Experimental and Numerical Studies on Phase Shifting in an Inertance Pulse Tube Cryocooler
This work is concerned with the design, development and performance evaluation of an inertance Pulse Tube Cryocooler (PTC). The main components of a PTC are the compressor, regenerator, pulse tube and inertance tube coupled to a reservoir. The inertance tube is a key component that affects the pressure and mass flow and phase shift between them and hence the performance. In conjunction with the compressor, it also plays a strong role in determining the frequency of operation. The PTC is designed based on system level numerical models (SAGE and DeltaE), component level thermo-acoustic models (DeltaE) of inertance tube and regenerator and experimental data of earlier fabricated Stirling coolers. As a starting point, an inertance tube with a diameter of 3 mm and 3.1 m long was chosen through component level analysis that provides phase shift of around 50 degrees at a pressure ratio of 1.1 for an acoustic power of about 4 W (in order to achieve 1 W of net cooling at 80 K) at 25 bar mean pressure and 60 Hz. From this inertance tube geometry, an estimate of the mass flow rate at the cold heat exchanger is obtained. Based on this mass flow rate, the initial dimensions of the pulse tube and regenerator are arrived at. A parametric study using system level model is carried out to obtain the maximum COP by varying inertance tube length and regenerator diameter. A flexure bearing compressor consisting of moving coil linear motor coupled to a piston is designed for the above cold head. Based on the above design considerations, the PTC compressor and cold head are fabricated and assembled. The PTC is charged with helium at mean pressure of 25 bar and instrumented with pressure and position transducers, temperature sensors and a skin-bonded heater for simulating the heat load on the cold head. Experimental data for the PTC were obtained with two different inertance tube lengths for different frequencies of operation. The cold head temperature exhibited a minimum with respect to the frequency. This optimum frequency shifts towards lower frequency with increased length of the inertance tube. The experimental data clearly shows that with different inertance tube lengths the optimum frequency locates itself for obtaining zero phase shift at the middle of the regenerator. It is observed that the optimum frequency is closely linked to the natural frequency of the pressure wave in the inertance tube suggesting a standing wave within the inertance tube with the pressure node at the reservoir. Thus the inertance tube is found to be analogous to a quarter wave resonator in a thermo-acoustic device. It may thus be possible to pre-fix an operating frequency for a given PTC cold head by choosing an inertance tube length close to quarter wave resonator length. This study has given insights on the phase shift between pressure and mass flow rate governed by the inertance tube and the connection between the optimum and natural frequencies which can be used for better design of PTCs.