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Xtreme Cooling LN2, Dry Ice, Peltiers, etc... All the usual suspects

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Unread 10-16-2008, 02:30 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Default Ben's Cheap Chiller

I came across a water dispenser / heater / cooler the other day (being thrown out). It was pretty dirty and missing the stand but I figured it had some good cooling parts in it. From the plastic shell and lack of stand I assumed a peltier but when I picked it up I was pleased to find a condencer behind it.
This is NOT my pic but my cooler looked exactly like this plus some scratches and looking beat up: http://www.obenaufauctions.com/Dec1,...rDispenser.JPG

I took the unit home, fired it up and IT WORKS So I proceeded to taking it apart. I think I figured out why it was in the trash, one of the hoses slipped off something and made a nasty wet mess in the bottom of the unit causing it to get a bit moldy. Eventually I was left with a piston compressor, evaporator coil and a mini fridge like condencer. I mounted the cooler to a board and bought a container to fit the evaporator inside, I think the one I found was a perfect fit for it.

Now filled with water and antifreeze with a towel around it its getting pretty chilly in there and even some ice on the outside of the bucket. Some ice on the coil from before when I added the antifreeze. For those wondering why I did not just keep the existing water chilling container it is because the coil only went around it. By putting the coil in the water I make full contact between the coolant and the cooler so I should have some better results

Pics after the mod:

Also the thing is silent. Not louder than a mini fridge and not warmer than the top of a computer. (the condenser and compressor) For those wondering, I have no specs on this. The rear label was very dirty and the compressor label only told me it was charged with R134a. Also please make note that I'm not going to be cooling a quad core with this. Probably just a low wattage CPU or GPU.


A shot of the insulation: (lol)

Some nice frost here...

Even on the lid some ice

Lets look inside...


Oh crap... guess I need more antifreeze? hehe...

Some good results in my opinion, more to come soon!
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Last edited by ben333; 10-17-2008 at 11:34 AM.
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Unread 07-10-2010, 01:56 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ben's Cheap Chiller

how to lower the tank temperature? For a 5 gallon tank like mine, a peltier heat pump like the Coolworks Ice Probe would seemingly be a good choice. I tried building just such a device a few years ago, and it was a big failure. I learned that peltier heat pumps cannot be controlled by raw pulse width modulation (PWM) signals, and they don't do well in thermostatic (on/off) systems either. One reason is that the semiconductors inside the Peltier device do not like the thermal shock of the constant on/off switching. Also, Peltier heat pumps are already horribly inefficient, and using PWM or on/off control makes things even worse. During the "off" cycle of either the PWM pulse or the on/off cycle, the heat will flow backward though the device -- the same heat that the device just pumped during the "on" part of the cycle. Think of bailing out a sinking boat with a bucket that has a huge hole in the bottom. The best way to control the peltier modules is to generate high-frequency PWM, then smooth it out with an inductor/capacitor filter. There is still the problem of the peltier junction's inefficiency, and the hot-side heatsink must be massive with a massive fan to make the system viable. Anyway, I haven't heard anything great about the Ice Probe, nor any other Peltier cooling systems designed for any application that requires a good amount of cooling. I have a thermoelectric refrigerator that is just marginally good enough for its purpose.

So, today's design for a new aquarium chiller will NOT use Peltier junctions, as much as I love the idea. I bought a $99 water cooler that uses a conventional compressor and r-134a refrigerant.
I filled the cooler with tap water, and mounted a Rio pump with an outgoing hose and return line.

The two hoses connect to a stainless steel coil. I've had this thing laying around my shop for a long time. It came out of junked, expensive lab equipment. It is non-magnetic, which indicates 3-series stainless steel. I'm guessing it's 316, which is highly corrosion resistant. Of course, the aquarium purists would insist on titanium, but I don't have any, nor do I think it's really necessary. I'd love to hear from anyone who saw a stainless steel chiller coil corrode, or definitively caused tank poisoning.

I melted a couple slots in my hang-on cheapo protein skimmer (it's not a Skilter, but very similar). I would have used a dremel, but I didn't feel like taking the filter off the tank, and I also wanted to avoid getting plastic shavings in the water. The stainless coil sits down into the slots and is just held by gravity.

The cooler is plugged in all the time. It keeps its insulated water chamber around 47*F. The Rio pump in the cooler is turned on and off by the PID temperature controller that I mentioned in a previous blog post. The controller can be configured to use a longer cycle time (eg 30 seconds) since it is controlling a pump, and it would not make sense to turn a pump on and off once per second as it would be for a heater.

The cooler is rated 86 watts. If this is what the compressor draws while normally running (I didn't check it). I would estimate the cooler can pump about 170 watts of heat (about 580 btu/hr). The coefficient of performance is around 2 for small compressor systems. For comparison, a large peltier device can move around 70W under ideal conditions, at a very specific current/voltage. The coefficient of performance for Peltier devices usually tops out around 1, and is often about 0.5 for realistic situations. So, a peltier pump drawing 86 watts, would only pump about 43 to 86 watts of heat.
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Unread 03-08-2011, 11:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ben's Cheap Chiller

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