Jump to content

- - - - -

Icy Ball [non-electric refrigeration]

  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1 Hippie3



  • Founders
  • 40,642 posts

Posted 12 July 2009 - 06:06 PM

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Crosley IcyBall
Cold side ball on left, hot side ball on right.
IcyBall was a name given to two early refrigerators, one made by Australian Sir Edward Hallstrom in 1923, and the other design patented by David Forbes Keith of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (filed 1927, granted 1929), and manufactured by American Powel Crosley Jr., who bought the rights to the device. Both devices were unusual in design in that they did not require the use of electricity for cooling. They ran for a day on about a cup of kerosene allowing rural users lacking electricity to utilise the benefits of refrigeration.
[edit] Operation (Crosley Icyball)
The Crosley Icyball was an example of a gas-absorption refrigerator, as can be found today in recreational vehicles or campervans. Unlike most refrigerators, the Icyball had no moving parts, and instead of operating continuously, was manually cycled. Typically it would be charged in the morning, and provide cooling throughout the heat of the day.
Absorption refrigerators and the more common mechanical refrigerators both cool by the evaporation of refrigerant. (Evaporation of a liquid causes cooling, as for example, liquid sweat on the skin evaporating feels cool, and the reverse process releases lots of heat.) In absorption refrigerators, the build up of pressure due to evaporation of refrigerant is relieved not by suction at the inlet of a compressor, but by absorption into an absorptive medium (water in the case of the Icy Ball).
The IcyBall system moves heat from the refrigerated cabinet to the warmer room by using ammonia as the refrigerant. (Note: household cleaning "ammonia" is actually solution of ammonia in water) It consists of two metal balls: a hot ball, which in the fully charged state contains the absorber (water) and a cold ball containing liquid ammonia. These are joined by a pipe in the shape of an inverted U. The pipe allows ammonia gas to move in either direction.
After approximately a day's use (varying depending on load), the IcyBall stops cooling, and needs recharging. The IcyBall is removed from the refrigerated cabinet, and the cold ball, from which all the ammonia has evaporated during the previous cycle, is submerged in cool water. The hot ball is then heated gently to boil off the ammonia dissolved in the water inside it. (The solubility of ammonia in water drops as temperature rises.) The pressure in the system rises to around 250 PSI, and at this temperature, the ammonia readily passes through the u-tube, and condenses in the colder ball, which is kept cool by the water bath.
When the cold ball is fully charged with liquid ammonia (indicated to the user by a whistle), the device is turned around, placing the hot ball in the cool bath. As the hot ball cools, the pressure in the system falls, eventually dropping to the point where the liquid ammonia in the cold ball begins to evaporate (ammonia has a boiling point of -28ºF | -33.4ºC at standard air pressure), and the cold ball begins to freeze. After several minutes it is cool enough for ice to form on its surface. It is then placed on the stabilizer inside the refrigeration cabinet. The stabilizer is filled with an antifreeze solution which both supports the cold ball and provides a large thermal inertia to moderate the cooling. A small hole in the refrigerated cabinet allows the u-tube to pass outside into the room.
The cold ball has a tube into which a special ice-cube tray could be placed, the forerunner of the "freezing compartment" in modern refrigerators.
The actual construction of the Icyball is slightly more complex than described above, to improve the efficiency: The connecting tube runs to the lower part of the warm ball, allowing the ammonia vapor to bubble through the water speeding absorption, and also serving to stir the solution so heat is better transported to the finned walls. This "bubbler" was bypassed by a liquid (no moving parts) check-valve during regeneration, so that only gas, and not liquid solution was transferred to the cold side. The operation of the liquid check valve was somewhat similar to the water seals (J-traps) used in plumbing drains. Mechanical check valves require too much pressure to function properly in this application. To minimize the amount of water transferred to the cold ball during the recharge cycle, trapping structures were placed in the upper part of the connecting tube, allowing only gas to pass, and directing water back to the warm side ball.
In practice, too high a flame and the water will boil, contaminating the ammonia that, alone, should liquefy in the cold ball, and if the water bath is allowed to warm, the ammonia will not fully condense.
[edit] History
While the Crosley Icy ball refrigerator is no longer sold or manufactured, absorption cycle refrigeration is still in use. In addition to RV applications, ammonia cycle refrigerators are still used in undeveloped countries. These are also batch-cycle devices, but incorporate various condensers, check valves, integral kerosene burner, etc, so that the disassembly and tub of water required to regenerate the Icy Ball are no longer needed. Ammonia refrigeration is also used in large industrial applications, where its efficiency more than compensates for the higher initial cost, and associated risk. Though it was once fairly popular for home air conditioning, concerns related to ammonia leakage have caused mechanical refrigeration to dominate that market.
[edit] Usage
The following text relates to the Canadian/American version of the device.
Daily use

