy transfer tube apparatus in a single stream emanating from one end of the apparatus. Alternatively, the cooling unit can have an energy transfer tube apparatus of the type that produces separate cold and hot fluid streams (e.g., where respective hot and cold flows emanate from opposite ends of the energy transfer tube apparatus). In FIG. 1, the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 is one component of a closed-loop vapor-compression refrigeration cycle, as will now be described.

The compressor or pump 20 preferably circulates a working fluid (e.g., a refrigerant) through the system and raises the pressure of the working fluid circulating through the system. The specific type of compressor or pump is not limiting to the invention. In one group of embodiments, the compressor is a scroll compressor. However, reciprocating compressors (e.g., piston compressors) can also be used, as can screw compressors, gear compressors, lobe compressors, or centrifugal compressors. Thus, the compressor can be virtually any compressor or pump suitable for use in a refrigeration system and/or heat-cycle system. Useful compressors are available commercially from a variety of suppliers, such as Air Squared (Bloomfield, Colo., U.S.A.) or Visteon Corporation (Van Buren Township, Mich., U.S.A.).

In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the output from the compressor or pump 20 enters an optional vapor/liquid separator 30 in which condensed liquid refrigerant is generally separated from gaseous refrigerant. When provided, the vapor/liquid separator 30 separates the refrigerant into two flows—one that is largely (e.g., predominantly, or substantially entirely) vapor and another that is largely (e.g., predominantly, or substantially entirely) liquid. In the flow that is largely vapor, there is more vapor than liquid, and in the flow that is largely liquid, there is more liquid than vapor. Typically, this separation is a coarse separation. The liquid outflow from the vapor/liquid separator 30 preferably has a greater mass volume than the vapor outflow from the vapor/liquid separator. In some non-limiting examples, the liquid outflow is designed to be 60% or more, 70% or more, 75% or more, or even 80% or more of the total mass outflow from the vapor/liquid separator 30. In one embodiment, the liquid outflow is designed to be about 60-90%, such as about 70-80%, of the total mass outflow from the vapor/liquid separator 30. When the liquid/vapor separator is provided, the system (e.g., the compressor or pump and evaporator) preferably is designed to facilitate such relative mass flows.

The specific type of vapor/liquid separator 30 is not limiting to the invention. In fact, the vapor/liquid separator 30 is optional, as discussed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/028,785. On the other hand, two or more vapor/liquid separators 30 may be arranged in series, e.g., so as to obtain a finer separation of liquid and vapor.

In FIGS. 1-4, the components of the refrigeration loop can be connected by any suitable conduit, such as flexible tubing of plastic or rubber. In general, any fluid connector can be used (such as air conditioning hose). For example, standard refrigerant connectors for R-134A or R-122 can be used.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, the largely gaseous fluid stream from the vapor/liquid separator 30 enters the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 through a first inlet 107, and preferably flows to a large diameter flow chamber. The largely liquid fluid stream from the vapor/liquid separator 30 enters the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 through a second inlet 108, and preferably flows to a small diameter flow chamber. The flow chambers are described in more detail below.

FIG. 5A schematically illustrates a longitudinal section of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 of FIG. 1. The apparatus 50 comprises an energy transfer tube 102 with a first end region 104 and a second end region 106. Adjacent to the first end region 104, there is provided an intake manifold 105 having the first inlet 107 and the second inlet 108. (In some embodiments, the intake manifold may be integral to the energy transfer tube.) A flow generator 210 is provided adjacent to the tube's first end region 104. (In some cases, the flow generator may be integral to the energy transfer tube and/or the intake manifold.) A flow separator 112 is provided adjacent to the tube's second end region 106. In embodiments like that of FIG. 5A, the flow separator 112 is surrounded (at least in part, substantially entirely, or entirely) by a cooling jacket 114, although this is not strictly required. (The flow separator in certain embodiments may be integral to the cooling jacket. And in some cases the flow separator and the cooling jacket may be integral to the energy transfer tube. Many variants of this nature are possible.)

With continued reference to FIG. 5A, the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 receives a first pressurized fluid flow through the first inlet 107. This flow is directed into a first inlet chamber 132, then through one or more passages 144 in the flow generator 210, and into a first flow chamber 116, which in the illustrated embodiment is defined by the generator 210. In this way, the generator 210 creates a rotating outer flow 118, which travels through the energy transfer tube 102 (e.g., from left to right as seen in FIG. 5A). The second inlet 108 delivers a second pressurized fluid flow into a second inlet chamber 133, then through one or more passages 146 in the flow generator 210, and into a second flow chamber 220, which in the illustrated embodiments is also defined by the generator 210. In this manner, the generator 210 creates a rotating inner flow 122, which travels through the energy transfer tube 102. Here, the first flow chamber 116 preferably has a larger diameter (e.g., by at least 25%, at least 35%, at least 50%, or at least about 100%) than the second flow chamber 220.

Preferably, the rotating inner flow 122 is located radially within (e.g., is surrounded by) the rotating outer flow 118. For example, the rotating inner flow 122 may travel substantially along the axis AX of the tube 102. As shown in FIG. 5B (which is a cross-section of the tube 102 looking towards the second end region 106 along line A-A of FIG. 5A), the outer and inner flows 118, 122 may both rotate in the same direction (e.g., clockwise in the embodiment of FIG. 5B) as they move towards the tube's second end region 106. However, this orientation is merely exemplary—the inner and outer flows can alternatively both rotate counter-clockwise. For some applications, it may even be possible to have the inner flow rotate counter-clockwise while the outer flow rotates clockwise, or vice versa. Preferably, the flows in the tube 102 travel toward the same end (e.g., toward the second end region 106) of the energy transfer tube apparatus (these flows may travel in the same direction at all times while flowing through the tube and when flowing out of the energy transfer tube apparatus).

In FIG. 5A, as the inner and outer flows move through the energy transfer tube 102, energy is transferred from the inner flow 122 to the outer flow 118, thus making the inner flow 122 relatively cold while the outer flow becomes relatively hot. Preferably, the inner flow 122 becomes increasingly cold as it moves towards the second end region 106 of the tube 102, and the outer flow 118 becomes increasingly hot as it moves towards the tube's second end region.

Near the second end region 106 of the illustrated energy transfer tube 102, a flow separator 112 is provided (to separate the inner and outer flows). Here, the cold inner flow 122 is channeled along an inner pathway 124 (which can optionally extend along a central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus), and the hot outer flow 118 is diverted along an outer pathway 126 (which can optionally be spaced radially outward of the inner pathway). In embodiments like that of FIG. 5A, a cooling jacket 114 (or another heat exchanger) is adapted to transfer heat from the outer flow 118 to a surrounding medium (optionally via heat transfer fins 128 or another high surface area mechanism defining the heat transfer surface 70). After being cooled in this way, the rotating outer flow 118 is combined with the inner flow 122 into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the resulting combined flow is then delivered out of the energy transfer tube apparatus. The resulting single stream/combined flow may travel through a single output line (which optionally extends along the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus), although this is not strictly required. (The energy transfer tube apparatus is discussed at greater length later in this disclosure.)

Thus, the illustrated cooling jacket 114 receives heat from the rotating outer flow 118, which flows in a rotating manner adjacent to (e.g., alongside) an inside surface of the cooling jacket 114. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4, a warm air blower 80 draws air into the housing 10 through one or more intake vents 90 (see FIG. 1) and across a heat transfer surface 70 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. Heat is thereby transferred from the heat transfer surface 70 to the moving air, which is then discharged from the housing 10 through one or more discharge outlets 100. In certain embodiments, the cooling unit discharges hot air from its interior through a single outlet passage 100 (i.e., the cooling unit may have only one hot air discharge passage), although this is by no means required.

