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Solar Energy Vol. 22, pp. 149.

-154
Pergamon Press Ltd., 1979. Printed in Great Britain

0038--092X/7910201-0149l$02.0010

DESIGN AND OPTIMISATION OF AN ABSORPTION


REFRIGERATION SYSTEM OPERATED BY SOLAR ENERGY
S. ALIZADEH,F. BAHARand F. GEOOLA
Materials and Energy Research Centre, Aryamehr University of Tech. P.O. Box 41-2927, Tehran Iran.
(Received 10 March 1978; revision accepted 14 August 1978)
Abstract--A general theoretical study on design and optimisationof the water-lithium bromide and the ammoniawater absorption refrigerationcycles has been undertaken. The results of this study show that in general for fixed
initial conditions and given system refrigerationcapacity higher generator temperature causes higher cooling ratio
with smaller heat exchange surfaces and consequently lower cost. A comparison of the two cycles also indicate
that the water-lithium bromide system is simpler than the ammonia-watersystem and operates at a higher cooling
ratio and smaller heat exchange surfaces for the same conditions.

For the ammonia-water cycle

I. INTRODUCTION

Theoretical studies of the performance of absorption


refrigeration cycles including those using water-lithium
bromide and ammonia-water as refrigerant-absorbent
combinations have already been reported by various
authors[l-3]. In this paper further theoretical studies
have been performed considering in particular the design
and optimisation of an absorption refrigeration cycle
operated by solar energy. The water-lithium bromide and
ammonia-water refrigerant-absorbent combinations
were chosen for this study because of their extensive use
in absorption refrigeration systems especially those
operated by solar energy.

(2)
=l(h~-hw)+hw+(RYr

in which R is the circulation factor defined as


R = yr - y,
y~ - y,

2. CYCLE ANALYSIS

SE Vol. 22, No. 2--0

(I)

(3)

where yr is the weight concentration of lithium bromide


or ammonia in the refrigerant vapour leaving the generator (for water-lithium bromide system y, = 0), y, is the
weight concentration of the weak solution (weak in
refrigerant) leaving the generator and ys is the weight
concentration of the strong solution leaving the absorber.
The subscripts in eqns (I) and (2) refer to the states
represented in Figs. 1 and 2, respectively. Equations (1)
and (2) have been evaluated for a number of generator
temperatures with evaporator temperature of 1.7C,
condenser temperature of 35C and absorber temperature
of 21C.

The design and optimisation of the performance of an


absorption refrigeration cycle depends mostly on the
existing initial conditions. For example, the temperature
of the evaporator is fixed and as a result the low-side
pressure of the cycle is fixed and could be specified. Two
other fixed parameters are the condenser and absorber
temperatures. It has been shown that[l] the cooling ratio,
defined as the ratio of the energy removed from the
surroundings during the refrigeration phase to that
supplied to the generator during the regeneration phase,
increases as the condenser and absorber temperatures
decrease. In systems using a water cooled condenser and
absorber these two temperatures depend on the
temperature of the available cooling water. After the
temperatures of the evaporator, the condenser and the
absorber have been identified the generator temperature
has to be determined. This is the last and the most
important parameter which must be specified, because
unlike the other three temperatures of the cycle this
depends on other factors. If the cooling ratio of the
system is considered against other variables of the cycle
the following approximate relations can be derived for
the two cycles (see Figs. 1 and 2).
For the water-lithium bromide cycle
h/,
7/= h7 + (R - l)h4 - Rh3"

l)h,-Rh7

3. EFFECTS OF USING SENSIBLE HEAT EXCHANGERS

If sensible heat exchangers are used between the absorber and the generator for both the water-lithium
bromide and the ammonia-water systems so that the
strong solution leaving the absorber is heated by the
weak solution leaving the generator, the temperature rise
of the strong solution A Ts, is given by the following
equation
(4)

AT~ = F(x, k)bT,,

in which ATmisthe maximum temperature difference in


the heat exchanger and F ( x , k ) i s the heat exchanger
effectiveness defined as
b eX((l/k)--

F(x, k) = ~ eX~,lk~_,_ k

(5)

where x is the heat exchanger parameter given by the


149

150

S. ALIZADEHet al.

Refrig.
vapour

Condenser t

(7)

j
]

Strong

Generator

solution

(3)

(Solar energy) 0G
(4)

Weak

solution

(8)

.I
Solution heat
exchanger

(2)
Exp.