We had no electricity, and our icehouse was not big enough to supply us with ice all summer. So we used the icyball. There was a daily routine to keep an icyball running. The following procedure was for the very icyball now in the Henry Ford Museum.
The Canadian version of the device came with a cooling chest that looked like a modern freezer, with the door opening upwards. It also required a large tub for water to cool one ball of the device, a mounting bracket to steady the device on the edge of the tub, and a blue-flame kerosene burner mounted in a tray. On one side of the burner tray was the burner and on the other side, connected by a tube, was an upturned cup into which you would fit a little tin of kerosene. The little tin of kerosene had a domed cap that had two small holes in it, so as to allow the kerosene to slowly dribble into the burner cup, tube, and burner. Fastened to the tube that went between the can and the burner was a float level. In the morning when we got up, we would start a fire, and put a kettle on to boil water for coffee. We would be careful to boil more water than we needed for coffee.
After you had poured out the water you needed for coffee, you would remove the icyball from the chest, and upend it, hot ball downward. (The handle had a bracket to support the device in this position.) You would pour a few cups of boiling water over the cold ball. After much gurgling you would carry the device to the water tub, which was about three feet high. First you would immerse the hot ball in the tub for a few seconds, just to fill a small reservoir on the top of the hot ball with water attached to a whistle. You would then reverse the device, hot ball outside and the cold ball in the water, resting the device on the edge of the tank. Then you would tend to the burner.
You would fill the little can with kerosene and screw the lid on. You would then tip the filled can upside down into the waiting burner can, and light the burner, positioning it under the hot ball. (The burner was not adjustable, and had an asbestos wick.) You could then go about your chores for the morning.
Later, when all the kerosene had been consumed, the water in the hot ball reservoir would boil, blowing a whistle to alert you that the burning was done. (Our whistle had been broken years ago, but we could hear the whistle from our neighbour's icyball.)
Then you would switch the position of the hot and cold balls, putting the hot ball in the tub water (hiss!), and in a few minutes the cold ball would be covered in ice, and ready to be returned to the chest for the day. (The cold ball had a hole through it, into which you could put a small metal ice cube tray.)
Once you got used to this routine, the icyball worked beautifully. It was certainly better than burying your food in the ground to try to preserve it.

