Title:
Beverage Container Cooling System and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A beverage held in a container is rapidly cooled by placing the container in a flexible sleeve defining a sleeve chamber that is cooled, either directly or by a secondary loop of heat transfer fluid, by a closed refrigeration circuit. An agitation assembly is selectively operable to oscillate the sleeve about a yaw axis. During active cooling, a cooled fluid (such as refrigerant or a secondary heat transfer fluid) flows through the sleeve chamber while the agitation assembly is simultaneously operated to rapidly cool the beverage held within the container.



Inventors:
Elbel, Stefan (Urbana, IL, US)
Wujek, Scott S. (Urbana, IL, US)
Bowers, Chad D. (Urbana, IL, US)
Goergen, Davi Luis (Champaign, IL, US)
Montoya Ocampo, Carlos Alberto (San Juan Del Rio, MX)
Application Number:
14/896879
Publication Date:
06/02/2016
Filing Date:
06/13/2013
Assignee:
CREATIVE THERMAL SOLUTIONS, INC. (Urbana, IL, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/457.9, 62/435
International Classes:
F25D31/00; F25B1/00
View Patent Images:
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20110120160System For Controlling An Air-Conditioning SystemMay, 2011Dietrich
20070144204GAS ABSORPTION REFRIGERATORJune, 2007Cordeille et al.
20040250559Power out indicatorDecember, 2004Storms
20080260574Filtration and Purification SystemsOctober, 2008Kapitoures
20130263623NATURAL GAS LIQUEFACTION PROCESSOctober, 2013Lee et al.
20110179816COLD APPLIANCEJuly, 2011Andersson et al.
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20160231040REFRIGERATION CIRCUIT WITH HEAT RECOVERY MODULEAugust, 2016Hellmann
20140260413ABSORPTION COOLING SYSTEMSeptember, 2014Said et al.



Primary Examiner:
TEITELBAUM, DAVID J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
von Briesen & Roper, s.c. (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for chilling a product container holding a beverage, the apparatus comprising: a refrigeration circuit including a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C.; a sleeve assembly including: a sleeve base; and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator; an agitation assembly operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to pivot the sleeve assembly about a yaw axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal sleeve axis; and a controller operably coupled to the compressor and agitation assembly.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the refrigeration circuit includes at least one internal heat exchanger.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the controller is programmed to operate the agitation assembly to rotate the sleeve axis between a first sleeve limit axis and a second sleeve limit axis, and in which a yaw angle is defined between the first and second sleeve limit axes.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, in which the yaw angle is approximately 10-200°.

5. The apparatus of claim 3, in which the controller is programmed to operate the agitation assembly to oscillate the sleeve assembly at an oscillation frequency f of approximately 0.5-10 Hertz.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: a fluid reservoir defining a reservoir chamber for holding a heat transfer fluid, at least a portion of the reservoir chamber being located in thermal conductive relation to the evaporator, the reservoir chamber fluidly communicating with the sleeve chamber; and a pump operative to circulate the heat transfer fluid in the reservoir chamber through the sleeve chamber.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the sleeve chamber includes a sleeve inlet port positioned in a first end portion of the sleeve, and at least one sleeve outlet port positioned in a second end portion of the sleeve opposite the first end portion.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the agitation assembly comprises a motor operably coupled to the controller and mechanically coupled to the sleeve assembly.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the sleeve comprises a sleeve material having an overall heat transfer coefficient of at least 1 W/m2.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, in which the container includes a container sidewall and a container bottom wall, and in which the sleeve receptacle includes a receptacle sidewall and a receptacle bottom wall adapted to engage the container sidewall and container bottom wall, respectively.