(G)]

Evaporator
f

[Ab=b7

(,61

o."
Fig. 1. Schematic of the water-lithium bromide system.
5

Reflux
condenser

6[<

Condenser I

tw

Generator

~ 0 G(Solar energy)
Solution
heat
exchanger

Absorber

Exp.
valve

IO
(

oJ
Fig. 2. Schematic of the ammonia-water system.
relation

specific heat of a solution of water-lithium bromide is


approximately given by
x

UA

__~pms'--

(6)

in which the subscript s refers to the strong solution. The


other variable in eqn (5) is the generator temperature
parameter, k, and is defined as

Cps

(7)

where Cpo is the specific heat of the weak solution. The

Co -- - 3.09y + 4.18

(8)

and for ammonia-water solution


Cp = 0.71y +4.18

(9)

where y is the weight concentration of lithium bromide


or ammonia in the mixture. The cooling ratio has been
plotted against the generator temperature for different
values of the heat exchanger parameter in Figs. 5 and 6

Design and optimisationof an absorption refrigerationsystem operated by solar energy

151

IIO

/ /f
Tc = 3 5 *C
TE = 1.7 *C

85

_P=___4zmm

h~

~D

35

I0
04

05

06
L i t h i u m bromide,

075

07
wl %

Fig. 3. Thermodynamic path for the water-lithium bromide cycle.


140

Tc = 3 5 "C
TE = 1.7 *C
Iio

.,.o/3

P
E

8o
o

50 -

20
035

040

045

0,50
Ammonia,

0,55

065

060

wl %

Fig. 4. Thermodynamic path for the ammonia-water cycle.

for both the water-lithium bromide and the ammoniawater cycles. The thermodynamic paths of the two
cycles have also been shown by the solid lines in Figs. 3
and 4. The value of x = pc in Figs. 5 and 6 could actually
be considered as heat exchanger parameters above 10.
The sensible heat exchangers between the fluid
streams entering and leaving the generator should transfer the maximum amount of heat consistent with
economy of construction. Assuming streamline flow for
the weak solution in the heat exchanger (this can usually
be done by selecting the proper diameter for the exchanger tube) it can be shown that [4] the value of UA
for the exchanger is proportional to the cube root of the
mass flow rate of the weak solution. By applying various
simplifications, Duflie and Sheridan[5] have shown that
the UA value for the exchanger could be approximated

by
UA = 379 m ~13

(10)

where mo is the mass flow rate of the weak solution and


the value of the constant 379 has been determined from
experimental values of mass flow m,. By application of
eqn (10) the heat exchanger parameter can be expressed
as a function of the system refrigeration capacity, C, and
circulation factor, R, as follows:
x = B [C(R CR

I)]'/3
(II)

In the above relation B is a constant which depends on


the temperatures of the condenser, the evaporator and

152

S. ALIZADEH et aL
09

0.8

07--

0.6

._0
0.5---0

._~
8 0.4
U

C ~ - -

@__
-r
-- =

o~

i,

0.2
0.1

O3

60

To

75

80

Generator

8~

temp,

90

9~

G e n e r a t o r temp,

Fig. 5. Cooling ratio as a function of generator temperature for


the water-lithium bromide system.
0.8

Fig. 7. Heat exchanger parameter as a function of generator


temperature for the water-lithium bromide system.

0.7
J

X=I

05
.9
04

(J Q3

I/! ...........

,o

I
i

I
o.2

. . . .

"r"

TE=I.7 %
T~ = 35 c

i
70

80

90

I00

Generator

I I0
temp,

120

t30

140

60

70

80

90

I00

I10

120

130

140

Generator temp, =C

Fig. 6. Cooling ratio as a function of generator temperature for


the ammonia-water system.

Fig. 8. Heat exchanger parameter as a function of generator


temperature for the ammonia-water system.

the absorber and it also varies from refrigerant to refrigerant. For evaporator temperature of 1.7C, condenser
temperature of 35C and absorber temperature of 21C,
the constant B for water-lithium bromide case is 46.6
and for the ammonia-water case it has a value of 16.1.
Since R is a function of the generator temperature only
when other conditions of the system are fixed, x in eqn
(11) is a function of the generator temperature for a
specified value of C. Therefore x can be plotted vs the
generator temperature for different values of C as in
Figs. 7 and 8. These figures show that as the generator
temperature decreases the circulation factor increases
for a given C. This places a lower bound for the generator temperature because as the circulation factor increases the mass flow rates in the system also increase
and this suggests larger heat exchange surfaces and

therefore a higher cost. In general from Figs. 5-8 it can


be seen that for a given refrigeration capacity, higher
generator temperature causes lower cost (because of
lower mass flow rates in the absorber, the generator and
the solution heat exchanger) and higher cooling ratio.
There are of course limitations for high generator
temperature one of which is the crystallization problem
in the case of water-lithium bromide when the generator
temperature becomes too high. Another limiting feature
is that producing very high temperatures with flat plate
solar collectors is difficult.
If a temperature difference of 8C is assumed between
the average temperature of the collector surface and the
generator temperature for heat transfer purposes, the flat
plate collector area required for producing I kJ hr-' for
an average horizontal insolation of 3046kJhr-' m -2 is

