Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
IMPROVEMENTS RELATING TO COOLING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/193689
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink comprising a first cooling element (6) for cooling a first region, the first cooling element defining, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels (22) via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, the first element having at least one reduced dimension compared in a packed configuration compared to the deployed configuration; a second cooling element (8) for cooling a second region, the second cooling element being substantially identical to the first cooling element; and connecting means (10) for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means (12), wherein the connecting means are arranged to connect: the inlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel and/or the outlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel.

Inventors:
SMITH MARK (GB)
DANN ADRIAN (GB)
Application Number:
PCT/GB2016/051564
Publication Date:
December 08, 2016
Filing Date:
May 27, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ICESCAPE LTD (GB)
International Classes:
F25C3/02
Foreign References:
US7089753B22006-08-15
US3893507A1975-07-08
US20100281889A12010-11-11
US20100163221A12010-07-01
DE20306784U12003-07-17
US4611471A1986-09-16
US20130126136A12013-05-23
US20100258286A12010-10-14
US20130283829A12013-10-31
DE102006046931A12008-04-10
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BUMKE, Jakob et al. (Copa HouseStation Road, Cheddar Somerset BS27 3AH, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink, the cooling assembly comprising:

a first cooling element for cooling a first region of an ice rink in use, the first cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration;

a second cooling element for cooling a second region of an ice rink in use, the second cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the second region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; and

connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, wherein the connecting means are arranged to connect: (i) the inlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or (ii) the outlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or both (i) and (ii).

2. The cooling assembly of claim 1 , wherein the connecting means comprise dedicated feed connections for supplying refrigerated coolant to the inlets of the cooling elements from the coolant circulation means, each dedicated feed connection supplying refrigerated coolant exclusively to an associated one of the cooling elements.

3. The cooling assembly of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the connecting means comprise dedicated discharge connections for receiving spent coolant from each of the outlets of the cooling elements for transport to the coolant circulation means, each dedicated discharge connection receiving spent coolant exclusively from an associated one of the cooling elements.

4. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, co-oparable with or comprising coolant monitoring means for monitoring coolant flow through the first and second cooling elements respectively to provide distinct monitoring of cooling in each of the first and second regions.

5. The cooling assembly of claim 4, wherein the coolant monitoring means are arranged to monitor coolant flow through a dedicated feed connection and/or a dedicated discharge connection associated with each cooling element.

6. The cooling assembly of claim 4 or claim 5, wherein the coolant monitoring means comprise a coolant flow meter.

7. The cooling assembly of any one of claims 4 to 6, wherein the coolant monitoring means comprise a thermometer.

8. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, co-operable with or comprising coolant control means for controlling coolant flow through the first and second cooling elements respectively to control cooling in each of the first and second regions.

9. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, wherein the coolant control means are arranged to control coolant flow through a dedicated feed connection and/or a dedicated discharge connection associated with each cooling element.

10. The cooling assembly of claim 8 or claim 9, wherein the coolant control means comprise a valve.

1 1. The cooling assembly of claim 10 wherein the valve comprises a tap.

12. The cooling assembly of claim 10 or claim 1 1 , wherein the coolant control means comprise a non-return valve.

13. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, wherein the cooling assembly comprises the coolant circulation means.

14. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim wherein the coolant circulation means comprise a circulation outlet for supplying refrigerated coolant and a circulation inlet for receiving spent coolant, the connecting means being arranged for fluidly connecting the inlets of the cooling elements to the circulation outlet of the coolant circulation means and the outlets of the cooling elements to the circulation inlet of the coolant circulation means.

15. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, wherein the coolant circulation means comprise a coolant refrigeration unit and a coolant circulation pump.

16. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim comprising one or more further cooling elements for cooling one or more further regions of an ice rink in use, the connecting means being arranged for fluidly connecting an inlet and an outlet of the or each further cooling element to the coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the further cooling element.

17. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, in a deployed state, in which the cooling elements are in their deployed configuration, the connecting means fluidly connect the inlets and outlets of the cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, and the connecting means connect: (i) the inlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or (ii) the outlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or both (i) and (ii).

18. The cooling assembly of any one of claims 1 to 16 in a packed state, in which the cooling elements are in their packed configuration and the connecting means are disconnected.

19. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim wherein the cooling elements are substantially identical.

20. The cooling assembly of any preceding claim, wherein each cooling element is independently a cooling element according to any one of claims 21 to 32.

