Generating Chilling from waste heat – Adsorption Chillers

Section 1: History of Adsorption Chillers

Adsorption chillers have been around for more than a century. The first patent for an adsorption refrigeration system was filed in the United States in 1891 by Ferdinand Carré. The basic concept behind adsorption chillers is that certain materials, known as adsorbents, have the ability to attract and hold gas molecules on their surface. When these adsorbents are exposed to a lower pressure environment, the gas molecules are released, resulting in a cooling effect. This phenomenon is known as the adsorption refrigeration cycle.

Over the years, researchers and engineers have worked to improve the efficiency and performance of adsorption chillers. In the 1930s, a German company called Saueressig developed a high-efficiency adsorption chiller that used a lithium chloride-water mixture as the adsorbent. In the 1950s, the development of new adsorbent materials, such as silica gel and activated carbon, led to the creation of more efficient and reliable adsorption chillers.

Today, adsorption chillers are used in a variety of applications, including air conditioning, refrigeration, and industrial process cooling. They are particularly well-suited for use in applications where waste heat or solar energy is available, as they can be powered by low-grade heat sources.

Section 2: Basic Technology behind Adsorption Chillers

Adsorption chillers work on the principle of adsorption, which is the process of molecules adhering to a surface. In the case of adsorption chillers, the adsorbent material is typically a solid, porous substance that has a large surface area. The adsorbent material is coated with a refrigerant, such as water, which is then subjected to a vacuum. When the vacuum is created, the refrigerant molecules are drawn into the pores of the adsorbent material and held there by attractive forces between the molecules and the surface of the material.

Once the adsorbent material is saturated with refrigerant molecules, it can be heated to release the refrigerant. The heat causes the refrigerant molecules to become more energetic and break away from the surface of the adsorbent material, where they can be condensed and used to provide cooling. The released refrigerant then flows through a heat exchanger, where it absorbs heat from the surrounding environment and is converted back into a vapor. The vapor is then drawn back into the adsorbent material, and the process begins again.

Adsorption chillers are typically powered by low-grade heat sources, such as waste heat from industrial processes, solar energy, or geothermal energy. They are often used in conjunction with other renewable energy systems, such as solar thermal collectors, to provide a complete heating and cooling solution.

Section 3: Energy-Saving Capability of Adsorption Chillers

Adsorption chillers are known for their energy-saving capabilities due to their ability to use low-grade heat sources as a power source. These chillers can be powered by waste heat, solar energy, or geothermal energy, all of which are renewable and low-cost sources of energy. Compared to traditional refrigeration systems, adsorption chillers can reduce energy consumption and lower operating costs, making them an attractive option for a variety of applications.


The efficiency of an adsorption chiller depends on several factors, including the type of adsorbent material used, the design of the heat exchanger, and the temperature and pressure of the system. The most commonly used adsorbent materials are silica gel and activated carbon, both of which have a high surface area and can hold large amounts of refrigerant. The heat exchanger is designed to transfer heat from the surroundings to the adsorbent material, which allows the refrigerant to be released and used for cooling.

One of the key advantages of adsorption chillers is their ability to provide cooling without using ozone-depleting refrigerants. Many traditional refrigeration systems use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which can contribute to the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer. Adsorption chillers, on the other hand, can use natural refrigerants such as water or ammonia, which have minimal impact on the environment.

Adsorption chillers can also be used in combined heat and power (CHP) systems, which generate both electricity and heat from a single source. In a CHP system, waste heat from industrial processes or power generation is used to power the adsorption chiller, which provides cooling for the facility. The heat generated by the chiller can also be used for heating, reducing the need for additional heating systems.

Another advantage of adsorption chillers is their ability to operate at lower temperatures than traditional refrigeration systems. This makes them ideal for cooling applications that require low temperatures, such as in data centers or food storage facilities. Adsorption chillers can also be used in combination with traditional refrigeration systems to provide supplemental cooling during periods of high demand.

Adsorption chillers are also highly reliable and require minimal maintenance. Unlike traditional refrigeration systems, which rely on mechanical components such as compressors and pumps, adsorption chillers operate using natural processes such as heat transfer and adsorption. This makes them less susceptible to mechanical failure and reduces the need for maintenance.

However, there are some limitations to the use of adsorption chillers. One limitation is their lower coefficient of performance (COP) compared to traditional refrigeration systems. The COP is a measure of the efficiency of a refrigeration system, and is defined as the amount of cooling produced per unit of energy consumed. Because adsorption chillers operate at lower temperatures, their COP is typically lower than traditional refrigeration systems.

Another limitation is their higher initial cost compared to traditional refrigeration systems. While adsorption chillers can save energy and lower operating costs in the long run, the initial investment required for the system may be higher. However, this cost can be offset by government incentives or rebates, and the long-term energy savings can result in a positive return on investment.

In conclusion, adsorption chillers are an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional refrigeration systems. They can be powered by low-grade heat sources, reducing energy consumption and operating costs. They also use natural refrigerants, reducing their impact on the environment. While they may have a higher initial cost and lower COP than traditional refrigeration systems, their reliability and low maintenance requirements make them an attractive option for a variety of applications.