In FIGS. 1-4, the discharge outlet 100 through which warm air leaves the cooling unit preferably is adapted to discharge that warm air to an environment outside the vehicle. In FIGS. 1-4, the illustrated discharge outlet 100 is configured with a flange to allow for connection to ductwork or venting through which the warm air can be delivered to the exterior of the vehicle. These details, however, are merely exemplary.

With continued reference to FIGS. 1-4, after the working fluid (e.g., refrigerant) leaves the energy transfer tube apparatus 50, it flows (directly or indirectly) to an evaporator (or another heat exchanger) 110 where at least a portion of the working fluid evaporates, in the process removing heat from the surrounding environment (e.g., from air surrounding the evaporator). In some cases, this involves relatively warm air being blown by a cool air fan 120 across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110. When provided, the cool air fan 120 can be adapted to draw air into the housing 10 through one or more intake vents 290 (see FIGS. 1 and 2) and across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger), and to blow the resulting cooled air out of the housing, e.g., into the vehicle's interior.

The working fluid will typically enter the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) as a liquid-vapor mixture, preferably comprising as much liquid as possible. After passing through the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110, the working fluid (which then comprises vapor, perhaps together with some liquid) returns to the compressor 20 inlet to finish the cycle.

If the cooling unit is to be used in an armored vehicle or some other vehicle adapted for military use, then the intake vents 90, 290 of the cooling unit may be configured to draw air directly from an intake equipped with filters for removing nuclear, biological, and chemical (“NBC”) contaminants. Another alternative is to have air from outside the vehicle delivered into the vehicle after passing through NBC filters or canisters, with the intake vents 90, 290 of the cooling unit then simply drawing ambient air from the vehicle's interior.

In general, the working fluid can be any condensable fluid, such as CO2 (R-744), highly purified liquefied propane gas (R-290), R410a, R134, A22, A12, Freon, etc. Preferably, a non-Freon refrigerant is used, such as an alkaline-based fluid, which can show good consistency when temperatures get high or low. If desired, R-11 may be used, and it may have particular advantages for low-pressure systems due to its relatively high boiling point, which can allow low-pressure systems to be constructed with lesser mechanical strength required for the components. Other refrigerants can also be used.

In a preferred group of embodiments, the working fluid is a mixture comprising water and glycol, a mixture comprising water and sorbitol, a mixture comprising water, glycol, and sorbitol, or a mixture comprising water and one or more other natural water antifreezes. When used, the glycol preferably is a food glycol (e.g., propylene glycol), which is non-toxic, e.g., insofar as being generally recognized as safe for use as a direct food additive. In one practical example, the working fluid is a 50-50 mix of water and sorbitol. This, however, is merely one example; it is by no means limiting to the invention.

In one practical example of a cooling unit like that shown in FIGS. 1-4, the refrigerant is a 50-50 mixture of water and food sorbitol (about 2.5 pounds of refrigerant is put into the system), and the energy transfer tube apparatus has the following dimensions: an assembled length of about 9.72 inches, the energy transfer tube 102 has a length of about 4.83 inches and an inner diameter of about 7/16 inch, each of the tangential inlets has an inner diameter of about 0.22 inch, each tangential inlet is at an offset angle A of about 7 degrees, the first inlet chamber has an outside diameter of about 0.782 inch and an inside diameter of about 0.563 inch, while the second inlet chamber has an outside diameter of about 0.625 inch and an inside diameter of about 0.375 inch, the flow generator has 14 rows (spaced evenly about the circumference of the generator's first wall 230) of six 0.22 inch passages leading into the first flow chamber 116, the flow generator has 7 rows (spaced evenly about the circumference of the generator's second wall 131) of three 0.22 inch passages leading into the second flow chamber 220, the diameter of the first flow chamber 116 is about 0.4 inch, the diameter of the second flow 220 chamber is about 0.187 inch, the flow separator 112 has a length of about 3.25 inches and the narrow section of its inner pathway 124 has an inner diameter of about 0.328 inch while the wider section of its inner pathway 124 has an inner diameter of about 0.75 inch, the diameter of the chamber in which the axial inlet tube 166 is located is about 0.938 inch, the outer diameter of the flow separator's wall 260 is about 1.25 inches, while the adjacent inner surface of the cooling jacket 114 is about 1.63 inches, and the diameter of the outflow passage OFP is about 0.53 inch. The liquid/vapor separator is a block having an inlet comprising a ½″ NPT bore to which a fluid connector is attached so as to deliver working fluid into a primary bore extending into the separator block, two bores pass crosswise (relative to the primary bore) through the block so as to intersect the main primary and open respectively toward two outlet bores in the neck portions of which two removable orifice inserts are respectively fitted (e.g., by a press fit), the outflow sections of the outlet bores are provided as ⅛″ NPT bores, such that two fluid connectors with corresponding fittings can be threadingly attached to these outlets, the liquid flow orifice insert LI defines a 0.22″ orifice, the vapor flow orifice insert VI has eighteen 0.052″ orifices, and the plugs PL are ¼″ NPT plugs. A useful liquid/vapor separator block of this nature is shown in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/028,785. The relevant teachings of this '785 application are incorporated by reference into the present paragraph, and the relevant detail drawings of the liquid/vapor separator block in the '785 application are incorporated herein by reference. The details and features given in this paragraph are merely exemplary. They are by no means limiting to the invention.

The embodiment of FIGS. 1-4 employs a low-pressure system like that shown schematically in FIG. 10 except without the accumulator A. In some low-pressure system embodiments, the pressure of the working fluid is generally or substantially constant (or even) throughout the system (e.g., it may be less than 125 psi, or less than 100 psi, such as about 90 psi). These details, however, are merely examples. In other embodiments, a high-pressure system is used. In such cases, the basic operation of the cooling unit's hot and cold air circuits may be the generally same as described herein in connection with FIGS. 1-4 (or as described below in connection with FIGS. 16-21), except that the refrigeration system is a high-pressure system like that shown schematically in FIG. 11. (Here again, it is possible in some cases to omit the accumulator A. For example, this may be the case in some embodiments where a scroll compressor is used). In some high-pressure system embodiments, the system has a high side pressure of greater than 100 psi, greater than 125 psi, or greater than about 150 psi (e.g., it may be between about 150 psi and 200 psi). Additionally or alternatively, the system may have a low side pressure of less than 100 psi, less than 75 psi, or less than 60 psi (e.g., about 50 psi). In one practical embodiment, the high side pressure is about 150 psi and the low side pressure is about 50 psi. Here again, these details are merely examples. More discussion of such low and high pressure systems can be found in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/028,785.

The cooling unit can optionally be provided with multiple power sources. For example, the cooling unit can be connected both to a vehicle power system and to a device energy source 130. Commonly, the vehicle power system will be remote from the cooling unit (but adapted to deliver energy to the cooling unit). The cooling unit may be positioned at any of a number of distinct locations in the vehicle. For example, with reference to FIG. 13, the housing 10 of the cooling unit may be located proximate to an operator position (generally referenced as 132) of the vehicle V. This type of arrangement would enable space near the operator to be effectively cooled. The cooling unit shown here is remote from the vehicle power system (generally referenced as 134). It should be understood that FIG. 13 merely shows one possible arrangement; the cooling unit, the vehicle power system 134, or both may be at various different locations on the vehicle.

Referring back to FIG. 1, the device energy source 130 (when provided) can be located on the cooling unit (e.g., on a side of the unit, such as a top or bottom side, or a lateral side, or inside the unit). In other embodiments, the device energy source 130 could be remote from the cooling unit (but adapted to deliver energy to the cooling unit). In some cases, the device energy source 130 can be a battery pack. For example, the device energy source 130 can include one or more rechargeable batteries. As non-limiting examples, the batteries can be any of the lead-acid, lithium, or nickel-cadmium varieties, or of any other battery type known in the art. Suitable battery packs are available from a variety of commercial suppliers, such as K2 Energy Solutions, Inc. (Henderson, Nev., U.S.A.). In other cases, the device energy source 130 can be one or more hydrogen fuel cells. As noted above, however, the battery pack is optional, and is not provided in all embodiments (e.g., the vehicle power system alone may be used to power the cooling unit in some embodiments).