21. A cooling element for cooling a region of an ice rink in use, the cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration,

wherein the cooling element is arranged to be co-operable with connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlet and outlet of the cooling element to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling element, wherein: (i) the inlet of the cooling element is arranged to be connected to the coolant circulation means in a parallel arrangement or (ii) the outlet of the cooling element is arranged to be connected to the coolant circulation means in a parallel arrangement; or both (i) and (ii).

22. The cooling element of claim 21 , wherein the inlet of the cooling element is a dedicated inlet and the cooling element is arranged such that coolant supplied to the inlet must flow through one or more of the cooling channels of the element to exit the element.

23. The cooling element of claim 21 or claim 22, wherein the outlet of the cooling element is a dedicated outlet, the cooling element being arranged such that all coolant discharged from the outlet has flowed through one or more of the cooling channels of the element.

24. The cooling element of any one of claims 21 to 23 comprising a feed manifold defining the inlet and a discharge manifold defining the outlet.

25. The cooling element of claim 24, comprising a plurality of pipe assemblies connected to the feed and discharge manifolds, each pipe assembly defining one of the cooling channels between the feed and discharge manifolds.

26. The cooling element of claim 25, wherein the feed and discharge manifolds are adjacent and each pipe assembly comprises a return portion to allow the assembly to connect to both manifolds.

27. The cooling element of claim 25 or claim 26, wherein the feed and discharge manifolds are at a proximal end of the pipe assemblies and a plurality of pipe assemblies share a return manifold at a distal end.

28. The cooling element of claim 27, wherein the return manifold comprises a coolant bleed.

29. The cooling element of any one of claims 25 to 28, wherein each pipe assembly comprises a plurality of rigid pipes in fluid communication with one another via joint members such that the pipe assemblies can be folded along the joint members to bring the cooling element into the packed configuration.

30. The cooling element of claim 29, wherein the joint members comprise flexible tubes.

31. The cooling element of any one of claims 21 to 30 defining at least five cooling channels between the inlet and the outlet.

32. The cooling element of any one of claims 21 to 31 comprising a handle.

33. An ice rink comprising a cooling assembly or a cooling element according to any preceding claim.

34. The ice rink of claim 33, wherein the ice rink is a mobile ice rink that is or has been in a deployed state for a period of less than six months.

35. A method of monitoring cooling in an ice rink, the method comprising:

providing a cooling assembly having plurality of cooling elements for cooling respective regions of the ice rink, each cooling element defining a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant flows to cool an associated region of the ice rink; and

monitoring flow of coolant through a plurality of the cooling elements respectively to provide distinct monitoring of cooling in a plurality of regions of the ice rink.

36. The method of claim 35, wherein monitoring the flow of coolant comprises obtaining data from monitoring means co-operable with the cooling assembly.

37. A method of cooling an ice rink, the method comprising:

providing a cooling assembly having a plurality of cooling elements for cooling respective areas of the ice rink, each cooling element defining a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant flows to cool an associated region of the ice rink; and

varying the flow of coolant through a plurality of the cooling elements, such that the flow rate of coolant through a first element is different to the flow rate of coolant through a second element, or such that the flow rate of coolant through the elements is balanced.

38. The method of claim 37, wherein controlling the flow of coolant comprises actuating coolant control means co-operable with the cooling assembly.

39. The method of any one of claims 35 to 38, wherein the cooling assembly is a cooling assembly according to any one of claims 1 to 20.

40. A manifold unit for a cooling element the manifold unit comprising a feed manifold and a discharge manifold, the manifolds being arranged to be co-operable with connecting means for fluidly connecting an inlet of the feed manifold and an outlet of the discharge manifold to coolant circulation means to flow coolant from the feed manifold to the discharge manifold via cooling channels of a cooling element, wherein the inlet of the feed manifold is the sole inlet of the feed manifold and there is no outlet in the feed manifold except to the cooling channels and/or the outlet of the discharge manifold is the sole outlet of the discharge manifold and there is no inlet in the discharge manifold except from the cooling channels.

41. A cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink, the cooling assembly comprising: a first cooling element for cooling a first region of an ice rink in use, the first cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration;

a second cooling element for cooling a second region of an ice rink in use, the second cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the second region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; and

connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, the connecting means comprising: dedicated feed connections for supplying refrigerated coolant to the inlets of the cooling elements from the coolant circulation means, each dedicated feed connection supplying refrigerated coolant exclusively to an associated one of the cooling elements; and/or dedicated discharge connections for receiving spent coolant from each of the outlets of the cooling elements for transport to the coolant circulation means, each dedicated discharge connection receiving spent coolant exclusively from an associated one of the cooling elements.

