Vortex tubes are extremely important for things like air conditioners and heaters. The applications for a vortex tube apply mostly to heating and cooling. So anything that requires heating and cooling, will most likely have a vortex tube. The tube itself is pretty simple to understand and has no moving parts.

Air basically moves in spiral and is separated into two vortexes that run counter to each other. This action is what allows air to become so cold when going out of the cold end or when exiting the hot end. Let's take a closer look at how vortex tubes work and what they can be used for.

Vortex Tubes And The Process Involved

The physics around these tubes can be very confusing at first but let's start with a little background. Vortex tubes were discovered around 1931 by French physicist Georges J. Ranque. This is why vortex tubes are also known as Ranque-Hilsch vortex tubes.

At the top of the tube is a generator where compressed air is supplied. The generator is very important because it's what causes the vortexes in the tube to generate. The air in the tube begins to form two vortexes. These vortexes are the outer vortex and an inner vortex. One vortex is hot and the other is cold.

Now on one end, the hot vortex air escapes the and the inner, cold vortex passes through the hot vortex to escape the opposite end. This is where it can be very confusing. Just imagine a car going through a tunnel, the cold vortex is the car and the hot vortex is the tunnel. They're moving in opposite directions to account for the hot and cold ends. Let's take a look at some of the common applications of vortex tubes.

Cooling Guns And Sewing Machines

Vortex tubes are used for mainly industrial processes. One of the most common tools that use vortex tubes is the cold air gun. Cold air guns are mostly used for cooling off metal so it can be manufactured or worked on. This can be an important process since some industrial machines are dry operated only. Meaning that they don't have something to cool them off while they operate.

An example of a dry operated machine would be an industrial sewing machine or other textile machines. These machines can get enough to cause damage to the textiles that they produce if not properly cooled. The problem is so serious that research is even dedicated to measuring needle heat and how to cool them.

A cooling gun has a long nozzle that can be used to place cold air right where it's needed. In the industrial sewing machine example, the cold gun can be put right on the needle and keep it cool. A cool machine works a lot better than a flaming hot one. Just imagine if a car engine had no oil. Similar effects do happen to other types of machinery if not cooled. Let's look at other applications like in cooling sheet metal or setting certain materials.

Cooling Off Cutters And Other Drilling Machines

Vortex tubes are also used in cooling off industrial machines that cut or drill material. This is mostly done by using a cold gun but other systems can be put in place to do the same thing. When a cutter operates and slices into something like sheet metal it will produce a lot of heat in a short amount of time. The same is true for the drilling process.

A lot of machines operate in conditions where they can't be cooled by a liquid solution. In this case, a vortex tube device is used instead. Should these machines get too hot then they'll start to damage the end result and might get break down. This is why keeping them cool is important.

A lot of these devices operate automatically so they don't really have eyes on them all the time. A cold gun or other vortex solution can be set and forgotten in most cases. This means they just place the nozzle of the cold gun right on the heat point of the machine and let it operate.

Hot Melts

Hot melts are basically adhesives used in a multitude of applications. Some of these applications are for bonding together certain metals, fibers, and other materials. A cold gun is basically used to allow everything to set so that bond takes.

Cold guns aren't the only way that vortex tubes are applied. They are also used in the refrigeration process as well. Let's take a closer look at how this is done.

Refrigeration Using Vortex Tubes

This process is very similar to how cold guns work. At least with the end result. The idea is to apply cold air for a given application. Vortex tubes in refrigeration allow for a liquid-free solution for refrigeration. Compressed air enters the tube and cold air floods the refrigerator chamber. The hot air escapes the other end.

This is seen in air conditioners as well as the common AC that be bought for regular use. Vortex tubes offer a wide variety of uses that are mostly for applying cold. The applications of heat are there as well but it's not a lot.

Vortex Tubes And Heating

Vortex tubes aren't really used for heating but it is possible. Some of these applications are keeping certain surfaces, like a mirror, hot enough so it can perform its function. Others include keeping certain chemicals or liquids warm like paint or grease in cold climates.

Most of these applications are used because there isn't another source of heating available or viable. This is why heating and vortex tubes really don't get mentioned or talked about very often. Most companies that do manufacture vortex tubes often market them for their cooling capabilities and as an alternative to liquid solutions.

Why Use Vortex Tubes?

Well, a lot of factories and industries find using an air system much more affordable to a liquid one. Vortex tubes don't really get as cold as a liquid solution but those extreme temperatures aren't always needed. Vortex tubes fill in the little odd applications that a large, expensive liquid-cooled system just isn't suited for. This is why they're so popular.

Getting them set up is simple and with no moving parts and they are easy to take care of. Someone who owns a factory or a bunch of machines don't really want to worry about another machine that they need to maintain.


Vortex tubes have changed the way that industrial machines are cooled. They present an affordable alternative to liquid systems by taking advantage of some interesting physics. Compressed goes in through a generator in the top and the air is split into two vortexes. These vortexes are one hot and one cold. The cold vortex goes through the cold end and the heat through the hot end.

Vortex tubes are involved in the cooling of all types of machines. These range from industrial sewing machines to cutting machines. This is because they're dry operated and don't have a liquid way of cooling them. Heating solutions with vortex tubes aren't very common but they do exist. So if a person or business is in need of an adaptable cooling solution, then they need to take a look at vortex tubes. It might just save them a bit of money and a lot of headaches.