In certain embodiments, the powering of the cooling unit is triggered using a switch. When provided, the switch can be located on the cooling unit; however, the switch could just as well be remote from the unit. In some embodiments, when the switch is thrown, the cooling unit will be powered by the vehicle power source (rather than by a device energy source 130). In certain embodiments of this nature, the cooling is unit is operably connected to both the vehicle power system and a device energy source. During normal operating periods (e.g., during a normal operating mode), the vehicle power system in such embodiments can advantageously be adapted to recharge the device energy source 130. On the other hand, during periods when the vehicle power system is turned off (or is otherwise not being used to power the cooling unit), such as if the vehicle is in a quiet watch mode, the device energy source 130 can be used to power the cooling unit. In some embodiments, switching between the vehicle power system and the device energy source 130 is done manually, e.g., via a multi-position switch on the unit. It should be appreciated, however, that a system can be used to automate the switching.

In other embodiments, the cooling unit is powered by the vehicle power system 134 alone (e.g., the cooling unit may be devoid of any battery or other device energy source). In such cases, the cooling unit may be equipped to be powered solely by the vehicle power system at all times during operation of the cooling unit. In certain embodiments, the cooling unit is operably connected to the vehicle power system, and a limiting device 135 (e.g., a limiting switch) is provided. Reference is made to FIG. 13. Preferably, the limiting device can, at selected times (e.g., when the vehicle is operating in a quiet watch mode), limit the cooling unit's power consumption (e.g., to a lower amp range than during a normal operating mode). The limiting device 135, for example, may lower the amount of current drawn by the cooling unit and/or it may limit the amount of current available to the cooling unit from the vehicle power system. In embodiments where a limiting device is provided, it may be integrated within the cooling unit, integrated within the vehicle power supply, or provided as a stand-alone device coupling the cooling unit with the vehicle power supply. In certain embodiments, the limiting device is adapted to reduce the operating current of, or the current available to, the cooling unit by at least 25%, at least 35%, or at least 50%. As just one example, if the cooling unit is adapted to draw about 60-80 amps during normal operating mode, then activating the limiting device may reduce the unit's operating current to about 30 amps. As another possible example, activating the limiting device may reduce the amount of current available to the cooling unit from the vehicle power system. For example, if the cooling unit is adapted to draw about 60-80 amps during normal operating mode, then activating the limiting device may reduce the amount of current available from the vehicle power system to about 30 amps, thereby also reducing the power consumption of the cooling unit. In embodiments where a limiting device is provided, the output of the cooling unit may decrease when the limiting device is actuated (e.g., reducing the power consumption by 50% may reduce the cooling unit's production of BTUs/hr by the same amount).

Thus, in certain embodiments, the cooling unit has first and second operating modes, the vehicle has a vehicle power system, and the cooling unit is powered by the vehicle power system. In some embodiments of this nature, the cooling unit operates at a first electric current level when operating in the first operating mode, and the cooling unit operates at a second electric current level when operating in the second operating mode. Here, the first electric current level is greater than the second electric current level (e.g., by at least 25%, at least about 35%, or at least about 50%). This can be accomplished, for example, by providing a limiting device that limits the cooling unit's power consumption to the second (lower) electric current level when operating in the second operating mode. When the vehicle is an armored vehicle, the cooling unit may be adapted to operate in the first operating mode when the armored vehicle is operating in a normal operating mode and to operate in the second operating mode when the armored vehicle is operating in a quiet watch mode.

Similarly, some embodiments provide a vehicle cooling method in which the cooling unit produces a first BTU/hr output when the vehicle is operated in a normal operating mode, and the cooling unit produces a second BTU/hr output when the vehicle is operated in a quiet watch mode. The second BTU/hr output is lower than the first BTU/hr output. In some embodiments, the second BTU/hr output is lower than the first BTU/hr output by at least 25%, at least 35%, or at least 50%. Thus, in operating the vehicle, full cooling may be provided when the vehicle is operating in normal operating mode, and partial cooling may be provided when the vehicle is operating in quiet watch mode.

During operation of the cooling unit, the energized components of the cooling unit include the compressor or pump 20, the warm air blower 80, and the cool air fan 120. In some cases, these components are each run by a 110 volt AC (alternating current) motor. As such, a vehicle power source configured to supply such voltage can be directly used to power the components. When provided, the device energy source 130 may be a source of DC (direct current) voltage, e.g., 24 volts DC. In such cases, an inverter 140 can be used with the device energy source 130, as shown, to convert the DC voltage to the AC voltage needed to energize the noted components.

While the above description refers to cases where the energized components are driven by 110 AC voltage, this is not required. For example, changes can be made to the electrical system so that one or more of the noted components, such as the warm air blower 80, is driven by three phase power. In such cases, phase converters can be connected between the power sources and the component(s) in question so as to provide the requisite three phase power. Further, one or more components could be equipped with DC motors. For example, if 24 volt DC motors were used, the inverter 140 could be eliminated from the system, as the device energy source 130 would generally be configured to supply such voltage; however, a rectifier would then need to be used for converting the AC voltage running from the vehicle power source to the requisite DC voltage. Skilled artisans will appreciate that many other variations can also be used.

An optional control panel 150 may be used to control the output of the cooling unit. When provided, the control panel 150 may additionally or alternatively be used to locate electrical circuits for power conversion purposes or other electrical components (electrical relays, switches, pressure sensors, thermocouple leads, etc.). The control panel 150 may be a standalone unit that is controlled at, or within, the housing 10, or it may be a panel that is configured to work with the vehicle controls through an interface. In certain embodiments, the control panel 150 includes an electronics tray and/or has a modular design that allows damaged components to be readily replaced.

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the cooling unit of FIG. 1. Here, the front panel of the housing 10 has been removed to expose a compartment of the housing 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the compressor or pump 20, an inverter 140, a control panel 150, an evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110, and a cool air fan 120 are all located inside the compartment shown in FIG. 2. However, this is merely one example. For example, the inverter 140, the control panel 150, or both may be omitted in some cases, as already explained. Also, the compressor or pump 20 need not be located in the illustrated compartment. Instead, it could be in a different compartment, or it could be remote from the cooling unit (but connected by fluid connectors).

The compartment shown in FIG. 2 can be referred to as the “cool” side of the housing 10, e.g., because the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110 absorbs heat from this compartment as the refrigerant evaporates. The cool air fan 120 draws air into this compartment through one or more intake vents 290 (which can be various types of openings, optionally covered by a screen, see FIGS. 1 and 2) and moves that air across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 120, thereby cooling the air before blowing it out of the housing 10 through one or more outflow vents 190 (which can be various types of openings, optionally covered by a screen, see FIGS. 3 and 4).

FIG. 3 is a top plan view, with a partial cutaway, of the cooling unit of FIGS. 1 and 2. FIG. 3 shows that the illustrated cooling unit includes two compartments—a first compartment 170 and a second compartment 160. Here, the housing 10 is divided by an interior wall 180, although this is merely one way to provide separate compartments. In the illustrated embodiment, the first compartment 170 contains the energy transfer tube apparatus 50, the optional vapor/liquid separator 30, and the warm air blower 80. The warm air blower 80 need not be located in the first compartment 170. For example, FIGS. 16-21 depict embodiments wherein the warm air blower 80 is located in another compartment 550 of the housing. More will be said later about the embodiments of FIGS. 16-21. Regardless of the precise location of the warm air blower 80, it is preferably adapted to draw air into the first compartment 170 and past the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 and/or past a condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN. The warm air blower 80 preferably draws air through one or more intake vents 90 and across the heat transfer surface 70 of an energy transfer tube apparatus 50 and/or past a condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN before discharging the heated air from the housing 10 through the discharge outlet 100. It is to be appreciated that multiple discharge outlets 100 can be provided, if so desired.