Description:
IMPROVEMENTS RELATING TO COOLING

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to the cooling of mobile ice rinks. In particular, though not exclusively, this invention relates to cooling assemblies and cooling elements for cooling ice rinks, manifold units therefor, as well as methods of monitoring and cooling ice rinks.

BACKGROUND

Artificial or mechanically frozen ice rinks are known in the art for providing ice surfaces, for example for skating or winter sports. Such ice rinks may be mobile or temporary in the sense that they are operational for a relatively short period of time. This is of particular advantage at multi-purpose sites which have alternative uses.

To facilitate mobile use, ice rinks may have a modular construction facilitating assembly, disassembly, transport and storage. For example, an ice rink may comprise a plurality of modular cooling elements through which fluid coolant may flow in use to freeze surrounding water or other chemicals forming the ice. To aid mobile deployment, the modular cooling elements may be foldable or otherwise reduced in dimension during transport and storage.

One example of a modular ice rink is described in EP1462755B1. This patent, the disclosure of which is different to earlier publication EP1462755A1 , describes a cooling member for a mobile ice rink comprising at least two foldable cooling elements. Each cooling element comprises adjacent feed and discharge manifolds and a plurality of foldable heat exchange pipes extending between the manifolds. The cooling elements may be placed alongside one another, with coupling members making fluid-tight connections between respective feed and discharge manifolds of neighbouring elements. In this manner, the manifolds of the cooling elements of EP 1462755B1 are connected in series.

Whilst mobile deployment of ice rinks is desirable on account of the flexibility it offers, such deployment has been found to cause problems with consistency of ice quality. In particular, even when adjusting operational conditions to take into account average temperature, mobile ice rinks, on some occasions, provide an unsatisfactory consistency in ice quality. The causes of such unsatisfactory consistency can be hard to pinpoint.

Inconsistent ice quality may be addressed by enhancing cooling performance, for example by reducing the temperature of the coolant. However, this increases energy demand and operational costs. Additionally, there may be circumstances where the requisite additional cooling capacity is not available.

There is a need in the art for mobile ice rinks in which the causes of inconsistent ice quality can be more readily identified. There is also a need in the art for mobile ice rinks which can provide satisfactorily consistent ice quality, particularly in an energy efficient manner.

It is an object of the invention to address at least one of the above problems and/or another problem associated with the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

From a first aspect, the invention provides a cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink, the cooling assembly comprising:

a first cooling element for cooling a first region of an ice rink in use, the first cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration;

a second cooling element for cooling a second region of an ice rink in use, the second cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the second region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; and

connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, wherein the connecting means are arranged to connect the inlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel and/or to connect the outlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel.

In other words, an aspect of the invention provides a cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink, the cooling assembly comprising:

a first cooling element for cooling a first region of an ice rink in use, the first cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; a second cooling element for cooling a second region of an ice rink in use, the second cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the second region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; and

connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, wherein the connecting means are arranged to connect: (i) the inlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel or (ii) the outlets to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or both (i) and (ii).

It has been found that mobile deployment of an ice rink, as is facilitated by the deployed and packed configurations of cooling elements, brings with it significant variations in localised environmental conditions affecting only part of the ice rink. For example, the distribution of wind or sunlight across the ice rink may vary from one site to another. This has been identified as having a significant impact on localised ice quality, explaining many of the observed inconsistencies in ice quality across the ice rink.

It has also been recognised that mobile deployment of rinks may be more likely to lead to variations in cooling architecture, for example due to irregular assembly.

By virtue of connecting the inlets and/or the outlets of its cooling elements in parallel, the cooling assembly according to the first aspect of the invention achieves a differentiation of the coolant flows through the first and second cooling elements. This provides advantages over the design of EP1462755B1 in which manifolds of cooling elements are connected in series and thus do not offer such differentiation. The achieved differentiation of coolant flows may aid monitoring of differences in cooling in the first and second regions. This can help to pinpoint a cause of inconsistent ice quality and eliminate it. Additionally or alternatively, the achieved differentiation of coolant flows may aid a tailoring of cooling in the first and second regions. This can allow inconsistent ice quality to be effectively addressed.

The connecting means may suitably comprise a plurality of pipes and/or tubes. In an embodiment, the connecting means comprise a supply pipe and/or a discharge pipe.

Advantageously, a supply pipe and/or the discharge pipe may comprise a plurality of pipe sections that are joined together. For example, a plurality of pipe sections may be joined by a weld or a releasable coupling. Alternatively, the pipe sections may comprise a plurality of pipe sections joined together by a flexible pipe, such that the pipe sections are foldable between a deployed configuration and a storage configuration having at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration.

