Mechanical Cooling

30 Mechanical Cooling – Principles

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Mechanical cooling, or refrigeration, refers to any method that uses energy to actively cool an area. Examples include refrigerators and freezers, air conditioner units and heat pumps. Regardless of the scale of the cooling system, whether air conditioning a building or keeping the inside of your refrigerator cold, all cooling systems are governed by the first two laws of thermodynamics:

  1. Energy may be neither created nor destroyed, but may be changed from one form to another

Accordingly, thermal energy or heat may not be created to warm an area nor destroyed to cool an area. Instead we use heaters to convert either stored chemical energy (gas) or electrical energy into heat, or we use cooling systems to remove heat from a given area.

  1. Thermal energy always flows spontaneously in the form of heat from regions of higher temperature to regions of lower temperature, increasing the entropy of the system.

An object or area that is hotter than the ambient temperature surrounding it will naturally release heat until equilibrium is established and there is no longer a temperature gradient. A bowl of hot soup will cool to room temperature over time. Conversely, objects that are colder than the ambient temperature will absorb thermal energy until they reach ambient temperature. This fundamental relationship underlies the principle behind many styles of mechanical cooling systems, including DX, or direct expansion cooling.



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