11. An apparatus for chilling a product container, the apparatus comprising: a refrigeration circuit including a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C.; a sleeve assembly including: a sleeve base; and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator; and an agitation assembly operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to pivot the sleeve assembly about a yaw axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal sleeve axis across a yaw angle α and at an oscillation frequency f to provide an Agitation Index of approximately 90-450°/sec.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising: a fluid reservoir defining a reservoir chamber for holding a heat transfer fluid, at least a portion of the reservoir chamber being located in thermal conductive relation to the evaporator, the reservoir chamber fluidly communicating with the sleeve chamber; and a pump operative to circulate the heat transfer fluid in the reservoir chamber through the sleeve chamber.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, in which the agitation assembly is configured to oscillate the sleeve axis between a first sleeve limit axis and a second sleeve limit axis, and in which the yaw angle is defined between the first and second sleeve limit axes.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, in which the yaw angle is approximately 10-200°.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, in which the agitation assembly is configured to oscillate the sleeve assembly at an oscillation frequency of approximately 0.5-10 Hertz.

16. An apparatus for chilling a product container, the apparatus comprising: a refrigeration circuit including a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C.; a sleeve assembly including: a sleeve base; and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator; an agitation assembly operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to oscillate the sleeve, the agitation assembly including an agitator motor; and a controller operably coupled to the compressor and agitator motor, the controller having an active mode in which the compressor and agitator motor are operated to provide a Performance Index of approximately 160-7,200,000 mL-K/hr.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, in which the Performance Index is based on a size of the product container of approximately 40-750 mL, a usage frequency of approximately 1-240 cycles/hour, and a beverage cooling temperature differential of approximately 4-40 Kelvin.

18. The apparatus of claim 16, in which the controller further has a standby mode in which the compressor is operated periodically to cool the flexible sleeve to a standby temperature.

19. The apparatus of claim 18, in which the compressor and agitator motor are configured to draw less than an aggregate total of approximately 2400 Watts in both the standby and active modes.

20. The apparatus of claim 18, further comprising a fluid reservoir defining a reservoir chamber for holding a heat transfer fluid, at least a portion of the reservoir chamber being located in thermal conductive relation to the evaporator, the reservoir chamber fluidly communicating with the sleeve chamber, and a pump operative to circulate the heat transfer fluid in the reservoir chamber through the sleeve chamber, and in which the pump is also operated periodically in the standby mode.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure generally relates to refrigeration systems and methods, and more specifically to systems and methods for rapidly chilling beverage containers and beverages contained therein.

BACKGROUND

Many types of beverages, such as soda, water, juice, beer, and wine, are preferably consumed at temperatures that are colder than the ambient temperature. For example, desirable beverage temperatures may be 45° F. or colder. Accordingly, consumers typically cool the beverage to the desired temperature using any one of several known cooling techniques, such as placing the beverage container in a refrigerator, freezer, or cooler full of ice, or adding ice directly to the beverage. Cooling a beverage in a refrigerator or cooler of ice typically takes several hours to reach the desired temperature, which is often more time than a consumer is willing to wait. While using a freezer may shorten the cooling time, it may still take approximately 20 minutes to reach the desired temperature, introduces the risk of freezing the beverage, and may cause uneven cooling of the beverage. Directly adding ice may quickly cool the beverage to the desired temperature but may not be desired for certain types of beverages. Additionally, many types of beverage containers do not readily admit ice, and this approach also requires the availability of a source of ice.

In many instances, a consumer will often desire to purchase a beverage for immediate consumption. In view of the time and effort involved to chill a beverage from ambient temperature to the desired drinking temperature, retail locations (such as supermarkets and convenience stores) will often include one or more refrigerator units for storing at least a portion of the beverages available for sale. The refrigerator units typically have a capacity that is sufficiently large to meet an expected demand for each beverage over a given period of time. Some beverages may remain stored in refrigerator units for a several hours or days before they are purchased, and therefore these unpurchased beverages are cooled for an unnecessarily long period of time. Consequently, conventional refrigerator units used to cool beverages in retail locations may waste energy and have increased costs due to overcapacity. These issues may be exacerbated when the demand for beverages is lower than expected, resulting in a larger number of unpurchased beverages being stored at the cooled temperature for longer periods of time. Alternatively, if the capacity of the refrigerator unit is too small, the retailer may lose sales due to the unavailability of beverages at the desired drinking temperature.