Advantageously, the connecting means may comprise dedicated feed connections for supplying refrigerated coolant to the inlets of the cooling elements from the coolant circulation means, each dedicated feed connection supplying refrigerated coolant exclusively to from an associated one of the cooling elements. Additionally or alternatively, the connecting means may comprise dedicated discharge connections for receiving spent coolant from each of the outlets of the cooling elements for transport to the coolant circulation means, each dedicated discharge connection receiving spent coolant exclusively from an associated one of the cooling elements.

The dedicated feed and discharge connections may imply a parallel connection of the inlets and/or outlets. Thus, in an embodiment of the first aspect of the invention, there is provided a cooling assembly for a mobile ice rink, the cooling assembly comprising:

a first cooling element for cooling a first region of an ice rink in use, the first cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the first region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration;

a second cooling element for cooling a second region of an ice rink in use, the second cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the second region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration; and

connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlets and outlets of the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, the connecting means comprising: dedicated feed connections for supplying refrigerated coolant to the inlets of the cooling elements from the coolant circulation means, each dedicated feed connection supplying refrigerated coolant exclusively to an associated one of the cooling elements; and/or dedicated discharge connections for receiving spent coolant from each of the outlets of the cooling elements for transport to the coolant circulation means, each dedicated discharge connection receiving spent coolant exclusively from an associated one of the cooling elements. As aforesaid, the differentiation of coolant flows achieved in the first aspect of the invention may aid monitoring of differences in cooling in the first and second regions. Advantageously, the cooling assembly may be co-operable with, or comprise, coolant monitoring means for monitoring coolant flow through the first and second cooling elements respectively to provide distinct monitoring of cooling in each of the first and second regions. Suitably, the coolant monitoring means may monitor coolant flow through a dedicated feed connection and/or a dedicated discharge connection associated with each cooling element.

The coolant monitoring means may, for example, comprise a coolant flow meter. Additionally or alternatively, the coolant monitoring means may comprise a thermometer.

The differentiation of coolant flows can also facilitate control of the coolant flows. Suitably, the cooling assembly may be co-operable with, or comprise, coolant control means for controlling coolant flow through the first and second cooling elements respectively to control cooling in each of the first and second regions. Advantageously, the coolant control means may control coolant flow through a dedicated feed connection and/or a dedicated discharge connection associated with each cooling element.

The coolant control means may, for example, comprise a valve. Suitably, the coolant control means may comprise a flow control valve, such as a tap, with which a flow of coolant can be adjusted. In an embodiment, the coolant control means comprise a non-return valve. A nonreturn valve can be useful in ensuring that coolant flow proceeds only in a desired direction, for example to ensure a decoupling of the cooling elements from each other, or to control coolant drainage from the elements on disassembly.

The cooling assembly is co-operable with coolant circulation means, which may or may not form part of the cooling assembly itself. The coolant circulation means may be arranged to refrigerate and optionally recycle coolant passing through the cooling elements. In principle, the coolant circulation means may comprise one or more inlets, outlets, refrigeration units and pumps. Such components may be separate or integral as is known in the art.

Conveniently, the coolant circulation means may comprise a circulation outlet for supplying refrigerated coolant and a circulation inlet for receiving spent coolant, the connecting means being arranged for fluidly connecting the inlets of the cooling elements to the circulation outlet of the coolant circulation means and the outlets of the cooling elements to the circulation inlet of the coolant circulation means. In an embodiment, the coolant circulation means comprise a refrigeration unit and a coolant circulation pump. The refrigeration unit may be configured to convert the spent coolant received by the circulation inlet into refrigerated coolant. The coolant circulation pump may be configured to pressurise coolant to circulate refrigerated coolant out of the circulation outlet, through the cooling elements and back to the refrigeration unit as spent coolant.

The scale of the cooling assembly may be chosen to reflect a desired ice rink size. The cooling assembly may comprise one or more further cooling elements for cooling one or more further regions of an ice rink in use, the connecting means being arranged for fluidly connecting an inlet and an outlet of the or each further cooling element to the coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the further cooling element.

Although it may in principle be used in any suitable ice rink, the cooling assembly is particularly suitable for use in a mobile ice rink on account of the first and second elements having deployed and compacted configurations.

The cooling assembly according to the first aspect of the invention may assume a deployed state, in which the cooling elements are in their deployed configuration, the connecting means fluidly connect the inlets and outlets of the cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, and the connecting means connect the inlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel and/or connect the outlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel.