#2 Guest_lost_onabbey_rd_*

  • Guest

Posted 12 July 2009 - 07:00 PM

Building Your Own Larry Hall Icyball
DISCLAIMER: The following is information only on things I did. I make no claims expressed or implied as to the safety, usefulness, or accuracy of this information. (This is a high-risk activity. High pressures are involved. The Icyball can leak or explode resulting in death or serious injury. Exposure to ammonia can cause serious injury or death. We share these words and photos for information only. We make no claim as to their accuracy usefulness, or safety.)
The cold ball is about 5" dia. and the hot ball is about 6" dia.. I used off the shelf steel pipe end caps (weld type), approx. 1/4" wall thickness if I remember right. The rest is just thick wall steel pipe and fittings. It's overbuilt for experimenting. On one charge it can keep an ice chest below 38 deg. F. for 24 hrs."
After my homemade Icyball was all assembled, I hydrostatically pressure tested it to 1,000 psi. This is done by completely filling the entire assembly with water, and then pressuring it up with some kind of hand pump. I had a pump I made. It works similar to a grease gun, but uses water. One of the pressure gauges I used is stainless; the other was made for ammonia systems. You can’t use copper or brass anywhere in the system. Some think Teflon sealer tape should not be used in a system like this but I found it to seal well and last for years. I tried another kind of thread compound, and it failed during the heat of regeneration.
I think the original Crosley Icyball charge was approximately 6 pounds anhydrous ammonia and 8 pounds water. My homemade Icyball was first evacuated, then charged with 1 pound 14 ounces of distilled water, then 1 pound 6 and 1/3 ounces ammonia or 57.2 parts by weight H20 and 42.8 parts by weight NH3. Or stated another way, the weight of the NH3 is 75% of the weight of the H20.
NH3, itself, is 61% the weight of H20 for the same volume so the actual volumes of water and ammonia in my homemade Icyball is .9 quarts water and 1.1 quarts anhydrous ammonia. It helps to know this in figuring what volumes of balls you want to weld up.
I have included two sketches of my homemade Icyball.
Fig. 1
I have copies of two Icyball patents, one dated December 24, 1929, Number 1,740,737, and the other dated June 23, 1931, Number 1,811,523 (Improvements to the Icyball). I didn’t stick real close to the patent drawings. My check valve is similar to Number 17, 18 and 19 on the patent drawing. (See sketch Number 2). The function of Object 20 in the patent drawing, I believe, is to further separate water from the ammonia during regeneration. I don’t use this, and mine works okay without it. Some thought does need to be given to separating ammonia from the water during regeneration. You are actually distilling it. I experimented with putting wet rags around the tube above the hot ball during regeneration to help condense back the water and give a more pure ammonia solution in the cold ball. A person could easily write a whole book on all the details of what goes on in an Icyball.
Fig. 2
The check valve: Mine is similar to the one on the patent drawing and is needed because during regeneration the ammonia vapors have to freely travel to the cold ball to condense. But during the cooling cycle, the ammonia vapors need to bubble up through the water to be better absorbed and to stir the water-ammonia mixture. During cooling, you can hear the ammonia slowly bubbling into the water. I built an Icyball without a check valve, and it would hardly work. A ball check valve would work in principle, but the problem is because of the open bubbler tube ("X" Sketch 2), the water-ammonia mixture would raise up this tube approximately 3 inches before creating enough back pressure to lift a quarter inch stainless steel ball off its seat (no spring) during regeneration. You could maybe make this work, but a bigger problem might be getting it to seal perfectly during cooling as even a very tiny seepage would defeat the bubbling feature. I thought of using a one quarter inch Teflon ball because of its lighter weight, but sealing is still a problem with so little weight or pressure on the ball. Perhaps an 0-ring seat might work, but in my research, the only rubber that would even come close to withstanding the heat and ammonia environment, is called "Aflas", but I didn't get around to trying this. The liquid check valve, however, works just fine. It seals perfectly and has no moving parts. It works as follows: (Sketch 2) During regeneration, the ammonia vapors go up tube "Z", down tube "Y", and up and over to the cold ball to condense. However, some ammonia and water condenses in the inch and a quarter tube (Sketch 1) and puddle up, one and three-fourths inches to the top of tube "X" (Sketch 2). During cooling, the ammonia vapors come back towards the hot ball and force some of the water in the aforementioned puddle to travel up tube "Y" far enough to create enough back pressure that the vapors will bubble up through tube "X". That is why length "B" should be greater than length "A" (Sketch 1). The reason for the 3/4 by 1-3/8" tube connecting the tops of tubes "Y" and "Z", I believe, is so a siphon won't easily develop between the two tubes. The lengths of my "Y" and "Z" tubes could be shorter if the bubbler tube was shorter, but I wanted the bubbler tube to go clear to the bottom. You'll notice in the patent drawing, the bubbler tube only goes part way down, and then a separate siphon tube helps to draw the solution from the bottom, I think. A good idea is to do what I did and make a prototype bubbler tube and check valve out of clear plastic tubing, then using plain water, blow and suck on it to see the action for yourself.
I have a three-quarter inch ball valve separating the two balls, but a needle valve might be better as I found that after regenerating, the ammonia would want to violently return to the other side and I would gradually open the valve.
I found that regenerating the system slowly is better than trying to regenerate it too fast (two hours is better than one hour).
I hope all this helps. Good luck!
Larry D. Hall
Tips from Other Builders
Texas Icyball
We followed Larry's design. We used steel brake lines for the small tubes inside the Icyball. We used high-silver-content solder for the delicate welds so that these welds would resist corrosion by the ammonia. We added a pressure relief valve, rated for Ammonia visible on the left side of the photo. It contains a safety valve designed to release at 300 psi. It is aimed down so that if it releases during the heating part of the cycle, it will discharge into the cooling water. We also added a small water dam in the horizontal pipe joining the two balls. It is like part 30 of the drawings in patent 1,811,523 of R Smith, June 23, 1931. It is in the left end of the horizontal tube, shaped like a crescent moon. It is silver-soldered into that tube. The dam helps to prevent water from traveling into the cold ball.
We fired the Icyball in two different setups: with a small Coleman dual fuel stove burning unleaded gasoline. We used a pail or a washtub filled with water for cooling and with a large propane burner and a trash can full of water. Both methods worked fine. The pail is such a small volume of water that it got hot and had to be dumped and refilled a few times. A low flame is the key to getting pure ammonia without much water in the cold ball. As long as ammonia is bubbling through during the heating phase (We listened at the elbow to the cold ball.) low heat will give the best results.

from http://crosleyautocl...Directions.html

Attached Thumbnails

  • LarryHall-sm.GIF
  • LarryHall-2-sm.GIF

#3 weeeeeee



  • Expired Member
  • 1,846 posts

Posted 12 July 2009 - 08:25 PM

thats real neat thanks both of you guys for that good info

#4 Shroom Masta

Shroom Masta


  • Expired Member
  • 30 posts

Posted 13 July 2009 - 12:46 AM

Wonderful post - Thanks for the info!!

#5 DocOc



  • Expired Member
  • 193 posts

Posted 13 July 2009 - 02:14 AM

God bless thermodynamics! Genius!

#6 catdaddy


    herding kittens

  • Expired Member
  • 2,321 posts

Posted 13 July 2009 - 07:10 AM

I wonder if the flame could be replaced by a parabolic solar heater...

#7 Guest_lost_onabbey_rd_*

  • Guest

Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:52 PM

i don't see why not
though you would probably want to have the beam at a fairly wide point so not to actually melt the metal
some of those mirrors can get insanely hot

one thing i was thinking about though is the use of regular house hold ammonia or even the industrial strength.
if one sets this up so that there is a valve between the 2 balls it would be possible to distill the ammonia to the cold side
shut the valve
dump the water in the hot side
open the valve and let it reach equilibrium, then re distill
and continue doing this until a suitable ammonia concentration is reached
basically like multiple distilling of spirits to get the alc % up

sure it would take a while and a few gallons, but in a pinch i think it would work a lot better then trying to just run a weak solution the whole time

#8 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Moderator
  • 8,968 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 16 July 2009 - 05:59 PM

Cool thread.

Fantastic new discussion board!
  • Hippie3 likes this

Like Mycotopia? Become a member today!