Systems and methods for providing rapid, on-demand chilling of beverage containers have been proposed, but have proven unfeasible for use in retail locations. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,474,093 to Fink et al. discloses a beverage container cooling system that provides a cylindrical array of rigid chill elements configured to receive the container. The chill elements, however, limit the types of containers that may be used in the system and offer a limited amount of direct contact with the container outer surface, thereby reducing the amount of heat transfer therebetween. U.S. Pat. No. 6,378,313 to Barrash discloses a beverage container cooling system having an inflatable, ribbed inner collar for receiving the beverage container and an outer inflatable collar positioned to selectively press inwardly on the inner collar to force the inner collar into contact with the container. The Barrash system, therefore, requires multiple, interacting inflatable components that still result in limited contact (and therefore limited heat transfer) with the container. Furthermore, neither Fink et al. or Barrash appear to provide systems capable of chilling a beverage from ambient temperature to drinking temperature in a sufficiently short period of time to be feasible for use in a retail location.

More recently, a rapid cooling system for a beverage container has been proposed that will quickly chill the container, but may be unsuitable for frequent, repeated use and may require an excessive amount of power to operate. U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2009/0000312 A1 to Smith et al. discloses a container cooling method and apparatus using a heat transfer fluid to cool the container. Smith et al. suggest that a single container may be cooled in 10-20 seconds, but to enable the use of smaller, more economical components, Smith et al. suggest that a cooling operation be performed only once every one to two minutes. The low frequency cooling method and apparatus of Smith et al., therefore, may be inadequate for higher volume retail locations.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

In accordance with one aspect of the disclosure, an apparatus is provided for chilling a product container holding a beverage. The apparatus includes a refrigeration circuit including a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C. A sleeve assembly has a sleeve base and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator. An agitation assembly is operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to pivot the sleeve assembly about a yaw axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal sleeve axis, and a controller is operably coupled to the compressor and agitation assembly.

In another aspect of the disclosure that may be combined with any of these aspects, an apparatus is provided for chilling a product container. The apparatus includes a refrigeration circuit including a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C. A sleeve assembly has a sleeve base and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator. An agitation assembly is operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to pivot the sleeve assembly about a yaw axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal sleeve axis across a yaw angle α and at an oscillation frequency f to provide an Agitation Index of approximately 90-450°/sec.

In another aspect of the disclosure that may be combined with any of these aspects, an apparatus is provided for chilling a product container that includes a refrigeration circuit having a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator, the refrigeration circuit being configured to provide a refrigerant in the evaporator at a temperature of less than approximately −40° C. A sleeve assembly has a sleeve base and a flexible sleeve coupled to the base and defining a longitudinal sleeve axis, the flexible sleeve defining a sleeve receptacle configured to receive the product container and a sleeve chamber thermally coupled to the evaporator. An agitation assembly is operably coupled to the sleeve base and configured to oscillate the sleeve, the agitation assembly including an agitator motor. A controller is operably coupled to the compressor and agitator motor, the controller having an active mode in which the compressor and agitator motor are operated to provide a Performance Index of approximately 160-7,200,000 mL-K/hr.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Those of skill in the art will understand that the drawings portrayed and described are for illustration purposes only and not intended to limit the scope of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a system level schematic illustration of a beverage container cooling system having a heat transfer fluid reservoir, configured according to the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a system level schematic illustration of an alternative direct expansion beverage container cooling system, configured according to the present disclosure;

