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Title:
CLOSED INTERMITTENT DRYING PROCESS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1985/004001
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A closed intermittent process for drying a moist material, in which process gas is circulated internally for transporting vapour formation heat and water vapour out of the material, said water vapour being condensed from a cooled mixture of gas and water vapour, and for heating the material to be dried. The material is stored in at least two essentially equally large lots (31, 32), each in one essentially gastight chamber (1, 2). Through one lot (31) there is conducted alternately during a cooling/drying cycle a first circulating gas flow (11) cooled against a cooling medium flow and, during an equally long heating cycle, a second circulating gas flow (12) heated against a heating medium flow. Through the other lot (32), there is conducted simultaneously, reversely and alternately during a heating flow, a third circulating gas flow (22) heated against a heating medium flow and, during a cooling/drying cycle, a fourth circulating gas flow (21) cooled against a cooling medium flow.

Inventors:
ZEILON STEN (SE)
Application Number:
PCT/SE1985/000097
Publication Date:
September 12, 1985
Filing Date:
March 05, 1985
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ZEILON STEN
International Classes:
F26B3/02; F26B3/06; F26B21/00; F26B21/08; F26B23/00; (IPC1-7): F26B3/02; F26B21/00
Foreign References:
US3965696A1976-06-29
SE348824B1972-09-11
SE77026722B
FR2218819A11974-09-20
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Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A closed intermittent process for drying moist material, in which process gas is circulated internally for transporting vapour formation heat and water vapour out of the material to be dried, said water vapour being condensed from a cooled mixture of gas and water vapour, and for heating the material to be dried, c h a r a c t e r i s e d by storing said material . in at least two essentially equally large lots (31, 32; 91, 101, 92, 102), each in one essentially gas tight chamber (1, 2); and alternately conducting through said one lot (31; 91, 101) during a cooling/drying cycle a first circulating gas flow (11) cooled against a cooling medium flow (45a; 45) and during an equally long heating cycle a.second circulating gas flow (12) heated against a heating medium flow (45b; 44), and", simultaneously conducting through«the other lot (32; 92, 202) reversely and alternately during a heating cycle a third circulating gas flow (22) heated against a heating medium flow (44b; 44) and, during a cooling/ drying cycle, a fourth circulating gas flow (21) cooled against a cooling medium flow (44a; 45).
2. A process as claimed in claim 1, c h a r a c ¬ t e r i s e d in that a first and a second surface (46, 47) together with a refrigerating machine (43) form a refrigerating machineheat exchanger unit (4) by which enthalpy from the cooled first and fourth gas flows (11, 21) is transferred to the second and third heated gas flows (12, 22).
3. A process as claimed in claims 1 and 2, c h a r a c t e r i s e d in that the heated second and third gas flows (12, 22) are circulated in essentially larger volumetric flows than the cooled first and fourth gas flows (11, 21).
4. A process as claimed in claims 13, c h a ¬ r a c t e r i s e d in that said first gas flow (11) is conducted in a direction opposite to that of the second gas flow (12) through said first lot of material (31; 91, 101) and that said third gas flow is conducted in a direction opposite to that of the fourth gas flow (21) in the second lot of material (32; 92, 102).
5. A process as claimed in claims 14, c h a ¬ r a c t e r i s e d in that the gas flows (11, 12, 21, 22) are formed of a gas or gaseous mixture which has a growthinhibiting effect on fungus or germ cul¬ tures by high deficiency of oxygen or a high content of toxic components, such as carbon dioxide or ozone.
6. A process as claimed in claims 15, c h a r a c t e r i s e d in that the cycling frequency of the cooling/drying and the heating, respectively, of the lots of material (31, 32; 91, 101, 92, 102) is adapted to the drying rate and specific heat capa¬ city (C ) of the respective lot (31, 32; 91, 101, 92, 102), such that the mean temperature (Tn) in the material varies with an amount (+ΔT ) in the order of one or a few degrees.
7. A process as claimed in claims 16, c h a ¬ r a c t e r i s e d in that the cycling frequency is increased concurrently with the drying of the ma¬ terial, whereby the specific heat capacity (C ) is successively reduced.
8. A process as claimed in claims 17, c h a ¬ r a c t e r i s e d that excess heat from the plant, generated during the process, is diverted, for appli¬ cation of said process, to the ambient atmosphere by means of a heat exchanger device (7, 71) which preferably is heatexchanged towards the cooled first and fourth gas flows (11, 21).
9. A process as claimed in claims 17, c h ¬ r a c t e r i s e d in that the first and second surfaces (46, 47) are comprised, on the one hand, by a gas heat exchanger (41) connected in series in said first chamber (1) with said first and second gas flows (11,, 12) and, on the c>ther hand, a gas heat exchanger (42) connected in series in said second chamber (2) with said third and fourth gas flows (22, 21), and by means for alternately conducting the cool¬ ing medium flow (45a, 44a) and the heating medium flow (45b, 44b) through the gas heat exchangers (41, 42).
10. A process as claimed in claims 17, c a ¬ r a c t e r i s e d in that said first surface (46) is comprised by a gas cooling exchanger (41) through which the cooling medium flow (45) is constantly con¬ ducted and which, by means of a damper or valve ar rangement (461, 462), is connected alternately in series with either one of the cooled first and fourth gas flows (11, 21), and that said second surface (47) is comprised by a gas heat exchanger (42) through which the heating medium flow (44) is constantly'con ducted and which, by means of a damper or valve arrange¬ ment (471, 472), is connected alternately in series with either one of the said heated second and third gas flows (11, 22).
Description:
CLOSED INTERMITTENT DRYING PROCESS

