The United States Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina, is dedicated to promoting site-level risk-based inspection practices in order to maintain a safe and productive work environment. Protective suits are worn by personnel working in contaminated environments. These suits require that cooling be applied to keep the interior temperature within safe and comfortable limits. A vortex tube, also known as the Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube, can provide the necessary cooling. As mechanical devices void of moving components, vortex tubes separate a compressed gas into hot and cold streams; the air emerging from the “hot” end reaching a temperature of 320 degrees F, and the air emerging from the “cold” end reaching a temperature of negative 25 degrees F . Routing the cold stream of the vortex tube to the user’s protective suit facilitates the required cooling.
Vortex tubes currently in use at SRS are pre-set, through sole modification by and within the SRS Respiratory Equipment Facility (REF), to provide a temperature reduction between 40 and 45 deg F. When a new model of vortex tube capable of user adjustment during operation recently became available, prototype testing was conducted for product comparison. Similar cooling performance between the old and new models is achievable. Implementing the use of the new model of vortex tube at SRS will result in significant cost savings because the product could be shipped directly to the end user, circumventing adjustment by the REF. Production units were acquired to be subjected to complete product analysis at SRS utilizing a statistical test plan. The statistical test plan, data, thermodynamic calculations, and conclusions were reviewed.