Eaton makes air conditioning more efficient – next generation of the internal heat exchanger and pipe fittings with no pressure loss
Date: 28th Jun 12
Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation is bringing two innovations in the heating and air conditioning technology sector to the European market this year: the next generation of its internal heat exchanger (IHX), and pipe fittings with no pressure loss. The new IHX generation from Eaton – the Formed Inner Tube, or FIT for short – is designed to handle the new 1234yf coolant, requires lower volumes to achieve the same degree of heat exchange compared with the previous generation and is more cost-effective. The inner pipe is formed into a helix structure, offering a larger surface area for the coolant while generating targeted turbulence. This increases the relative efficiency of the heat exchange process and thus reduces vehicle fuel consumption. Through the optimized inner volume of the liquid side, the amount of coolant required can be reduced by more than 20g. This has a positive impact on potential environmental effects and, above all, saves cost on high-volume models for both the manufacturer and the consumer.
With its second innovation from the field of fittings technology, Eaton eliminates sectional restrictions between pipe and hose and thus increases the energy efficiency of air conditioning by around 3.5 percent. Both new systems were developed at the European Research Center in Rastatt and are manufactured in Baden-Baden.
Dr. Bert Leisenheimer, Global Engineering Manager Fluid Connectors Division at Eaton, explained: “In an average year, around ten percent of the fuel consumed by a passenger car is attributable to the air conditioning. Therefore, it is crucial that we continually improve the design of even the tiniest system components for greater energy efficiency. In our European Research Center in Rastatt, we measure the change in energy consumption for every single part on a dedicated test rig. One of the priorities in our close cooperation with our customers is to make sure that the fuel consumption of future vehicles continues to decrease.”
Next generation of the Internal Heat Exchanger
In 2007, Eaton was the first supplier in Europe to introduce its first-generation IHX (Coolaxial) in high-volume series production, thus making air conditioning circuits ten percent more efficient. In the IHX, two air conditioning lines run in contra flow to each other exchanging heat between one inner and one outer pipe. This way, the cold line upstream of the compressor cools even further the warm coolant downstream of the condenser. This increases cooling efficiency, reduces CO2 emissions and fuel consumption and improves packaging.
For the new IHX generation - the FIT - Eaton has optimized the flow mechanics of the inner pipe. Using a special production technique, a spiral is formed along the outer pipe that causes targeted turbulence in the coolant flow. This optimizes the exchange of heat and dispenses with the need for an extrusion process to generate the geometry that increases the surface area of the pipe. The need for machining is also removed from the equation, along with its associated costs. Moreover, in comparison to previous generations, Eaton has reduced the part count and thus improved packaging for the automaker, because the FIT no longer needs a special connector for attachment to the air conditioning system. Eaton will put its FIT into series production this year in a volume platform for a major European vehicle manufacturer.
Fittings without pressure loss
The transition from pipe to hose components usually leads to sectional restrictions. In an air conditioning system, these restrictions reduce energy efficiency, particularly on the suction side when the coolant is upstream of the compressor. Eaton has therefore developed an alternative fitting that widens the pipe and presses it onto the sleeve of the hose with an o-ring. Optimized for minimum pressure loss, this fitting eliminates sectional restriction and optimizes the energy consumption of the air conditioning system by up to 3.5 percent.
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