The present invention relates to a closed inter¬ mittent process for drying moist material distributed to expose a large area to a gas flowing through the material and stacked in such a manner that a moderate gas flow resistance is obtained. The material to be dried may be, for example, grain, fibre crops, timber, granulates or liquid products which are spread on horizontal metal sheets.

The process utilises, in known manner, a circuit integrated with the drying process and having a cooling surface for cooling a moisture-carrying gas flow and for condensing water vapour. In contrast to prior art processes, the material is dried intermittently by means of a gas flow which is colder than the mate- rial and which is successively heated by heat exchange when flowing through the material. -During heating, the gas flow takes up an increasing amount of vapour which is expelled from the goods to the gas because of the vapour pressure difference between warmer material and colder gas. Also the requisite heating and evapora¬ tion heat is supplied intermittently to the material by means of a substantially greater gas flow which is warmer than the material. According to the invention, cycling between cooling/drying and reheating is effect- ed between at least two preferably gastight chambers within which the total amount of the material to be dried is distributed in two substantially equal lots, the enthalpy flow from the cooling/drying in one chamber preferably being transferred by a refrigerating machine for reheating in the other chamber, simultaneously as condensate is precipated on the cooling surface of the refrigerating machine. In other words, an enthalpy quantity is moved back and forth between the chambers

at a given frequency during cyclic heat storage in the lots of material to be dried.

If the process is combined with an efficient cool¬ ing, for example by means of a refrigerating machine, a thermodynamically highly .efficient drying is accomplish¬ ed, also at low drying temperatures. Drying may be ef¬ fected at a temperature level and in a closed gas envi¬ ronment in which the nutrient value and taste of, for example, different crops are maintained remarkably well. The process according to the invention makes it possible, at low investment cost, to combine long- term storage of a moist organic material at a quality- preserving temperature level and in gaseous environ¬ ment with a successive slow drying-out which is extend- ed during the storage period.

Atmospheric moisture may also in itself be regard¬ ed as a material to be dried. Furthermore, the drying process is applicable to moisture- control in moisture- producing environment, for example in greenhouses, the air volume being divided in similar manner into at least two separate parts which have substantially the same size and are alternately cooled/dried and reheated, respectively.