In the embodiment of FIG. 3, the second compartment 160 contains the compressor 20, the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110, the cool air fan 120, the inverter 140, and the control panel 150. The cool air fan 120 need not actually be located in the second compartment 160. Instead, it could be located in another compartment or location of the cooling unit. Regardless of its location, the cool air fan 120 preferably is adapted to draw air into the second compartment 160 and past the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110. As already explained, the cool air fan draws air into the second compartment 160 through one or more intake vents 290 (see FIGS. 1 and 2) and across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 120 so as to be cooled before being blown out of the housing 10 through one or more outlet vents 190.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the cooling unit of FIGS. 1-3. Here, it can be seen that the illustrated housing 10 is configured to fit in the vehicle as a removable module, which preferably can be installed and removed with relatively little effort. The cooling unit in FIG. 4 is shown as having a battery pack 130 (which is optional) located on the exterior of the housing 10 for easy access. FIG. 4 shows one example of an outlet vent 190 from which cool air is ejected into the vehicle interior. The configuration of this vent can be changed, of course, to optimize the flow of cool air from the cooling unit into the vehicle's interior.

Thus, FIGS. 1-4 show one possible design for the cooling unit. The components of the cooling unit, however, can be arranged in different ways. Moreover, depending upon the particular embodiment, the cooling unit can have different combinations of components. In some cases (such as in FIGS. 1-4), the cooling unit has one compartment (e.g., a “warm compartment”) with an energy transfer tube apparatus 50 and a warm air blower 80, while a different compartment (e.g., a “cool compartment”) has an evaporator (or other heat exchanger (cold)) 110 and a cool air fan 120. However, this is not strictly required. For example, some embodiments of the cooling unit have no evaporator (such as embodiments based on an energy transfer tube that emits cold air from one end while emitting hot air from an opposite end). Further, in some embodiments (see FIGS. 16-21), the cooling unit has one compartment (e.g., a warm compartment) with an energy transfer tube apparatus 50, a condenser (or other heat exchanger (hot)) CN, or both, while a different compartment (e.g., a cool compartment) has an evaporator (or other heat exchanger (cold)) 110. Thus, the cooling unit can take various forms.

In certain embodiments, the cooling unit is adapted to cool an interior space of at least about 500 cubic feet, such as between about 500 cubic feet and about 4,500 cubic feet, perhaps between about 500 cubic feet and about 3,000 cubic feet. In some embodiments, the cooling unit is adapted to cool an interior space of between about 500 cubic feet and about 1,500 cubic feet, such as about 600 cubic feet, or about 700 cubic feet (e.g., between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet). The particular size of the area to be cooled, however, is by no means limiting to the invention. For example, the cooling unit can be adapted for cooling (e.g., air conditioning) the interiors of various different vehicles.

In certain embodiments, the cooling unit has an output (e.g., exhausts energy at a rate) of at least 1,500 BTU/hr, or perhaps more preferably at least 1,600 BTU/hr. In some embodiments, the output is 3,000-7,000 BTU/hr (optionally about 5,000 BTU/hr), or 8,000-12,000 BTU/hr (optionally about 10,000 BTU/hr), or 13,000-17,000 BTU/hr (optionally about 15,000 BTU/hr), or 17,000-30,000 BTU/hr (such as about 20,000 BTU/hr). The invention, though, is by no means limited to any particular output range.

In certain embodiments, the cooling unit is adapted to cool a vehicle interior having between about 300 and about 1,200 cubic feet, such as between about 500 and about 800 cubic feet. In some embodiments this nature, the cooling unit is adapted to (e.g., is equipped to) overcome a heat load of at least about 12,000 BTU/hr. In these embodiments, the cooling unit preferably puts out (e.g., exhausts energy at a rate of) at least 15,000 BTU/hr, at least 17,000 BTU/hr, or at least 19,000 BTU/hr (such as about 20,000 BTU/hr or more). The embodiments of FIGS. 16-21, for example, can optionally provide a level of performance that falls within one or more of these ranges. However, these ranges are not limiting to the invention; the cooling unit can be designed to have different performance levels depending upon the requirements of a given application. Preferably, the cooling unit can provide the noted output of at least 15,000 BTU/hr while the vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F.

To assess performance, a vehicle equipped with the cooling unit can be positioned in a heated environment in which the ambient temperature is about 125° F., the relative humidity is about 5%, and the barometric pressure is about 30, such that there is a constant heat load of about 12,000 BTU/hr. (It is to be understood that this is merely one possible way to test the performance of the cooling unit.) To determine the energy being exhausted by the cooling unit, the following standard ASHRAE formula can be used: BTUH=CFM×Temperature Difference×1.08. Thus, a BTUH of 12,170.52 is achieved for a cooling unit with the following performance: exhaust air volume of 191 cubic feet per minute, exhaust temperature of 181° F., air temperature inside the vehicle of 122° F. In this particular example, 12,170.52 BTUH=191×59×1.08.

The coefficient of performance (“COP”) can be determined using the following standard ASHRAE formula: COP=output BTUH÷input BTUH. In the foregoing example, the output BTUH was 12,170.52 and the cooling unit's power consumption average was about 60 amps at 24 volts DC. Thus, the input BTUH was determined as follows: 24 volts×60 amps=1,440 watts×3.412=4,913.28 BTUH. The COP was 12,170.52 BTUH 4,913.28 BTUH=2.48 (at 125° F.). Thus, the performance of the cooling unit is exceptional and is believed to exceed the performance levels that can be attained using existing vehicle air conditioning systems. Particularly noteworthy is that the cooling unit discharged over 12,000 BTUH of heat energy while maintaining a COP of 2.48 at an ambient temperature of 125° F.

Thus, certain embodiments provide a cooling unit equipped to discharge over 12,000 BTUH of heat energy while providing a COP of greater than 2, greater than 2.25, greater than 2.4, or greater than 2.45 (e.g., at least about 2.48) while the vehicle is in an environment in which the ambient temperature is 125° F. (and/or the heat load is at least 12,000 BTUH).

In certain embodiments, the cooling unit operates as described (e.g., as reflected by any range or any combination of the ranges noted) in the foregoing six paragraphs while having a discharge outlet of a very small size. For example, the discharge outlet can optionally have a cross-sectional area that is no greater than eight square inches, no greater than five square inches, or no greater than four square inches (such as about 3.5 in2). In one practical embodiment, the cooling unit has only one discharge outlet, and it has a diameter of about two inches.

FIGS. 16-21 exemplify certain advantageous embodiments of the cooling unit. The cooling unit includes a housing 10, a compressor or pump 20 located within the housing, and an energy transfer tube apparatus 50 located within the housing and adapted to receive fluid (directly or indirectly) from the compressor or pump. The energy transfer tube apparatus preferably has warm and cool flows traveling through the tube in the same general direction (e.g., without any turn-around of the flows), and these flows preferably are separated from each other (e.g., mechanically) over some distance before being combined so as to leave the energy transfer tube apparatus in a single stream emanating from one end of the apparatus. In FIGS. 16-21, the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 is one component of a closed-loop vapor-compression refrigeration cycle, as will now be described.

The compressor or pump 20 preferably circulates a working fluid through the system and raises the pressure of the working fluid circulating through the system. The specific type of compressor or pump is not limiting to the invention. In one group of embodiments, the compressor is a scroll compressor. However, reciprocating compressors (e.g., piston compressors) can also be used, as can screw compressors, gear compressors, lobe compressors, or centrifugal compressors. Thus, the compressor can be virtually any compressor or pump suitable for use in a refrigeration system and/or heat-cycle system. Useful compressors are available commercially from a variety of suppliers, such as Air Squared (Bloomfield, Colo., U.S.A.) or Visteon Corporation (Van Buren Township, Mich., U.S.A.).