In other words, the cooling assembly according to the first aspect of the invention may assume a deployed state, in which the cooling elements are in their deployed configuration, the connecting means fluidly connect the inlets and outlets of the cooling elements to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling elements, and the connecting means connect: (i) the inlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or (ii) the outlets of the cooling elements to the coolant circulation means in parallel; or both (i) and (ii).

Alternatively, the cooling assembly may assume a packed state, in which the cooling elements are in their packed configuration and the connecting means are disconnected.

From a second aspect, the invention provides a cooling element for cooling a region of an ice rink in use, the cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration, wherein the cooling element is arranged to be co-operable with connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlet and outlet of the cooling element to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling element with the inlet and/or outlet of the cooling element connected to the coolant circulation means in a parallel arrangement.

In other words, an aspect of the invention provides a cooling element for cooling a region of an ice rink in use, the cooling element having a deployed configuration in which the element defines, between an inlet and an outlet, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element to cool the region of the ice rink, and a packed configuration in which the element has at least one reduced dimension compared to the deployed configuration, wherein the cooling element is arranged to be co-operable with connecting means for fluidly connecting the inlet and outlet of the cooling element to coolant circulation means to flow coolant through the cooling element, wherein: (i) the inlet of the cooling element is arranged to be connected to the coolant circulation means in a parallel arrangement; or (ii) the outlet of the cooling element is arranged to be connected to the coolant circulation means in a parallel arrangement; or both (i) and (ii) .

The inlet of the cooling element may be a dedicated inlet and the cooling element may be arranged such that coolant supplied to the inlet must flow through one or more of the cooling channels of the element to exit the element.

Similarly, the outlet of the cooling element may be a dedicated outlet and the cooling element may be arranged such that all coolant discharged from the outlet has flowed through one or more of the cooling channels of the element.

Conveniently, the cooling element may comprise a feed manifold defining the inlet and a discharge manifold defining the outlet. The cooling element may comprise a plurality of pipe assemblies connected to the feed and discharge manifolds, each pipe assembly defining one of the cooling channels between the feed and discharge manifolds.

Suitably, the inlet defined by the feed manifold may be the sole inlet of the feed manifold, there being no outlet in the feed manifold except to the cooling channels and/or the outlet defined by the discharge manifold may be the sole outlet of the discharge manifold, there being no inlet in the discharge manifold except from the cooling channels. In some embodiments, the feed and discharge manifolds are adjacent and each pipe assembly comprises a return portion to allow the assembly to connect to both manifolds. Suitably, the feed and discharge manifolds may be connected at a proximal end of the pipe assemblies and a plurality of pipe assemblies may share a return manifold at a distal end. To aid drainage, the return manifold may conveniently comprise a coolant bleed.

Advantageously, the feed manifold and the discharge manifold may be separately formed in an integral unit. This facilitates mobile deployment and ensures efficient use of space.

Advantageously, the packed configuration of the cooling element may be a folded configuration. In some embodiments, each pipe assembly comprises a plurality of rigid pipes in fluid communication with one another via joint members such that the pipe assemblies can be folded along the joint members to bring the cooling element into the packed configuration. Conveniently, the joint members may be flexible tubes, for example made from a polymeric material. Other packed configurations may be achieved by disconnecting one or more connections in a pipe assembly, but it is preferable for no disconnections to be necessary.

The number of cooling channels in the cooling element may be chosen consistent with factors including economy of scale and handling convenience. Furthermore, any desired monitoring or tailoring of cooling may benefit from a cooling element that is neither so small that localised ice quality is hard to discern, nor so large that the benefits of localised monitoring or tailoring are significantly undermined. In some embodiments, the cooling element defines at least two, at least three, at least four, at least five, or even at least seven or at least ten cooling channels between the inlet and the outlet. The number of cooling channels may suitably be at most thirty, at most twenty or even at most fifteen or at most ten. However, other numbers of cooling channels are possible.

Advantageously, the cooling element may comprise one or more handles to facilitate transport of the cooling element.