The invention will be described in more detail below, reference being had to the accompanying draw¬ ings. Fig. la illustrates a plant which is intended to be used with the process according to the inven¬ tion and which comprises two chambers, one of which is cooled/dried and the other is heated. Fig. lb shows the chambers according to Fig. la when subjected to the inverse treatment. Figs. 2a and 2b illustrate a cooling/heating device comprised by the plant. Fig. 3 illustrates an embodiment comprising a storing/drying device. Figs. 4a-c illustrate, as a further embodiment, and in plan and sectional views, the moisture con¬ trol in closed cultivation chambers, such as green¬ houses.

The material to be dried, which in the embodiment illustrated in Figs, la and lb is timber, is stacked in two equally large lots 31, 32, each in one gastight and preferably heat-insulated chamber 1 and 2, respec- tively. Stacking is carried out according to the type of the material to be dried and by methods not explained in detail, to provide for fairly uniform distribution of a gas flow across the surface of the material. During a cooling/drying cycle, a gas flow 11 is circu- lated through the chamber 1 alternately with an essen¬ tially larger gas flow 12 during an equally long heating cycle, and at the same time an essentially larger gas flow 22 is circulated in the chamber 2 during a heating cycle, alternately with a gas flow 21 during a cooling/drying cycle. In respect of enthalpy and time, the gas flow 11 is coupled with the gas flow 22, and the gas flow 12 is coupled with the gas flow 21 via a refrigerating machine-heat exchanger 4 which comprises two circuits with the surfaces 46 and 47 each conducting a gas flow 11, 12 and 22, 21, respec¬ tively, and a working fluid 45a, 45b and 44a, 44b, respectively, serving either as a cooling medium flow or as a heating medium flow, depending upon whether the chambers 1, 2 are to be cooled/dried or heated. For example, if the chamber 1 is to be cooled/dried and the chamber 2 is to be heated, the surface 46 serves as a cooling surface and the surface 47 as a heating surface, a refrigerating machine 43 trans¬ ferring enthalpy from the cooling surface -46 to the heating surface 47. hen the chambers are subjected to the inverse treatment, the surface 46 naturally serves instead as a heating surface and the surface 47 as a cooling surface.

The mean temperature in the lots 31, 32 are de¬ signated T , and this temperature varies downwardly/ upwardly during the cooling/heating cycles by a rela¬ tively small amount ΔT . During a heating cycle, the

enthalpy quantity 2(C .ΔT ) (in which C represents the specific heat capacity in kcal/kg-K) in a lot of material, and this enthalpy quantity is taken up during the subsequent cooling/drying cycle by a cooled gas flow, mainly in the form of vapour formation heat.

As will appear from Figs, la and lb, the cooled gas flows 11 and 12 are conducted in a direction oppo¬ site to that of the heated gas flows 12 and 22 in the chambers 1 and 2, respectively. As a result, drying will be fairly uniform across the entire drying bed, and the temperature differences between cooled and heated gas flows are minimised, which has a positive effect on the running economy of the refrigerating machine 43. The entire cycle which comprises a cooling/drying cycle and a heating cycle, will now be described in more detail with reference to Figs, la and lb. As will appear from Fig. la, a gas flow 11 is cooled to a temperature T, which is about 10-15°C lower than the temperature T of the lot 31. While passing through this lot, the gas stream 11 is successively heated and takes up water vapour which is expelled from the material because of the vapour pressure difference. Since the gas flow is small and the heat dissipating surface of the material to be dried is large, the said gas flow 11 leaves the chamber 1 at a temperature T_ « T having a high vapour content, and is then cooled to T, and dehumidified in the refrigerating machine-heat exchanger 4 which transfers the enthalpy flow to the lot 32 in the chamber 2 via a gas flow 22 circulating through this chamber and operating with a temperature difference (T.-T- , T.. « T . The enthalpy transport of the moisture-carrying enthalpy- rich gas flow 11 is meant to balance the enthalpy • transport of the enthalpy-poor gas flow 22 which trans¬ ports no moisture and which•therefore has a consider¬ ably larger volumetric flow.