Design and optimisation of an absorption refrigeration system operated by solar energy


plotted vs the generator temperature for different heat
exchanger parameters in Figs. 9 and 10. The flat plate
collector is assumed to have a surface emissivity of 0.1
with a 30 tilt angle at 40 North Lat.
If the design generator temperature is assumed to be
8C below the average temperature of collector surface,
then the system could be designed for this generator
temperature and the collector area required is determined from Figs. 9 and 10. Assuming that 20 per cent of
total refrigeration has to be delivered during the time in
which there is no available solar energy, then the total

,8

rAlal *c
re- I z *c
r~=3~*c

116
i
I5

I H~j/= 3046 kJ hr-' m-2 - -

1.4

flat plate collector area required, A,, can be shown to be


60 per cent higher (see Appendix), or
A, = (1.60)(12660)CAf

1.2

(12)

where AI is the collector area required for producing one


kJ hr-'. Increasing the flat plate collector area by 60 per
cent requires the use of a storage system to store the 20
per cent of refrigeration in the form of heat or refrigerant
for the time when there is no available solar energy[6]. If
the generator temperature taken as the average temperature of collector -8C is below the lower bound previously indicated for the generator temperature, then an
auxilliary heater could be used to increase the generator
temperature up to the lower limit. Once the generator
temperature has been specified the heat exchanger
parameter and the fiat plate collector area required are
known from Figs. 7-10. By eqn (11), knowing x and C
the circulation factor, R, is calculated and from that the
mass flow rate of the strong solution, m~, is determined
from the following relation
ms = R m r

153

(13)

in which mr is the refrigerant mass flow rate represented


by the equation
u- 1 . 0 ~ - -

--

m, = 12660 h-~I~'

(14)

0.9
I:
0.8--

Ol~55

I
]

60

65

--

70
75
80
85
Generotor ten'@, *C

90

.,

95

Fig. 9. Collector area as a function of generator temperature for

the water-lithium bromide system. The collector surface emissivity is 0.1 and the collector tilt angle is 300 at 40 North Lat.

The system can now be designed for the obtained values


of mr and m~.
A comparison of the two systems described briefly in
this paper and in more detail elsewhere [7, 8] show that
the water-lithium bromide system has a higher cooling
ratio for the same initial conditions. Also from Figs. 7
and 8 it is clear that for the same generator temperature
and system refrigeration capacity, the water-lithium
bromide system has a higher heat exchanger parameter.
4. C O N C L U S I O N S

2
%
o"

O
GecN~'amr ten'@, *C

Fig. 10. Collector area as a function of generator temperature for


the ammonia-water system. The collector surface emissivity is
0.1 and the collector tilt angle is 30 at 40o North Lat.

In design and optimisation of the performance of an


absorption refrigeration system the most important variable which has to be taken into account is the temperature of the generator because the other parameters of the
system depend on the existing initial conditions and
consequently are fixed. Determination of the generator
temperature is influenced by several factors. One of
these is economic considerations when the generator
temperature becomes too low, and this produces a lower
bound for the generator temperature. Also, a very high
generator temperature is not possible with flat plate
collectors. Another limiting feature in the case of waterlithium bromide cycle is the crystallization which occurs
when the generator temperature becomes too high. This
should be avoided by placing an upper limit on the
generator temperature.
A comparison of the two cycles also show that the
water-lithium bromide system is simpler than the ammonia-water system and operates at a higher cooling
ratio and heat exchanger parameter for the same conditions.