It will be understood that each of the cooling elements of the cooling assembly according to the first aspect of the invention, including the first, second and any further cooling elements, may independently be embodied as a cooling element according to the second aspect of the invention. Conveniently, all the cooling elements in a cooling assembly according to the first aspect of the invention may be substantially identical. From a third aspect, the invention provides a manifold unit for a cooling element, the manifold unit comprising a feed manifold and a discharge manifold, the manifolds being arranged to be co-operable with connecting means for fluidly connecting an inlet of the feed manifold and an outlet of the discharge manifold to coolant circulation means to flow coolant from the feed manifold to the discharge manifold via cooling channels of a cooling element, wherein the inlet of the feed manifold is the sole inlet of the feed manifold and there is no outlet in the feed manifold except to the cooling channels and/or the outlet of the discharge manifold is the sole outlet of the discharge manifold and there is no inlet in the discharge manifold except from the cooling channels.

Advantageously, the manifold unit may comprise one or more handles to facilitate transport of the manifold. The manifold unit according to the third aspect of the invention may of course form part of a cooling element according to the second aspect of the invention.

From a fourth aspect, the invention provides an ice rink comprising a cooling assembly or a cooling element according to any aspect or embodiment of the invention. Advantageously, the ice rink may be a mobile ice rink, for example a mobile ice rink that is or has been in a deployed state for a period of less than six months.

From a fifth aspect, the invention provides a method of cooling an ice rink, in particular a mobile ice rink, the method comprising installing a cooling assembly or element according to any aspect or embodiment of the invention in an ice rink; and flowing coolant through the cooling channels of the cooling assembly or element to cool the ice rink.

From a sixth aspect, the invention provides a method of monitoring cooling in an ice rink, the method comprising: providing a cooling assembly having plurality of cooling elements for cooling respective regions of the ice rink, each cooling element defining a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant flows to cool an associated region of the ice rink; and monitoring flow of coolant through a plurality of the cooling elements respectively to provide distinct monitoring of cooling in a plurality of regions of the ice rink. Suitably, monitoring the flow of coolant may comprise obtaining data from monitoring means co-operable with the cooling assembly. The monitoring means may, for example, be as hereinabove described.

From a seventh aspect, the invention provides a method of cooling an ice rink, the method comprising: providing a cooling assembly having a plurality of cooling elements for cooling respective areas of the ice rink, each cooling element defining a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant flows to cool an associated region of the ice rink; and varying the flow of coolant through a plurality of the cooling elements, such that the flow rate of coolant through a first element is different to the flow rate of coolant through a second element, or such that the flow rate of coolant through the elements is balanced. Suitably, controlling the flow of coolant may comprise actuating coolant control means co-operable with the cooling assembly. The coolant control means may, for example, be as hereinabove described.

In the sixth and seventh aspects of the invention, the cooling assembly may of course be a cooling assembly as described in any aspect or embodiment of the invention. The ice rink may suitably be a mobile ice rink. The coolant may be of any suitable type. In an embodiment, the coolant comprises glycol, in particular propylene glycol (MPG).

Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the words "comprise" and "contain" and variations of the words, for example "comprising" and "comprises", mean "including but not limited to", and do not exclude other components, integers or steps. Moreover the singular encompasses the plural unless the context otherwise requires: in particular, where the indefinite article is used, the specification is to be understood as contemplating plurality as well as singularity, unless the context requires otherwise.

Preferred features of each aspect of the invention may be as described in connection with any of the other aspects. Within the scope of this application it is expressly intended that the various aspects, embodiments, examples and alternatives set out in the preceding paragraphs, in the claims and/or in the following description and drawings, and in particular the individual features thereof, may be taken independently or in any combination. That is, all embodiments and/or features of any embodiment can be combined in any way and/or combination, unless such features are incompatible. The applicant reserves the right to change any originally filed claim or file any new claim accordingly, including the right to amend any originally filed claim to depend from and/or incorporate any feature of any other claim although not originally claimed in that manner.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

One or more embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic top view of an ice rink comprising a cooling assembly according to a first embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 is a schematic top view of a first cooling element of the cooling assembly shown in Figure 1 ;

Figure 3 is a schematic top view of a manifold unit of the cooling element of Figure 2; Figure 4 is a perspective view of an alternative manifold unit for use in the cooling element of Figure 2;

Figure 5 is a perspective view of a first variant of alternative supply and discharge pipes for use in the cooling assembly of Figure 1 ;

Figure 6 is a perspective view of a second variant of alternative supply and discharge pipes for use in the cooling assembly of Figure 1 ; and

Figure 7 is a perspective view of third variant of alternative supply and discharge pipes for use in the cooling assembly of Figure 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to Figure 1 , a cooling assembly 2 installed to cool a mobile ice rink 4 comprises: first and second cooling elements 6, 8 and connecting means 10 fluidly connecting the first and second cooling elements to coolant circulation means 12.

