Vapour compression refrigeration systems are the most commonly used among all refrigeration systems. As the name implies, these systems belong to the general class of vapour cycles, wherein the working fluid (refrigerant) undergoes phase change at least during one process.
In a vapour compression refrigeration system, refrigeration is obtained as the refrigerant evaporates at low temperatures. The input to the system is in the form of mechanical energy required to run the compressor. Hence these systems are also called as mechanical refrigeration systems.
Figure shows the schematic of a standard, saturated, single stage (SSS) vapour compression refrigeration system and the operating cycle on a T-S diagram.
As shown in the figure the standard single stage, saturated vapour compression refrigeration system consists of the following four processes:
Process 1-2: Isentropic compression of saturated vapour in compressor
Process 2-3: Isobaric (at constant pressure) heat rejection in condenser
Process 3-4: Isenthalpic (at constant enthalpy) expansion of saturated liquid in expansion device
Process 4-1: Isobaric (at constant pressure) heat extraction in the evaporator
All such systems have four components: a compressor, a condenser, a thermal expansion valve (also called a throttle valve or metering device), and an evaporator. Circulating refrigerant enters the compressor in the thermodynamic state known as a saturated vapor and is compressed to a higher pressure, resulting in a higher temperature as well. The hot, compressed vapor is then in the thermodynamic state known as a superheated vapor and it is at a temperature and pressure at which it can be condensed with either cooling water or cooling air flowing across the coil or tubes. This is where the circulating refrigerant rejects heat from the system and the rejected heat is carried away by either the water or the air (whichever may be the case).
The condensed liquid refrigerant, in the thermodynamic state known as a saturated liquid, is next routed through an expansion valve (expansion device or throtlling device) where it undergoes an abrupt reduction in pressure. That pressure reduction results in the adiabatic flash evaporation (at constant enthalpy) of a part of the liquid refrigerant. The auto-refrigeration effect of the adiabatic flash evaporation lowers the temperature of the liquid and vapor refrigerant mixture to where it is colder than the temperature of the enclosed space to be refrigerated.
The cold mixture is then routed through the coil or tubes in the evaporator. A fan circulates the warm air in the enclosed space across the coil or tubes carrying the cold refrigerant liquid and vapor mixture. That warm air evaporates the liquid part of the cold refrigerant mixture. At the same time, the circulating air is cooled and thus lowers the temperature of the enclosed space to the desired temperature. The evaporator is where the circulating refrigerant absorbs and removes heat which is subsequently rejected in the condenser and transferred elsewhere by the water or air used in the condenser.
To complete the refrigeration cycle, the refrigerant vapor from the evaporator is again a saturated vapor and is routed back into the compressor.
COPVCRS=Desired Effect/Work input