As will be appreciated from the above, the steam formation heat for expelling moisture from the lot 31 has been taken from the material itself. This loss of enthalpy is replaced during the second half of the cycle, during which the roles are reversed and the lot 32 is cooled/dried with a gas flow 21, and the lot 31 is reheated by means of a larger, heated gas flow 12. Any non-uniform drying during the drying process is corrected for during the heating, and the moisture content in the material is balanced.

Figs. 2a and 2b illustrate schematically an embodi¬ ment of the refrigerating machine-heat exchanger 4. A gas/liquid heat exchanger 41 having a surface 46 is connected in series with the chamber 1 and provided with a two-stage fan 5a for either a smaller volumetric flow 11 or a larger volumetric flow 12. An identical heat exchanger 42 having a surface 47 is connected in series with the chamber 2 and provided with a two- stage fan 5b for a smaller fluid 21 and a larger flow 22, respectively. Cooling/heating of said gas flows is effected by means of a heated liquid flow 45b, 44b and a cooled liquid flow 45a, 44a which are connect¬ ed alternately via controlled magnetic valves from a refrigerating machine 43 for liquid/liquid. This machine preferably is designed in accordance with

Swedish patent application 8306037-6. The refrigerat¬ ing machine 43 comprises, in this embodiment, a com¬ pressor-operated water cooler in combination with two hot water tanks 441, 442 and two cooling water tanks 451, 452.

It appears from Fig. 2a which shows one half of the cycle, that the pair of tanks 441/452 are charged separately, while the tank 451 takes up heat in the operating range T-'/T, ' from the gas flow 11, while the tank 442 gives off heat to the larger gas flow 22 in the operating range T. /T-.'.

Fig. 2b which shows the other half of the cycle, illustrates how said pair of tanks 451/442 are charged . by means of the refrigerating machine 43, while the tank 441 heats the larger gas flow 12, and the tank 452 cools the smaller gas flow 21.

The calculation below shows that an excellent total running economy is obtainable if an efficient heat exchanger with low thermal resistance is used.

Fig. 3 illustrates an embodiment in which the ma- terial to be dried is grain stored in two heat-insulated chambers 1 and 2 in equal lots of 1,000 tons each, said chambers being equipped in known manner with Λ-shaped venting ducts 6. Since grain which is still moist from harvest may be stored at +10 C without dete- riorating, the grain thus has been stored at T = + 10 C, and is dried for 6 months or about 4,000 hours. This means that, when drying is to be " carried out from a moisture content of 19 " % to a moisture content of 14%, 80 tons of water must be evaporated from each cham- ber, and this means in total that 40 kg of water must be evaporated per hour. When T_ = T = +10 C and T, = 0°C, 4 g/kg of gas flow 11 are carried away, the requisite cooling/drying flow = 40,000/4 = 10,000 kg/h, and the requisite cooling effect = 10x10,000x0.24 + 40x600 = 48,000 kcal/h. If ΔT = ^^-T - 4°C for the gas flow 22, the enthalpy flow will be 4x0.24 = 1 kcal/kg, and the corresponding volumetric flow will then be 48,000/1 = 48,000 kg/h. Since these air flows are extremely moderate compared to the storage volume within the chambers, the static counterpressure will be low.

With an efficient heat exchanger, for example a thin-film heat exchanger as disclosed by SE patent application 8008235-7, there is no difficulty in main- taining a temperature difference of 3°. In this manner there is obtained:

χ ' = -3°C T 2 ' = +7°C T 3 ' = +13°C T 4 ' = +17°C

The cooling unit is operating with the mean values of the these temperatures, i.e.

