A vapor-compression refrigeration cycle typically uses standard refrigerants as the working fluid. Traditional refrigerants, however, have been associated with Ozone level Depletion Potential (ODP) and significant Global Warming Potential (GWP). An innovative cooling technology has been investigated using sonic multi-phase flow in a critical-flow nozzle to create a low-pressure and low-temperature region for heat absorption. The strength of the new technology is its potential to produce cooling using water and/or other working fluids with low ODP and GWP. While the full potential for using water as the working fluid may not be fully-realized, because of property limitations still under investigation, water still provides a very useful media for investigating the underlying cavitation phenomena for the development of the new technology.
As part of ongoing research into the potential cooling capacity of the cavitation phenomena, cavitation in a converging-diverging nozzle is being investigated using water as the working fluid. Cavitation in a fluid is the formation of the vapor phase from the liquid phase by reduction in the pressure of the fluid below its saturated vapor pressure. Due to the constricting nature of the throat of a converging-diverging nozzle, the liquid water velocity at the throat is increased and the local absolute pressure can drop to values below the saturated vapor pressure of water at a given temperature; thus, causing the fluid to cavitate.
The effect of water temperature on both the onset of the cavitation within the nozzle, and the resulting length of the cavitation region within the nozzle, are the subject of the current paper. Flow Visualization using a high speed digital camera under these different operating conditions was aimed at investigating the region of cavitation onset, which also appears to be associated with the region of boundary layer separation just downstream of the throat of the nozzle. The length of the two phase region at different operating temperatures was measured and it was observed that as the temperature of the fluid was increased, the length of two-phase region before it condensed into single-phase liquid became longer. Experimental results and analysis are presented which also show that near the onset of cavitation, the flowrate can likely go well beyond a choking condition without cavitating, and can remain in this metastable state for an extended amount of time before nucleating (cavitating) into a stable state. In particular, analysis indicates that significantly negative absolute pressures can likely be achieved within the nozzle, suggesting the presence of tension in the liquid phase just prior to cavitation.