In FIGS. 16-21, the output from the compressor or pump 20 is connected by conduit (e.g., fluid connector) to the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. Here, the compressor or pump 20 has a single outflow line that branches into two separate lines for delivering working fluid into two separate inlets 107, 108 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. Various types of manifolds can be used to distribute the working fluid into the two inlets 107, 108 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. The fluid delivered into the energy transfer tube apparatus becomes two rotating flows (e.g., a rotating hot outer flow comprising vapor and a rotating cold inner flow comprising liquid) even if no liquid/vapor separator is provided. In some cases, the energy transfer tube may alternatively have a single inlet; rather than having two inlets 107, 108.

The components of the refrigeration loop can be connected by any suitable conduit, such as flexible tubing of plastic or rubber. In general, any fluid connector can be used (such as air conditioning hose). For example, standard refrigerant connectors for R-134A or R-122 can be used.

With continued reference to FIGS. 16-21, through a first inlet 107 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 a first stream of working fluid flows to a large diameter flow chamber 116. From a second inlet 108 a second stream of working fluid flows to a small diameter flow chamber 220.

FIG. 5A schematically illustrates a longitudinal section of one energy transfer tube apparatus 50 that can be used in the embodiments of FIGS. 16-21. The structure, components, and operation of such an energy transfer tube apparatus have already been described.

Briefly, as the inner and outer flows move through the energy transfer tube 102, energy is transferred from the inner flow 122 to the outer flow 118, thus making the inner flow 122 relatively cold while the outer flow becomes relatively hot. Preferably, the inner flow 122 becomes increasingly cold as it moves towards the second end region 106 of the tube 102, and the outer flow 118 becomes increasingly hot as it moves towards the tube's second end region.

With continued reference to FIG. 5A, near the second end region 106 of the energy transfer tube 102, a flow separator 112 separates the inner and outer flows. Here, the cold inner flow 122 is channeled along an inner pathway 124, and the hot outer flow 118 is diverted along an outer pathway 126. Preferably, the inner pathway extends along a central axis AX of the energy transfer tube apparatus, and the outer pathway is spaced radially outward of the inner pathway. In such cases, when the flow separator diverts the outer flow to the outer pathway, this diversion involves the outer flow moving further from the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus. In embodiments like that of FIG. 5A, a cooling jacket (or another heat exchanger) 114 is adapted to transfer heat from the outer flow 118 to a surrounding medium (e.g., via heat transfer fins 128 or another high surface area mechanism defining a heat transfer surface 70). After being so cooled, the rotating outer flow 118 preferably is combined with the inner flow 122, and the resulting combined flow is then delivered out of the energy transfer tube apparatus. The illustrated energy transfer tube apparatus is configured such that, after the flow separator mechanically separates the inner and outer flows, those flows are combined into a single stream before leaving the energy transfer tube apparatus. In the illustrated embodiments, when the outer flow converges with the inner flow, this involves the outer flow moving closer to the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

Thus, the illustrated cooling jacket (or other heat exchanger) 114 receives heat from the rotating outer flow 118, which flows in a rotating manner adjacent to (e.g., alongside) an inside surface of the cooling jacket (or other heat exchanger). In FIGS. 16-21, a warm air blower 80 draws air into the housing 10 through one or more intake vents 90 (see FIG. 19). This air flows across a heat transfer surface 70 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 and across a condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN. In FIGS. 16-21, wall EW1 is shown as a solid wall. However, this wall EW1 can alternatively have a vent, optionally covered by a screen, though which air can be drawn by the warm air blower 80 into the housing. In such cases, the condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN can optionally be configured so as to be carried alongside the interior of wall EW1. The condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN, for example, can be larger than that shown in FIGS. 16-21, such that it is positioned alongside the interiors of both walls EW1, EW2.

Thus, in FIGS. 16-21, heat is transferred from the heat transfer surface 70 of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50, and from the condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN, to air flowing over those components. That warm air is then drawn into an exhaust compartment 550 of the housing. In FIGS. 16-21, the warm air blower 80 is located inside the exhaust compartment 550, although this is not strictly required. For example, the warm air blower could alternatively be located in the first compartment 170 (e.g., on the other side of wall 180B). Preferably, the exhaust compartment 550 is defined by a modular case or housing that can be readily removed from the housing, e.g., if the warm air blower 80 needs repair or replacement. As is perhaps best seen in FIG. 21, the illustrated module includes walls 180A-180C. If desired, a modular exhaust case of this nature can be configured to be mounted removably in a corresponding slot or space inside the cooling unit.

Preferably, the size and configuration of the exhaust compartment 550, the size of the discharge outlet 100, and the volumetric capacity of the warm air blower 80 are selected such that warm air discharged from the cooling unit through the discharge outlet 100 has a super-atmospheric pressure (e.g., greater than 1.25 atmospheres, greater than 1.5 atmospheres, or greater than 1.75 atmospheres, such as about 2 atmospheres). By providing a pressurized discharge system, the cooling unit is able to exhaust warm air out of the cooling unit at a high rate. This can be advantageous where, as in the case of some military vehicles, there are strict limits on the size of the discharge outlet(s) that can be used by the cooling unit. The present invention extends to any cooling unit (e.g., of any type described herein) having such a pressurized discharge system.

Preferably, the cooling unit has an exhaust air volume of greater than 100 cubic feet per minute, greater than 150 cubic feet per minute, or greater than 175 cubic feet per minute (such as about 190 cubic feet per minute or more).

The discharge outlet(s) 100 through which warm air leaves the cooling unit preferably discharge that warm air to an environment outside the vehicle. In FIGS. 1-4 and 16-21, the illustrated discharge outlet 100 is configured with a flange to allow for connection to ductwork or venting through which the warm air can be delivered to the exterior of the vehicle. These details, however, are merely exemplary.

Thus, warm air can be discharged from the housing 10 through the discharge outlet(s) 100. In some embodiments, the cooling unit discharges hot air from its interior through a single discharge outlet 100 (i.e., the cooling unit may have only one hot air discharge outlet). Reference is made to FIGS. 1, 3, 4, 18, and 21.

With continued reference to FIGS. 16-21, after the working fluid leaves the energy transfer tube apparatus 50, it flows (directly or indirectly) to a condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN. The illustrated condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN comprises a coil through which the working fluid flows. Different condenser types (or other types of heat exchangers) can be used, as will be well appreciated by people skilled in this technology area. In the condenser, the working fluid is further cooled and condensed into liquid.

Once the working fluid leaves the condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN, it flows (directly or indirectly) to an accumulator A. When provided, the accumulator preferably is located on the refrigeration circuit somewhere between the pump or compressor and the evaporator (or other heat exchanger). The accumulator A can be provided for various reasons, e.g., so as to help absorb any pressure diversions that may occur when temperature changes, so that the pump need not be so large to cope with demand extremes, so that the supply circuit can respond more quickly to any temporary demand increase, and/or to smooth pulsations. For example, the accumulator can be provided to add a little fluid volume, e.g., so as to extend the working time. Different accumulator types can be used, as will be readily understood by people skilled in the present technology area. If desired, the system can include more than one accumulator (of the same or different types) at various locations. Also, there will be some embodiments in which the accumulator will be omitted.

From the accumulator, the working fluid flows (directly or indirectly) to an expansion device (an expansion valve, orifice, capillary tube, etc) ED. Here, the pressure of the working fluid decreases rapidly. Preferably, this causes a flash evaporation, e.g., of perhaps less than half the liquid. The result is a mixture of liquid and vapor at a lower temperature and pressure.