S. ALIZADEHet al.

154

A
A!
A,
C
Cp
F

HAy
h
h!~
K
m
p
R
T
AT
U
x
y

NOMENCLATURE
heat exchanger area, m 2
flat plate collector area, m2kJ-t hr
total flat plate collector area, mz
system capacity, refrigeration ton = 12660 LI hr -~
specific heat, kJ kg-I C-I
heat exchanger effectiveness
average horizontal insolation, kJ hr -~ m -z
enthalpy, kJ kg-~
enthalpy of vaporization, LI kg -~
generator temperature parameter
mass flow rate, kghrpressure
circulation factor
temperature, C
temperature difference.C
overall heat transfer coefficient of heat exchanger,
kj hr-I m-2OC-I
heat exchanger parameter
lithium bromide or ammonia weight per cent
cooling ratio

6. A. R. Reti, Utilisation of solar energy for air conditioning,


B.Sc.
thesis,
Chemical
Engineering
Department,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1959).
7. S. Alizadeh, F. Bahar and F. Geoola, Development of a
computer package for the design of a water-lithium bromide
absorption refrigeration system utilising solar energy. Internal
Rep. 10100/06, Materials and Energy Research Centre, P.O.
Box 41-2927, Tehran, Iran.
8. S. Alizadeh, F. Bahar and F. Geoola, Development of a
computer package for the design of an ammonia-water absorption refrigeration system utilising solar energy. Internal
Rep. 10/00107, Materials and Energy Research Centre, P.O.
Box 41-2927, Tehran, Iran.
APPENDIX

If the refrigeration load occurs mostly during daytime, then for


C tons of refrigeration capacity roughly l J3 of the actual amount
of refrigeration is necessary, since it has to be supplied for only
about 8 out of 24 hr. Consequently the collector area required is
AI

Subscripts
a
A
C
E
]"
m
r
s
t
v
w

weak solution
absorber
condenser
evaporator
fiat plate collector
maximum
refrigerant
strong solution
total
vapour
saturated water

REFERENCES
I. E. H. Perry, The theoretical performance of the lithium
bromide-water intermittent absorption refrigeration cycle.
Solar Energy 17, 321 (1975).
2. J. C. V. Chinnappa, Performance of an intermittent refrigerator operated by a flat-plate collector. Solar Energy 6, 143
(1962).
3. S. L. Sargent and W. A. Beckman, Theoretical performance of
an ammonia sodium thiocyanate intermittent absorption
refrigeration cycle. Solar Energy 12, 137 (1968).
4. William H. McAdams, Heat Transmission. 3rd Edn. pp. 229235. McGraw-Hill, New York (1954).
5. J. A. Duffie and N. R. Sheridan, Lithium bromide-water
refrigerators for solar operation. Mech. and Chem. Engng
Trans.. the Institution of Engineers. Australia (1965).

1/3(12660C)(24)
D

(Al)

in which D is the daily total refrigeration in kJm -2 day -~


obtained from the flat plate collectors. If 20 per cent of the
refrigeration has to be delivered during the time in which there is
no available solar energy, then the total flat plate collector area
required is
A, =

1/3(12660C)(24) + 0.20(12660C)(24)
D

(A2)

Dividing eqn (A2) by eqn (AI) we obtain


At _ 1/3+0.20
- - =
Ai
1/3

1.60

or
Af = 1.60 A~

(A3)

The following relation can also be written


A~ = (12660)CA:

(A4)

in which A! is the flat plate collector area required for producing


one kJhr -Z and can be obtained from Figs. 9 and 10. By
substituting for AI from eqn (A4) into eqn (A3) we obtain
A, = (I.60)(12660)CA!
which is the same as eqn (12) in the text.

Resumen--Un estudio general te6rico ha sido hecho sobre disefio y mejora de los ciclos de absorci6n refrigerativa

de agua-bromido de litio y amonia-agua. Los resultados de este estudio muestran queen general para condiciones
iniciales fijas y sistema dado de capacidad de refrigeraci6n, la temperatura mils alta del generador causa un radio
mis alto de enfriamiento con menor cambio de superficies de calory consecuentemente menor costo. Una
comparaci6n de los dos ciclos tambi6n indica que el sistema de agua-bromido de litio es mils simple que el sistema
de amonia-agua y opera en un radio de enfriamiento mils alto y menor cambio de superficies de calor para las
mismas condiciones.
R6sum6--Une 6tude sur la fabrication et l'optimization des cycles de refroidissement par absorption a 6t6
entreprise sur des syst6mes eau-bromure de lithium et eau-ammoniaque. Les r~sultats de cette 6tude montrent que
si on fixe les conditions initiales et la capacit6 de r6frig6ration, des temp6ratures plus 61ev6es du g6n6rateur
aboutissent h des refroidissements plus 61ev6s avec une surface plus petite des 6changeurs. done fi un cofit moins
61ev6. Une comparaison des deux syst6mes montre que le syst6me eau-bromure de lithium est plus simple que le
syst6me eau-ammoniaque, donne des refroidissements plus 61ev6s et ncessite de plus petites surfaces d'6changeurs duns les mimes conditions.

(A5)