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 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 (RHVT), 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 433.2 K and the air emerging from the “cold” end reaching a temperature of 241.5 K (Hilsch, 1946, “Die Expansion Von Gasen Im Zentrifugalfeld Als Kälteprozeß,” Z. Für Naturforsch., 1, pp. 208–214). 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 preset, through modification solely by and within the SRS respiratory equipment facility (REF), to provide a temperature reduction between 22.2 and 25.0 K. When a new model of vortex tube capable of user adjustment during operation recently became available, prototype testing was conducted for product comparison. Ultimately, it was identified that similar cooling performance between the old and new models is achievable. 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 to determine acceptability for site use.

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