Next, this cold liquid-vapor mixture flows to an evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 100 where at least a portion of the working fluid evaporates, in the process removing heat from the surrounding environment (e.g., from air surrounding the evaporator (or other heat exchanger)). In some cases, this involves relatively warm air being moved by a cool air fan 120 across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110. When provided, the cool air fan 120 can be adapted to draw air into the housing 10 through one or more intake vents 290 (see FIG. 16) and across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110 and to blow the resulting cooled air out of the housing, e.g., into the vehicle's interior. As the working fluid moves through the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110, some of the fluid is vaporized by warm air that is blown by the cold air fan 120 across the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) (e.g., across a coil or tubes of the evaporator (or other heat exchanger)).

The working fluid will typically enter the evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110 as a liquid-vapor mixture, preferably comprising as much liquid as possible. After passing through the evaporator 110, the working fluid (which then comprises vapor, perhaps together with some liquid) returns to the compressor 20 inlet to finish the cycle.

In FIGS. 16-21, the illustrated cooling unit has multiple compartments including a first compartment 170 and a second compartment 160. Here, the first compartment 170 includes a pump or compressor 20, an energy transfer tube apparatus 50, a condenser (or other heat exchanger) CN, and an accumulator A, while the second compartment 160 includes an expansion device ED and an evaporator (or other heat exchanger) 110. Additional components may be provided to meet the requirements of a given application. Moreover, the condenser CN and/or the expansion device ED can be omitted in some cases. Additionally or alternatively, the accumulator A may be omitted in some embodiments. Also, the expansion device ED can be at different locations. The same is true of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. For example, it could alternatively be located in another compartment of the housing. Moreover, it may be desirable to provide more than one energy transfer tube apparatus in some cases. The accumulator can also be provided at different locations.

The cooling unit preferably has a shock reducer adapted to provide the unit with resistance against being damaged when the vehicle experiences shock. FIG. 15 schematically depicts one embodiment where the housing 10 is provided with a shock protection system (e.g., a shock reducer). Here, the shock protection system comprises a gelatin or foam GL. The housing, for example, can be partially filled with an inert gel that hardens. The gel may be one that can subsequently be dissolved by heating it or pouring solvent on it. In some embodiments, one or more internal components (such as the energy transfer tube apparatus 50, the compressor 20, etc.) are at least partially encapsulated in (optionally suspended by) a shock protection gel or foam. When protective gel or foam is used, breathe paths and/or other open areas can be provided in the gel or foam so as to provide the airflows discussed above (or for any other reason). In some embodiments, the shock absorbing gel or foam GL is positioned in the housing 10 so as to leave open at least a warm air pathway and a cold air pathway. One possible arrangement is shown in FIG. 15. Here, it can be seen that a warm air circuit WAC extends along the warm air pathway, while a cool air circuit CAC extends along the cool air pathway. When provided, the gel or foam GL can be arranged in different ways. In some cases, temporary molds, permanent molds, or both are put in place within the housing 10 before a protective gelatin or foam is delivered into the cooling unit.

Alternatively (or in addition to a shock absorbing gel or foam), one or more components of the cooling unit can be mounted on flexible shock absorbing mounts MTS. Examples include, but are not limited to, spring mounts, mounts comprising rubber or polymeric materials, mounts comprising shock absorbing gels, and any other mounting system with shock absorbing capabilities. Mounts comprising shock absorbing gels are available from Gelmec UK, Marcom House, 1 Steam Mill Lane, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR31 0HP, United Kingdom.

FIG. 14 shows an energy transfer tube apparatus 50 mounted on shock absorbing mounts MTS. If desired, one or more of the other internal components of the cooling unit can be mounted on shock absorbing mounts. In some cases, the mounts MTS comprise rubber.

The term “evaporator” is used herein. When this term is used in the present disclosure, it can refer to any heat exchanger that transfers energy (e.g., heat) to the working fluid from a surrounding environment (e.g., from air surrounding and/or flowing past the heat exchanger). Thus, evaporator can be denoted more generally as “heat exchanger (cold).” The term “condenser” is also used herein. When this term is used in the present disclosure, it can refer to any heat exchanger that transfers energy (e.g., heat) from the working fluid to a surrounding environment (e.g., to air surrounding and/or flowing past the heat exchanger). Thus, condenser can be denoted more generally as “heat exchanger (hot).”

More information on the illustrated energy transfer tube apparatus 50 will now be provided. Referring again to FIG. 5A, the fluid delivered into the apparatus 50 through the first and second inlets 107, 108 can be vapor, liquid, or a liquid-vapor mixture. As described below, an optional liquid/vapor separator 30 can be used to supply a generally or predominantly vapor flow to the first inlet 107, while supplying a generally or predominantly liquid flow to the second inlet 108. Alternatively, the liquid/vapor separator can be omitted, and a fluid connector leading to the energy transfer tube can simply have a manifold (or a branch point) at which a single fluid line branches into two fluid lines, and these two fluid lines can lead respectively to the first 107 and second 108 inlets of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. This is perhaps best seen in FIGS. 16 and 18.

Preferably, the rotating outer flow 118 (which originates in the first flow chamber 116) is generally or predominantly vapor (at least once it reaches the flow separator 112), while the rotating inner flow (which originates in the second flow chamber 120) is generally or predominantly liquid (at least once it reaches the flow separator 112). When the liquid/vapor separator is provided, the rotating outer flow 118 may start out being generally or predominantly vapor (e.g., from the time it is delivered into the energy transfer tube apparatus), and the rotating inner flow may start out being generally or predominantly liquid. For some applications, though, it may be advantageous to eliminate the liquid/vapor separator to avoid a restriction (e.g., an imbalance problem may occur between the liquid output and the vapor outlet of the liquid/vapor separator.

During operation, the inner flow 122 preferably travels along the axis AX of the energy transfer tube (e.g., while being located radially inwardly of the outer flow). The inner flow, for example, may be a cold, dense rotating liquid flow that travels generally on the axis of the energy transfer tube. Due to the tight rotation of such a flow, it may be considered to wobble as it flows axially through the tube. In some embodiments, it is surmised that a vacuum zone exists in a location radially between the inner flow 122 and the outer flow 118. In some embodiments of this nature where an aqueous solution is used as the refrigerant, it is believed that at least some of the fluid in the energy transfer tube 102 is converted to H3O.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 12, respective sectional and exploded views are shown of an exemplary energy transfer tube apparatus 50. Here again, the illustrated apparatus 50 comprises an energy transfer tube 102 with an intake manifold 105 having a first inlet 107 and a second inlet 108. The illustrated inlets are tangential inlets, although this is not strictly required. The first inlet 107 is closer to the tube's second end region 106 than is the second inlet 108. Although the figures show a single first inlet and a single second inlet, the apparatus 50 can alternatively have multiple first inlets, multiple second inlets, or both. Moreover, some embodiments do not have first and second inlets. In such cases, the energy transfer tube apparatus 50 can simply have one or more inlets spaced the same distance from the tube's second end region 106.

In FIG. 5A, the flow separator 112 is adjacent to the tube's second end region 106. Preferably, the flow separator 112 bounds (e.g., surrounds or otherwise defines) the inner flow pathway 124. In the illustrated embodiment, the flow separator 112 also bounds the outer flow pathway 126. In more detail, the illustrated flow separator 112 defines the outer flow pathway 126 in cooperation with the cooling jacket 114. Once the rotating outer flow 118 has been mechanically separated from the rotating inner flow 122, the outer flow travels along the outer pathway and in the process transfers heat to the cooling jacket 114. The rotation of the hot outer flow 118 is believed to be advantageous in providing a high rate of heat transfer (e.g., via the cooling jacket to a surrounding medium) from the outer flow as it travels along the outer pathway. If desired, the cooling jacket can be replaced with another type of heat exchanger.

With reference to FIG. 6, the illustrated flow generator 210 comprises first and second walls 230, 131, respectively bounding the first and second fluid flow chambers 116, 220. In the illustrated embodiments, the first and second walls 230, 131 also bound, respectively, a first inlet chamber 132 (which is in fluid communication with the first inlet 107) and a second inlet chamber 133 (which is in fluid communication with the second inlet 108). The first 230 and second 131 walls of the flow generator 210 here each have a generally cylindrical configuration, although this is not required.