FIG. 3 is a more detailed schematic illustration of the beverage container cooling system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration of an agitation assembly that may be used in the beverage container cooling system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a schematic illustration of an oscillation cycle performed by the agitation assembly of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments of systems and methods of quickly chilling a product container are described herein. More specifically, beverage container cooling systems and methods provide a low temperature heat transfer fluid to a flexible sleeve disposed around the container. An agitation assembly is configured to oscillate the sleeve, thereby to more quickly and uniformly transfer heat from the beverage and container to the heat transfer fluid. The systems and methods may be capable of cooling a beverage from ambient temperature to a desired drinking temperature within a specified cooling period, may have a capacity and/or recovery period to allow subsequent cooling operations to quickly take place, and may deliver a desired amount of cooling while maintaining power requirements under an available power limit, all of which make the systems and methods suitable for use in a retail store or similar environment where on demand cooling is advantageous.

In some embodiments, certain components are described as being “thermally coupled” or being located in “thermal conductive relation” to one another. As used herein, unless otherwise specified, the terms “thermally coupled” or “thermal conductive relation” means that the components are placed in sufficient proximity to one another such that heat is transferred therebetween. Also as used herein, unless otherwise specified, cooling the container refers to cooling of both the container and the container contents, such as a beverage.

Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a beverage container cooling system 20 for rapidly chilling a container 22 holding a beverage. The container 22 may be constructed of metal, glass, plastic, or any other known container material. The container may also have a variety of shapes, and in some embodiments may be a cylindrical container. The container may store any beverage to be chilled to a desired drinking temperature, such as soda, water, beer, juice, a coffee drink, or wine. While the beverage container cooling system 20 is shown for use with a single container 22, it may be configured to receive multiple containers simultaneously.

The beverage container cooling system 20 includes a refrigeration circuit 30 for cooling a refrigerant to a desired operating temperature. The refrigerant may be a synthetic refrigerant (such as hydrofluoroolefins, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons) or a natural refrigerant (such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, or a hydrocarbon [e.g., propane, iso-butane, etc.]). In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the refrigeration circuit 30 is shown having an auto-cascade configuration, however other types of refrigeration circuit configurations may be used. As shown in FIG. 3, the refrigeration circuit 30 may include a first refrigeration loop 32 and a second refrigeration loop 34. The first refrigeration loop 32 has a compressor 36, an oil separator 38, and a condenser 40. A phase separator 42 is disposed in the first refrigeration loop 32 and separates the refrigerant into a primarily liquid component directed into a downstream portion of the first refrigeration loop 32 and a primarily vapor component directed into an inlet of the second refrigeration loop 34. The downstream portion of the first refrigeration loop 32 includes a filter dryer 44 and an expansion device 46 before returning to the suction side of the compressor 36.

In the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the second refrigeration loop 34 includes a portion that is disposed in heat conductive relation to a corresponding portion of the first refrigeration loop 32 to form a first internal heat exchanger 48, which may alternatively be referred to as an evaporative condenser. Downstream of the first internal heat exchanger 48, respective portions of supply and return segments 34a, 34b of the second refrigeration loop 34 may be positioned in heat conductive relation to form a second internal heat exchanger 50. While two internal heat exchangers 58, 50 are shown, it will be appreciated that other embodiments may employ a single internal heat exchanger or no internal heat exchanger. Downstream of the second internal heat exchanger 50, the second refrigeration loop 34 includes a filter dryer 52, an expansion device 54, and an evaporator 56. In operation, refrigeration circuit 30, whether provided in an auto-cascade configuration as shown in FIG. 3 or in other configurations, may cool refrigerant to an operating temperature of less than approximately −40° C. In other embodiments, the refrigeration circuit 30 provides refrigerant at an operating temperature of less than approximately −65° C.