+2°C/+15°C Evaporation/condensation = -2°C/+20°C Cooling factor Carnot = 271/22 = 12

Cooling factor eff. = 0.5x12 = 6

Total energy requirement cooling unit =

48,000 x 4,000 , 0 ΛΛA1 , 6 x 860 = 38,000kwh

Total energy requirement fans = 5 x 4,000 * 2 5°8',°0°0°0 *k»whl

Energy requirement drying = 58,000/2,000 = 29 kwh/ton

This value should be compared with the energy re¬ quirement during hot air drying - 100 kwh/ton. More¬ over, a conventional hot air drier must be dimensioned for a very short, energy-intensive harvesting season, and the capital expenditure for such drying will there¬ fore be high. The drying process according to the present invention makes it possible to extend the drying time by a factor 10, and capital expenditure will therefore be reduced correspondingly.

The closed drying system is supplied with energy via fans and cooling compressors, and positive or negative heat exchange with the ambient atmosphere is carried out. In order to maintain a specific storage temperature, +10 C in the embodiment illustrated, it may be necessary to divert excess heat to the am¬ bient atmosphere, which is done by means of an ex¬ ternal cooling circuit 7 consisting of, for example, an evaporator/water shower heat-exchanged by means of a cooling surface 71 towards the internal circula¬ tion system of the drying process, preferably towards the cooled gas flows 11, 21, said cooling, surface 71 contributing to the condensation of the water vapour. The above-mentioned diversion of excess heat is utilised also for cooling freshly harvested grain to storage temperature. The cooling capacity of the

cooling unit, which is 48,000 kcal/h, makes it possible to cool 75 tons/h from +20°C to +10°C. The entire storage volume of 2,000 tons may thus be cooled in about 12 days, which well fits in with the harvesting season.

The above-mentioned example shows that drying according to the process of the present invention may be carried out with a high thermodynamic efficiency also at low temperatures. When drying is effected at higher temperatures, the enthalpy quantity in the water vapour is increased to a high degree in relation to the enthalpy quantity in the corresponding transport gas, simultaneously as the relative fan work is reduced considerably. Both factors increase the drying yield. The gas flows 11, 12, 21, 22 are conducted in circuits which are gastight to the ambient atmosphere. The gas may be air, but preferably is a gas or a gaseous mixture which effectively checks the -growth of noxious fungus or germ cultures. For example, the gaseous ix- ture may be highly deficient in oxygen or have a suit¬ able content of a toxic gas, such as carbon dioxide or ozone.

In the example referred to above, the cooling process comprises a cooling surface which has freezing temperature and thus is in need of defrosting. However, the heat exchange arrangement described above and com¬ prising cyclic heating/cooling of the heat exchanging surfaces 46, 47 makes it possible -to provide for cyclic defrosting. The cycling frequency is adapted generally to the drying rate and the specific heat capacity C of the ma- terial to be dried, such that the temperature variations +ΔT in the material are rather small, more particularly in the order of one or a few degrees. In the example de- scribed above, which comprises the combination low dry¬ ing rate/high specific heat capacity, the cycling fre¬ quency, if ΔT = 0.5°C, will be =1 drying cycle/day.

In other examples comprising high drying rate/low specific heat capacity, the cycling frequency may be in the order of a few minutes. During drying, the heat capacity of the material to be dried is reduced successively because of the water disposal. If the drying rate is unchanged, the cycling frequency will be increased concurrently with the drying rate.

Figs. 4a-c illustrate an alternative embodiment of the refrigerating machine-heat exchanger unit 4, and in this case the air-drying process has been applied to a closed greenhouse environment. In this embodiment, the chambers 1, 2 are coupled alternately with the heat exchangers 41, 42 by means of adjustable dampers. In this embodiment, the chambers 1, 2 are two separate equally large greenhouse chambers separated by a common partition 81. In this application of the invention, the material to be dried is in the form of enclosed air masses 91, 92 and plant masses 101, 102.' A vertical air cooling exchanger 41 -having a surface 46, and a vertical hot air exchanger 42 having a surface 47 are incorporated in the partition 81. Adjustable lower and upper dampers 461, 471 and 462, 472, respectively, serve to circulate either the air mass 91 or the air mass 92 through either exchanger. The cooling air exchanger 41 is dimensioned for cooling an air flow by about 10 C and opens over a permeable transparent ceiling .film 82. The hot air exchanger 42 is dimensioned for heating an air stream which is about 5 times larger by about 5 C and opens beneath the ceiling film 82, for example by means of an air-distributing perforated tubular sheeting. Furthermore, a cooling medium flow 45 is conducted through the air cooling exchanger 41, while a heating medium flow 44 is conducted through the hot air ex- changer 42, and a refrigerating machine 43 transfers enthalpy from the cooling medium flow 45 to the heat¬ ing medium flow 44. The ceiling film 82 divides the