Preferably, the energy transfer tube 102 is a cylindrical tube that bounds an energy transfer chamber 134 comprising a generally cylindrical interior space. In one practical embodiment, the energy transfer tube has an inner diameter of about 7/16 inch. The length of the tube may be, for example, about 4¾ inches, and the energy transfer tube has an inner diameter of about 7/16 inch. These dimensions, however, are not limiting—they are merely examples. For example, smaller diameters are anticipated. Moreover, larger diameters may be preferred for some applications. In addition, the tube 102 can be provided in many different forms. For example, it is not required to be circular in cross section. In certain alternate embodiments, it may be possible to use an elongated block formed with appropriate interior bores (including an elongated interior cylindrical bore forming the energy transfer chamber 134).

The energy transfer tube 102 can be formed of many different materials. In one exemplary embodiment, the tube comprises stainless steel (such as AISI 304), although brass, copper, aluminum, and other metals may be used. Various non-metals may also be used. The invention is not limited to any particular material.

In some embodiments, it may be desirable to provide the energy transfer tube 102 with a transducer (e.g., by placing a transducer in, or on, an energy transfer tube of the apparatus). This may be provided to generate an acoustic tone. For example, the tube 102 can optionally be provided with a band or strap type frequency generator, e.g., secured around the energy transfer tube. This type of frequency generator may create frequency all along the band, rather than just at one point on the strap. Alternatively, a point-type frequency generator may be used.

For embodiments where the energy transfer tube 102 exhibits acoustic toning, this acoustic event may be characterized by an acoustic frequency and amplitude propagating throughout a plurality of fluid flows (preferably propagating throughout both fluid flows in the tube 102). This is contrary to acoustic streaming, in which an acoustic stream is isolated (or “localized”) between two adjacent fluid flows. Thus, in acoustic toning, the acoustic tone propagates over a plurality (preferably over all) of the flow layers, rather than being trapped between two adjacent flow layers, as is the case with acoustic streaming. In some embodiments, the acoustic tone may exist over substantially the entire length of the energy transfer tube, although this is not required.

FIGS. 7A and 7B provide additional views of the exemplary intake manifold 105 in FIG. 6. Here, the intake manifold 105 comprises a generally cylindrical housing 138 bounding an interior space (or “chamber”) 240, which preferably is at least generally or substantially cylindrical. The chamber 240 is open at one end, and closed at another end by an end wall 141 of the manifold 105. The first and second inlets 107, 108 can be formed integrally with (or coupled to) the manifold housing 138. As is perhaps best shown in FIG. 7A, the illustrated inlets 107, 108 meet the manifold housing (and open into chamber 240) at an angle A (e.g., an oblique angle) relative to a plane perpendicular to a central axis CA of the interior chamber 240 (and/or relative to tube axis AX). One or both of the first and second inlets, for example, may angle away from the open end of the manifold, preferably at an angle A of at least about one degree, e.g., at least 4 degrees, such as about 7 degrees. This incline can be provided, for example, to impart a forward (towards the second end region 106 of the tube 102) component of velocity to the fluid flowing out of the inlets. However, different angles A are possible depending upon the application.

FIG. 7C is a partially broken-away sectional view of the intake manifold 105, flow generator 210, and energy transfer tube 102 of FIG. 6. When the illustrated apparatus 50 is operatively assembled, the flow generator 210 is located within (e.g., housed by) the intake manifold 105 (e.g., the flow generator 110 can be disposed, at least in part, within the manifold's interior chamber 240). In FIGS. 6 and 7C, the interior of the manifold 105 and the first wall 230 of the flow generator 210 together bound a first annular inlet chamber 132. This inlet chamber 132 is in fluid communication with the first inlet 107. A second annular inlet chamber 133 is bounded by the second wall 131 of the generator together with the interior of the manifold 105. This inlet chamber 133 is in fluid communication with the second inlet 108. In the illustrated embodiment, the first annular inlet chamber 132 is partially defined by an annular recess (or “channel”) 143 extending about the interior of the manifold 105. In the embodiment of FIG. 7C, the flow generator 210 includes a flange 142 that separates the first and second inlet chambers 132, 133. The inlet chambers can alternatively be separated and/or defined by other structural means. For example, the illustrated flange could extend inwardly from the intake manifold 105, rather than being part of the flow generator. Many other configurations can be used as well.

The illustrated manifold 105 is adapted to deliver pressurized fluid into the first and second inlet chambers 132, 133 (e.g., via the first and second inlets 107, 108). As fluid in the first inlet chamber 132 flows around the generator's first wall 230, the fluid enters one or more passages 144 in the generator's first wall 230. The passage(s) 144 lead to the first flow chamber 116. The configuration of the passage(s) 144 is such that fluid delivered into the first flow chamber 116 rotates around the interior periphery of this chamber 116, creating the rotating outer flow 118, which then moves through the energy transfer tube 102. As fluid in the second inlet chamber 133 flows around the generator's second wall 131, the fluid enters one or more passages 146 in the second wall 131. The passage(s) 146 lead to the second flow chamber 220. The configuration of the passage(s) 146 is such that fluid delivered into the second flow chamber 220 rotates around the interior periphery of that chamber 220, creating the rotating inner flow, which then moves through the second flow chamber 220 and into the energy transfer tube 102.

In some embodiments, the passages 144, 146 are adapted to impart a forward (towards the second end region 106 of the tube 102) component of velocity to fluid flowing into the chambers 116, 220. Thus, one or more (optionally all) of the passages 144, 146 may be configured so as to be (e.g., may extend along an axis that is) oblique to a plane perpendicular to an axis of the generator (and/or to tube axis AX). The angular offset from such a plane preferably is a positive angle, such as about 1 degree, at least about 4 degrees, or more.

In certain embodiments, the intake manifold 105 and the energy transfer tube 102 are coupled via matching male and female threading. In such cases, the flow generator 210 can be placed inside the manifold 105 and then secured in place by threading the tube 102 onto the manifold 105. However, the invention is not limited to any particular type of coupling or attachment means. Moreover, the flow generator, intake manifold, and/or energy transfer tube may be formed as integral parts in some cases.

The intake manifold 105 and the flow generator 210 can both be formed of various materials. Examples include brass, stainless steel, and other metals. Various non-metals may also be used. The invention is not limited to using any particular materials.

Turning now to FIGS. 8A and 8B, an embodiment of the flow generator 210 is depicted. Preferably, the generator 210 is adapted to create both the rotating outer flow and the rotating inner flow. In the illustrated embodiments, the generator 210 defines part of a first inflow path along which pressurized fluid from the first inlet 107 travels to the first flow chamber 116, and the generator also defines part of a second inflow path along which pressurized fluid from the second inlet 108 travels to the second flow chamber 220.

As noted above, the illustrated generator has one or more passages 144 leading through its first wall 230 to the first flow chamber 116. The passage(s) 144 is/are configured to deliver pressurized fluid into the first flow chamber 116. Similarly, the illustrated generator has one or more passages 146 leading through its second wall 131 to the second flow chamber 220. The passage(s) 146 is/are configured to deliver pressurized fluid into the second flow chamber 220.

In some embodiments, the generator's first 230 and second 131 walls each have a plurality of passages 144, 146 spaced circumferentially about the generator. For example, the first wall 230, the second wall 131, or both can optionally have multiple clusters of passages, where the clusters are spaced circumferentially about the generator 210. In some embodiments, each cluster includes at least one row of passages, such row being substantially parallel to the axis of the energy transfer tube (when the apparatus is operatively assembled). Reference is made to FIG. 8A, which exemplifies embodiments of this nature. Here, each row is aligned with (e.g., is generally or substantially parallel to) the axis AX of the energy transfer tube. These features, however, are by no means required.