Referring now to Figure 2, the first cooling element 6, shown here in a deployed configuration, comprises a feed manifold 14 defining an inlet 16 of the element 6 and a discharge manifold 18 defining an outlet 20 of the element 6. First and second pipe assemblies 22 are connected to the feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18, each pipe assembly 22 defining a cooling channel between the feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18.

The feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18 are adjacent to one another and each pipe assembly 22 is generally U-shaped, comprising an out portion 24 and a return portion 26 to allow the assembly 22 to connect to both manifolds 14, 18. The feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18 are connected, via rigid connectors 35, at a proximal end 28 of the pipe assemblies. At an opposed distal end 30 the pipe assemblies comprise a return manifold 32 also connected via rigid connectors 35. The return manifold 32 may comprise a bleed 34 for draining the element during disassembly. In a variant, the return manifold 32 could be replaced by simple U-shaped pipe sections for each pipe assembly 22.

Each pipe assembly 22 of the cooling element 6 comprises three rigid pipes 36 in fluid communication with one another via joint members in the form of flexible polymeric tubes 38 such that the pipe assemblies 22 can be folded along the flexible tubes 38 to bring the cooling element into a packed configuration (not shown) in which the element has a reduced length to facilitate transport and storage. This can be done without disconnection of the flexible tubes 38. In the packed configuration the return manifold 32 may overlie the feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18. Referring now to Figures 1 and 2, the feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18, the pipe assemblies 22 and the return manifold 32 together define, between the inlet 16 and the outlet 20 of the element 6, a plurality of cooling channels via which coolant can flow through the element 6 to cool a first region 40 of the ice rink 4.

The structure of the second cooling element 8 is identical to that of the first cooling element 6. The foregoing description hence also applies to the second cooling element 8, with like reference numerals assigned to like parts, save that the second cooling element cools a second region 42 of the ice rink 4 instead of the first region 40.

The first and second cooling elements 6, 8 are deployed side by side to cool the adjacent first and second regions 40, 42 of the ice rink 4. Each of the cooling elements 6, 8 cooperates with the connecting means 10 to fluidly connect its inlet 16 and outlet 20 to the coolant circulation means 12 to flow coolant 44 through the cooling element 6; 8.

Referring still to Figure 1 , the connecting means 10 take the form of a plurality of connectors 46, supply tubes 48, discharge tubes 49, a supply pipe 50 and a discharge pipe 52. The length of the supply pipe 50 and discharge pipe 52 may be chosen such that the total length of supply and discharge pipe 50, 52 associated with any given element 6, 8 is the same. This ensures that coolant flow through the elements 6, 8 is balanced.

The inlet 16 of the feed manifold 14 of each cooling element 6; 8 is connected by a dedicated (separate) supply tube 48 to the supply pipe 50 so that refrigerated coolant from the supply pipe 50 can flow into the feed manifold 14 and through the pipe assemblies 22 of the cooling elements 6, 8. Each supply tube 48 supplies refrigerated coolant exclusively to its associated element 6; 8. Each supply tube 48 comprises a non-return valve 100 to ensure coolant can flow only into the feed manifold 14 (and not out) and a flow control valve in the form of a tap 102. Optionally a flow meter and/or coolant thermometer (not shown) may also be incorporated in the supply tubes 48 as monitoring means.

The outlet 20 of the discharge manifold 18 of each cooling element 6, 8 is connected by a dedicated (separate) discharge tube 49 to the discharge pipe 52 so that spent coolant arriving in the discharge manifold 18 from the pipe assemblies 22 of the cooling elements 6, 8 can flow to the discharge pipe 52. Each discharge tube 49 receives spent coolant exclusively from its associated element 6; 8. Each discharge tube 49 comprises a non-return valve 100 to ensure coolant can flow only out of the discharge manifold 18 (and not in) and a flow control valve in the form of a tap 102. Optionally a flow meter and/or coolant thermometer (not shown) may also be incorporated in the discharge tubes 49 as monitoring means.

The coolant circulation means 12 comprise a tank 54, a refrigeration unit in the form of a chiller 56, and a pump 58. An inlet 60 of the tank 54 represents a circulation inlet of the coolant circulation means 12 to which the discharge pipe 52 is connected. Spent coolant flows through the inlet 60 of the tank 54 and may be stored in the tank 54 as a coolant buffer. The coolant may be any suitable fluid, in particular glycol.