In the exemplary illustrated embodiment, the beverage container cooling system 20 may also include an optional fluid reservoir 60 for storing at least a portion of the overall cooling capacity of the system. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the fluid reservoir 60 defines a reservoir chamber 62 for holding a heat transfer fluid 64. The heat transfer fluid 64 may comprise pure or mixtures of alcohols, brines, oils, glycols, refrigerants (natural and/or synthetic), or other fluids. At least a portion of the reservoir chamber 62 is located in thermal conductive relation to the evaporator 56 of the refrigeration circuit 30. Accordingly, a predetermined volume of heat transfer fluid 64 may be cooled to a desired fluid temperature, such as less than approximately −40° C. and, in some embodiments, less than approximately −65° C. The cooled heat transfer fluid 64 disposed in the fluid reservoir 60 may be selectively deployed to provide a readily available amount of cooling.

The beverage container cooling system 20 may further include a sleeve assembly 70 configured to interface with and cool the container 22. As shown in FIG. 1, the sleeve assembly 70 may include a sleeve base 72 and a flexible sleeve 74 coupled to the sleeve base 72. The flexible sleeve 74 may define a sleeve receptacle 76 configured to receive the container 22. In the illustrated embodiment, the sleeve receptacle 76 includes a sleeve sidewall 78 configured to engage a sidewall of the container 22 and a sleeve bottom wall 80 configured to engage a bottom wall of the container 22. The sleeve 74 further defines a sleeve chamber 82. The sleeve chamber 82 may extend between the sleeve base 72 and the sleeve 74 as shown, or the sleeve 74 may include an outer wall opposite the sleeve receptacle 76 so that the sleeve chamber 82 is self-contained within the sleeve 74.

The sleeve chamber 82 may fluidly communicate with the reservoir chamber 62 to selectively receive cooled heat transfer fluid 64. As best shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, a sleeve inlet line 84 may extend between the reservoir chamber 62 and a sleeve inlet port 86. A pump 88 may be disposed in the sleeve inlet line 84 and oriented to draw heat transfer fluid from the reservoir chamber 62 and discharge it into the sleeve chamber 82. A sleeve outlet line 90 may extend between a sleeve outlet port 92 and the reservoir chamber 62 to return heat transfer fluid from the sleeve chamber 82 to the reservoir chamber 62. The pump 88, therefore, generates a mass flow rate R of heat transfer fluid through the sleeve chamber 82 that may be altered to affect the rate at which the container 22 is cooled. In an exemplary embodiment, the mass flow rate R of heat transfer fluid may be approximately 50 to 150 grams/second.

As best shown in FIG. 3, a bypass line 94 may extend between the sleeve inlet line 84 and the sleeve outlet line 90. A sleeve inlet valve 96, sleeve bypass valve 98, and sleeve outlet valve 100 may be disposed in the sleeve inlet line 84, sleeve bypass line 94, and sleeve outlet line 90, respectively, to control the flow of heat transfer fluid through the sleeve chamber 82.

In an alternative embodiment illustrated at FIG. 2, the fluid reservoir 60 may be omitted and the refrigeration circuit 30 may directly interact with the sleeve assembly 70. Defined herein as a “direct expansion” system 200, in this alternative embodiment, the cooled refrigerant would be communicated directly to the sleeve chamber 82, thereby eliminating the intermediate heat transfer step provided by the fluid reservoir 60, so that the refrigerant circulating through the refrigeration circuit 30 would serve as the heat transfer fluid.

The sleeve 74 may be formed of a sleeve material having low contact resistance and high heat conductivity to promote heat transfer between the container 22 and the heat transfer fluid. A highly pliable or flexible material will reduce the contact resistance of the sleeve 74, thereby allowing it to expand to match the container shape based on the pressure of heat transfer fluid flowing through the sleeve chamber 82. For example, the sleeve 74 may expand from a normal position to an expanded position when the pressure of the heat transfer fluid in the sleeve chamber 82 is increased.