FIG. 8C is a cross-section of the intake manifold 105 and the flow generator 210, with the generator's first wall 230 and the first flow chamber 116 being shown in detail. As pressurized fluid is delivered from the first inlet 107, the fluid rotates through the first inlet chamber 132 around the generator's first wall 230 and passes through the passage(s) 144 into the first flow chamber 116. In the embodiment of FIG. 8C, the exterior of the generator's first wall 230 comprises a plurality of ridges adjacent to respective clusters of the passages 144. Here, the passages 144 of each cluster are provided with an adjacent ridge 151 adapted to facilitate flow into the passages 144. Each such ridge 151 may, for example, be located behind (relative to the fluid's direction of rotation) each cluster of passages, e.g., so as to partially block fluid from rotating and divert it into the passages 144. Each ridge 151 may be tapered so its exterior surface becomes gradually closer to the axis of the generator with increasing distance (in the direction of fluid rotation) around the perimeter of the generator. This too may help guide the rotating fluid into the passages 144.

FIG. 8D is a cross-sectional view detailing the second wall 131 of the generator 210 when positioned inside the manifold 105. As pressurized fluid is delivered from the second inlet 108, the fluid rotates through the second inlet chamber 133 around the generator's second wall 131 and passes through the passage(s) 146 into the second flow chamber 220. As with the first wall, the second wall 131 can have tapered ridges 151 (optionally of the same nature described above) that facilitate fluid flow into the passages 146.

The first and second walls 230, 131 of the illustrated generator 210 are generally cylindrical, and there is a generally annular flow path around each wall 230, 131 of the generator. Due to the orientation of the first and second inlets 107, 108, the pressurized fluid delivered into the inlet chambers rotates within the inlet chambers. Also, due to the orientation of the passages leading through the generator, the pressurized fluid delivered into the flow chambers rotates within the flow chambers.

It is not strictly necessary to provide the annular inlet chambers. For example, the inlets 107, 108 could deliver fluid directly to the respective flow chambers 116, 220. In such cases, the inlets preferably have oblique orientations adapted to start flow in the chambers rotating toward the second end region 106 of the tube 102.

In the illustrated embodiments, the inner diameter of the first flow chamber 116 is larger than the inner diameter of the second flow chamber 220. In some embodiments, the diameter of the first flow chamber is larger than that of the second flow chamber by at least 25%, at least 35%, or at least about 45%. For example, the first flow chamber 116 may be about twice the diameter of the second flow chamber 220. In one practical embodiment, the inner diameter of the first flow chamber 116 is about 0.4 inches, while the second flow chamber 220 has an inner diameter of about 0.187 inches. Of course, these dimensions are merely exemplary, and are not limiting. Many different dimensions may be used depending upon the application.

In connection with the intake manifold 105, the first inlet 107 and/or the second inlet 108 can optionally be formed so as to be tangential to the first and second inlet chambers 132, 133, respectively. Thus, each inlet can (rather than extending along an axis that is radial to the manifold/tube) be generally or substantially tangential to its inlet chamber, the manifold, and/or the tube 102. A tangential interface between the inlets and the inlet chambers can provide a smooth transition for the pressurized fluid flowing into the inlet chambers.

As shown in FIG. 7A, the first and second inlets 107, 108 preferably meet the housing 138 of the manifold 105 at an angle that imparts a forward component of velocity to the fluid flows. The term “forward” direction here means toward the second end region 106 of the tube 102. Preferably, the flow generator 210 also imparts a forward component of velocity to the rotating fluid. Preferably, the passages 144, 146 leading into the flow chambers 116, 220 are slanted forward. In embodiments of this nature, when pressurized fluid exits the passages 144, 146 and enters the first 116 and second 220 flow chambers, the fluid is directed somewhat forwardly, i.e., towards the second end region of the energy transfer tube 102.

FIGS. 9A-9C are additional views of the flow separator 112. The illustrated flow separator 112 comprises a cylindrical wall 260 that mechanically separates the inner pathway 124 from the outer pathway 126. This cylindrical wall 260 bounds the outer flow pathway inwardly. In the illustrated embodiment, the same cylindrical wall 260 bounds the inner flow pathway outwardly. However, this is not required. In the embodiment of FIGS. 9A-9C, to initially separate (i.e., to initiate mechanical separation of) the rotating outer flow from the rotating inner flow, the flow separator has a projecting axial inlet tube 166 adapted to receive the cold inner flow. Preferably, the axial inlet tube 166 receives a majority of the cold inner flow, while a majority of the hot outer flow travels past the axial inlet tube 166 and flows through a plurality of openings 168 in the separator 112 to reach the outer pathway.

The illustrated flow separator 112 has a first set of openings 168 adjacent to the second end region 106 of the energy transfer tube 102, and a second set of openings 270 located further from the second end region of the energy transfer tube than is the first set of openings. The first set of openings 168 provides passage of the rotating outer flow to the outer pathway, and the second set of openings subsequently provides passage of the outer flow to the inner pathway. In the illustrated embodiment, each set of openings comprises a plurality of circumferentially spaced openings. Preferably, these openings are oblique openings aligned with the outer flow's direction of rotation. These features, however, are not required.

Thus, the cylindrical wall 260 of the illustrated flow separator 112 includes a plurality of openings 168 proximate its first end 162. The openings 168 mark the beginning of the outer pathway 126. As is perhaps best seen in FIGS. 9B and 9C, the openings 168 can have an angled orientation so as to facilitate smooth delivery of the rotating outer flow into the outer pathway 126. Here, the openings 168 are elongated along an axis that is not parallel to a central axis of the flow separator (and is not parallel to the central axis of the energy transfer tube), but rather is oblique to that axis. The cylindrical wall of the illustrated flow separator also has openings 270 proximate its second end 164. These are the openings through which the outer flow passes when it is ultimately combined with the inner flow. These openings 270 can also have an angled orientation (e.g., being elongated along an axis oblique to the tube's axis) that facilitates smooth delivery of the outer flow into the inner pathway.

In FIGS. 9A-9C, the illustrated flow separator 112 includes a mounting flange 172 adjacent to the first end 162 of the cylindrical wall 260. Here, the mounting flange 172 facilitates mounting the flow separator 112 inside the illustrated cooling jacket 114, e.g., such that the exterior of the cylindrical wall 260 bounds the outer pathway 126 inwardly while the interior of the cooling jacket bounds the outer pathway 126 outwardly. If desired, the cooling jacket 114 and the mounting flange 172 of the flow separator 112 can have mating threads so the two pieces can be screwed together. Also, the interior of the mounting flange 172 may have threads so the energy transfer tube 102 can be screwed into the flange 172. In other cases, one or both of these connections are made by a press fit. Of course, these are merely examples: any suitable attachment means can be used to removedly or fixedly join the tube 102, the flow separator 112, and/or the cooling jacket 114.

The cooling jacket (or other heat exchanger) 114 and the flow separator 112 can be formed of various materials. Examples include brass, copper, and aluminum. In some embodiments, the heat transfer fins 128 are formed of brass. Various non-metals may also be used. The invention is not limited to using any particular materials for the cooling jacket or the flow separator.

Thus, the illustrated energy transfer tube apparatus 50 has inner 124 and outer 126 pathways that ultimately merge so as to combine the inner 122 and outer 118 flows, such that a combined flow can then be delivered out of the energy transfer tube apparatus 50. In the illustrated embodiments, the inner pathway 124 lies on the central axis of the energy transfer tube, while the outer pathway 126 is spaced radially from the central axis (and from the inner pathway 124). Thus, when the outer flow 118 is merged together with the inner flow 122, the outer flow is diverted radially closer to the central axis of the energy transfer tube apparatus. In the illustrated embodiments, once those flows have been merged, a single output stream is delivered out of the energy transfer tube apparatus.

While a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described, it should be understood that various changes, adaptations and modifications may be made therein without departing from the spirit of the invention and the scope of the appended claims.