chambers 1, 2 into upper zones lb, 2b and lower zones la, 2a, between which but an insignificant spontaneous mixing of air occurs.

A drying cycle thus is carried out in the follow- ing manner. An initially heated and vapour-rich air mass 91 is circulated during one half of the cycle via a flow 11 during cooling and dewatering in the cooling exchanger 41, via the upper zone lb and distri¬ buted via perforations in the ceiling film 82 back to the chamber zone la. The temparature of the air mass 91 is reduced successively so that also the tem¬ perature of the plant mass 101 is decreased, but with a certain time lag. A positive vapour pressure diffe¬ rential continuously expels water vapour from the plant to the air which attains near saturation. During cooling, the cooling exchanger 41 thus will operate with a gas flow 11 having a high vapour content. The enthalpy flow from the ' cooling exchanger 41 is trans¬ ferred to the heat exchanger 42, and the air mass 92 is circulated therethrough and through the lower zone 2a in the form of an air flow 22. The initially cooled air mass 42 is successively heated while taking up an increasing amount of vapour from the plant mass 102 which, simultaneously with the air circulation, is supplied with fresh vapour formation heat.

During the second half of the drying cycle, the roles are reversed by reversal of all dampers, such that the material 91, 101 in the chamber 1 is reheated by circulation of the air mass 91 in a flow 12 through the heat exchanger 42, while the material 92, 102 in the chamber 2 is cooled/dried by circulation of the air mass 92 in a flow 21 through the cooling ex¬ changer 41.

A side effect of this distribution of the cooled air flows 11, 21 in the upper distribution zones lb, 2b is that the. heat exchange of the chambers 1, 2 with the colder ambient atmosphere, via the ceiling

surfaces of said chambers, is essentially reduced.

The mode of operation of the refrigerating machine- heat exchanger unit 4 in this last-mentioned embodiment distinguishes from the embodiment previously described in connection with Fig. 2 in that the cooled gas flows 11, 21 are periodically alternately conducted, by means of dam¬ pers or a valve arrangement, across a continuously operat¬ ing cooling surface 46, and that the heated gas flows 22, 12 are conducted, in a corresponding manner, periodically and alternately across a continuously operating heating surface 47. In actual practice, this mode of operation may be preferred for drying at such temperature levels where the cooling surface need not be defrosted, and in drying processes having a high cycling frequency. As will appear from the above description, the drying process according to the present invention has a broad zone of application, both in respect of the type of the " material to be dried and the type of drying environment.. Top quality drying is accomplished in that damage due to fungus or germ growth can be avoided by suitable selection of the gaseous environment, and damage in the form of desiccation cracks can be avoided in that, with this drying technique, the material" is dried in a direc¬ tion from its interior to its outer side. The above- mentioned enthalpy transfer between cooled and heated gas flows by means of a refrigerating machine further¬ more provides for a high degree of energy.

By renouncing the high degree of energy efficiency, but retaining the quality gains referred to, it is possible within the scope of the present invention to effect cooling of the first and fourth gas flows 11, 21 in the cooling surface 46 by means of an external cooling medium, for example a cooling water flow, and correspondingly heating of the second and third gas flows 12, 22 may take place in the heating surface 47 by means of an external heating medium, such as a hot water flow.