More specifically, the sleeve 74 may assume the normal position when there is no or low pressure flow of heat transfer fluid through the sleeve chamber 82. In the normal position, shown in phantom lines 74a in FIG. 1, the sleeve receptacle 76 is relatively loose and pliant to permit insertion of the container 22. During active cooling, when heat transfer fluid pressure is relatively high, the sleeve receptacle 76 assumes the expanded position where it is forced into the exterior surface of the container 22 to closely engage the container 22. In the illustrated embodiment, not only does the sleeve sidewall 78 engage the container 22, but also the sleeve bottom wall 80, thereby increasing the amount of surface area of the container 22 in contact with the sleeve 74. Furthermore, a material with low contact resistance will conform more closely to the surface of the container 22, thereby increasing the amount of container surface area in intimate contact with the sleeve 74.

After the container 22 has been sufficiently cooled, the heat transfer fluid pressure may subsequently be reduced so that the sleeve 74 returns to the normal position to permit removal of the container 22 from the sleeve receptacle 76. In addition, the sleeve material may have an overall heat transfer coefficient of at least 1 W/m2 to promote heat transfer between the container 22 and the heat transfer fluid. Exemplary sleeve materials that exhibit sufficient flexibility and heat conductivity include rubber, metal (such as stainless steel), and Mylar having a thickness of approximately 0.0005″ (0.0127 mm) to 0.031″ (0.794 mm).

The sleeve assembly 70 further may be configured to promote more uniform distribution of heat transfer fluid throughout the sleeve chamber 82. As best shown in FIG. 3, the sleeve inlet port 86 may be positioned along a sleeve axis 102. Two sleeve outlet ports 92 may be positioned at diametrically opposed locations near an upper end of the sleeve chamber 82. Accordingly, heat transfer fluid will flow more uniformly through the entire sleeve chamber 82 along the paths between the sleeve inlet port 86 and sleeve outlet ports 92. While two sleeve outlet ports 92 are shown in the exemplary embodiment, a single sleeve outlet port 92 or more than two sleeve outlet ports 92 may be provided without departing from the scope of this disclosure.

The beverage container cooling system 20 may further include an agitation assembly 110 operably coupled to the sleeve assembly 70 and configured to oscillate the sleeve 74, thereby to cool the contents of the container 22 more uniformly and quickly. The sleeve assembly 70 may be supported for pivoting movement, such as by a pivot shaft 112 coupled to the sleeve base 72 and journally supported by a pivot bearing (FIG. 4). The agitation assembly 110 may include a motor 114 having a rotatable motor shaft 116. A four bar linkage 118 may operably couple the rotatable motor shaft 116 to the sleeve assembly 70. More specifically, the linkage 118 may include a motor arm 120 coupled to the motor shaft 116, a pivot arm 121 coupled to the pivot shaft 112, and an intermediate arm 124 extending between the motor arm 120 and the pivot arm 121. Thus, rotation of the motor shaft 116 is transmitted to the pivot shaft 112 by the linkage 118. While the four bar linkage 118 is shown in the exemplary embodiment, it will be appreciated that various alternative mechanical connections may be used to transmit the rotation of the motor shaft 116 to the sleeve assembly 70, including a Scotch yoke assembly or a cam follower assembly. As further alternatives, the motor 114 may be directly coupled to the sleeve assembly 70 and may incorporate a drive or other controls, such as a stepper motor with a drive, that produce the desired oscillation of the sleeve assembly 70.

Referring now to FIG. 5, the agitation assembly 110 may be configured to oscillate the sleeve assembly 70 in a reciprocal pivoting rotation. In the exemplary embodiment, the reciprocal pivoting motion is performed about a yaw axis 122 that extends substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal sleeve axis 102. During yaw axis pivoting, therefore, the sleeve assembly 70 (and container 22, when disposed in the sleeve 74) is rotated laterally in a yaw direction (identified by arrows 125), which is in contrast to a rolling rotation about the longitudinal sleeve axis 102 that is more commonly seen in conventional beverage container cooling devices.

The agitation assembly 110 may be configured to rotate the sleeve assembly 70 such that the longitudinal sleeve axis 102 reciprocates between a first sleeve axis limit 126 and a second sleeve axis limit 128. The first and second sleeve axis limits 126, 128 may lie in substantially the same plane, and therefore a yaw angle α may be defined therebetween. The agitation assembly 110 may be configured to produce any desired yaw angle α. In some embodiments, the yaw angle α is approximately 10-200°. In other embodiments, the yaw angle α is approximately 30-180°. In still other embodiments, the yaw angle α is approximately 45-90°. The yaw angle α is shown as being substantially symmetrical about a yaw reference axis 129. In the illustrated embodiment, the yaw reference axis 129 is shown as being substantially vertical, however the yaw reference axis 129 may be disposed at any angle.

The agitation assembly 110 may further be configured to oscillate the sleeve assembly 70 at a predetermined oscillation frequency f. During operation, the agitation assembly 110 pivots the sleeve assembly 70 back and forth between the first and second sleeve axis limits 126, 128. A pivot cycle, therefore, is defined herein as a full rotation of the sleeve assembly 70 in a first or forward direction (e.g., from the first sleeve axis limit 126 to the second sleeve axis limit 128) and a full rotation of the sleeve assembly 70 back in a second or reverse direction (e.g., from the second sleeve axis limit 128 to the first sleeve axis limit 126). Accordingly, the oscillation frequency f is defined herein as the number of pivot cycles performed per second. The speed of the motor 114 and/or drive transmission of the agitation assembly 110 may be selected to produce an oscillation frequency f of approximately 0.5-10 Hertz.

The various components of the beverage container cooling system 20 may be controlled by a controller 130, also referred to herein as a processor or a central processing unit (CPU). The controller may include any suitable processor. The controller 130 may execute (or be physically configured according to) one or more programs stored in a computer readable storage medium, in the form of a main memory 132. The main memory 132 may include a volatile memory (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory (e.g., an EEPROM). The main memory 132 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories. The controller 130 may further provide a display 136, at least one input module 138, and sensors (not shown). In general, the controller 130 is adapted to receive operational inputs from the operator through the input module 138, as well as sensors (not shown) located throughout the system, and to control operation of the beverage container cooling system 20 based upon the inputs received. Accordingly, the controller 130 may be operably coupled to and configured to control operation of the compressor 36, the pump 88, and the motor 114.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

In operation, the foregoing embodiments of a cooling system may be used to rapidly cool a container holding a beverage. More specifically, the container 22 may be inserted into the sleeve receptacle 76 and heat transfer fluid may be circulated through the sleeve chamber 82. In some embodiments, such as the direct expansion system of FIG. 2, the heat transfer fluid may be the refrigerant that is directly circulated through the refrigeration circuit 30. In other embodiments, such as the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the heat transfer fluid may be a separate fluid that is stored in the reservoir chamber 62 and the pump 88 may circulate the heat transfer fluid through the sleeve chamber 82. Simultaneous with the flow of heat transfer fluid, the agitation assembly 110 may be operated to promote mixing of the beverage inside of the container 22, thereby to more quickly and uniformly cool the beverage. Specifically, the mixing induced by the agitation assembly will bring relatively warm masses of beverage concentrated at a center of the container toward a periphery of the container, thereby increasing the amount of heat that is transferred out of the beverage and into the heat transfer fluid.

In order to maximize the amount of heat transfer between the container 22 and the heat transfer fluid (and therefore the rate at which the beverage is cooled) for a given mass flow rate R of heat transfer fluid, an Agitation Index has been identified to characterize the degree to which the sleeve 74 is agitated. The Agitation Index is the product of the size of the yaw angle α and the oscillation frequency f produced by the agitation assembly 110. During testing, with all other variables held substantially constant, it was determined that the rate of heat flow from the container (i.e., cooling) increased as the yaw angle α increased. Similarly, again with all other variables held substantially constant, it was determined that the rate of heat flow also increased as the oscillation frequency f increased. Furthermore, while the increased heat flow derived from larger yaw angle α and increased oscillation frequency f is generally advantageous, the size of the yaw angle α and the oscillation frequency f are limited by practical considerations associated with beverages offered for sale in a retail environment, such as generation of foam in the beverage and available power supply. Based on the foregoing, an Agitation Index suitable for use in a retail location may be approximately 90-450°/second. In an alternative embodiment, the Agitation Index may be approximately 100-250°/second. In a further alternative embodiment, the Agitation Index may be approximately 150-175°/second. It will be appreciated that different combinations of yaw angle α and oscillation frequency f may achieve the same value for the Agitation Index. For example, a relatively large yaw angle α and a relatively small oscillation frequency f may lead to the same value for the Agitation Index as a relatively small yaw angle α and a relatively large oscillation frequency f.

The time period required to cool a beverage from ambient temperature to desired drinking temperature is of particular interest to the consumer when purchasing the beverage at a retail location. While the shortest time period is desired, practical considerations may limit how quickly a beverage may be cooled. For example, the power source available to run the beverage container cooling system 20 may be limited to that typically available in a retail, as opposed to industrial, application. Such conditions, therefore, may limit the size the compressor 36, pump 88, motor 114, and other electrically operated components of the beverage container cooling system 20. In view of the available power limitations, the compressor 36, pump 88, and motor 114 may be configured to draw, in the aggregate, less than approximately 2400 Watts during any mode of system operation.

The system 20 must further be configured to provide a sufficient amount of cooling while still meeting the possible power limitations noted above. In an active mode of operation, in which a series of beverage containers are successively inserted into and removed from the sleeve assembly 70, at least the compressor 36 and motor 114 will be operated to provide the sufficient amount of cooling. To characterize the amount of cooling the system 20 may provide for a high volume of usage, a Performance Index has been developed. The Performance Index is the product of a container size capacity, a frequency of usage per hour, and a beverage cooling temperature differential (i.e., the temperature differential between ambient beverage temperature and desired beverage temperature, measured in Kelvin). For example, in some applications the container size capacity may be approximately 40-750 mL, while in other applications the container size capacity may be approximately 355-600 mL. Similarly, in some applications the frequency of usage may be approximately 1-240 cycles/hour, while in other applications the frequency of usage may be approximately 5-20 cycles/hour. Still further, the beverage cooling temperature differential may be approximately 4-40 Kelvin for certain applications, and may be approximately 10-30 Kelvin in other applications. Based on the foregoing, a Performance Index suitable for use in a retail location may be approximately 160-7,200,000 mL-K/hr based on the broader range examples provided above. Alternatively, the Performance Index may be approximately 17,750-360,000 mL-K/hr based on the narrower range examples provided above. It will be appreciated that different combinations of container size capacity, frequency of usage, and beverage cooling temperature differential may achieve the same value for the Performance Index.

The system 20 may further be operated in a standby mode, when no active cooling is taking place, to maintain the sleeve 74 at a desired standby temperature. For example, when the system 20 is between uses, the controller 130 may operate the compressor 36 (and pump 88, if a fluid reservoir 60 is provided) intermittently to maintain the sleeve at the standby temperature. Operation in standby mode may be open loop, such as activating the compressor for a set period of time at predetermined standby intervals, such as every 10-20 minutes. Alternatively, the standby mode may use a feedback loop, such as sleeve temperature, to control operation. In one embodiment, for example, the standby mode may be used to maintain a standby sleeve temperature of approximately 0° C. based on feedback from a sleeve temperature sensor.

The foregoing description provides examples of the disclosed assembly and technique. It is contemplated, however, that other implementations of the disclosure may differ in detail from the foregoing examples. All references to the disclosure or examples thereof are intended to reference the particular example being discussed at that point and are not intended to imply any limitation as to the scope of the disclosure more generally. All language of distinction and disparagement with respect to certain features is intended to indicate a lack of preference for those features, but not to exclude such from the scope of the disclosure entirely unless otherwise indicated.

Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.

Accordingly, this disclosure includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the disclosure unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.