The chiller 56 comprises a chiller pipe 62 for drawing coolant 44 from the tank 54. Within the chiller the coolant 44 is cooled or refrigerated in conventional fashion before being passed, via a pump line 64 to the pump 58. In the pump 58 the coolant is pressurised to a pressure sufficient to drive the coolant through the first and second cooling elements (in parallel) 6, 8 and back into the tank 54 for recycling. The overall pressure and flow rate imparted to the coolant may be adjusted as required.

On account of the dedicated supply and discharge tubes 48, 49, the inlets 16 and outlets 20 of the cooling elements 6, 8 are respectively connected to the coolant circulation means in parallel. A differentiation of the coolant flows through the first and second cooling elements 6, 8 is thus achieved. The achieved differentiation of coolant flows may aid monitoring of differences in cooling in the first and second regions 40, 42, for example using said flow meters or thermometers. This can help to pinpoint a cause of inconsistent ice quality in the ice rink 4 and eliminate it.

Additionally or alternatively, the achieved differentiation of coolant flows may aid a tailoring of cooling in the first and second regions 40, 42. This can allow inconsistent ice quality to be effectively addressed. For example, the relative cooling performance in the first and second cooling 6, 8 elements may be varied by adjusting coolant flow rates through the elements 6, 8 by opening or closing of the taps 102 in the supply tubes 48 and/or discharge tubes 49. In this manner, the optimum cooling performance in each of the first and second regions 40, 42 can be achieved. For example, cooling in one only of the regions 40, 42 may be increased or decreased. An increase may help to address poor ice quality whilst a decrease may help to save energy and/or facilitate consistency.

It has been found that mobile deployment of the ice rink 4, as is facilitated by the deployed and packed configurations of cooling elements 6, 8, brings with it significant variations in localised environmental conditions affecting only part of the ice rink 4. For example, the distribution of wind or sunlight across the ice rink 4 may vary from one site to another. This has been identified as having a significant impact on localised ice quality. However, inconsistencies in ice quality can be effectively addressed by control of the differentiated coolant flows.

Referring now to Figure 3, the feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18 of the cooling elements 6, 8 are distinct but formed as a single manifold unit 66 comprising a plurality of walls formed of a metal or plastics material. Notably, each manifold 14, 18 comprises first and second end walls 68 such that the manifolds are self-contained and cannot be connected with or extended by other manifolds.

The inlet 16 of the feed manifold 14 is a dedicated inlet and each feed manifold is arranged such that coolant supplied to its inlet 16 must flow through one or more of the cooling channels of the cooling element 6; 8 to exit. Thus the inlet 16 is the sole inlet of the feed manifold 14 and there is no outlet in the feed manifold 14 except to the pipe assemblies 22.

Similarly, the outlet 20 of the discharge manifold 18 is a dedicated outlet and the discharge manifold 18 is arranged such that all coolant discharged from the outlet 20 has flowed through one or more of the cooling channels of the cooling element 6; 8. Thus the outlet 20 is the sole outlet of the discharge manifold 18 and there is no inlet in the discharge manifold 18 except from the pipe assemblies 22.

The structure of the manifolds 14, 18 thus ensures that the cooling element 6; 8 is arranged to be co-operable with the connecting means 10 for fluidly connecting each cooling element 6; 8 in a parallel arrangement. Indeed, the structure of the manifolds 14, 18 ensures that the cooling elements 6, 8 must be advantageously connected in parallel and cannot be erroneously connected in series.

It will be appreciated that many modifications may be made to the first embodiment of the invention without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, the number of pipe assemblies or other heat exchange means may be varied to adjust the size of the cooling elements and associated regions as desired. Furthermore, the number of cooling elements in the cooling assembly may be increased as desired by connecting further cooling elements, e.g. as described in respect of the first and second cooling elements 6, 8.

Referring now to Figure 4, in which like reference numerals are used for like parts, an alternative manifold unit 200 is functionally identical to the manifold unit 66 of the first embodiment of the invention, save that ten pipe assemblies 22 may be connected instead of two. In a second embodiment of the invention, the alternative manifold unit 200 is substituted for the manifold unit 66 of one or both of the first and second cooling elements 6, 8 in the first embodiment of the invention, with additional pipe assemblies 22 deployed as needed. Of course the alternative manifold may also be used in any further cooling elements.

The alternative manifold unit 200 comprises distinct feed and discharge manifolds 14, 18 comprising a plurality of walls formed of a metal or plastics material. Notably, the unit 200 comprises first and second end walls (not shown) such that the manifolds 14, 18 are self- contained and cannot be connected with or extended by other manifolds.

To facilitate connection of the pipe assemblies, in this embodiment the rigid connectors 35a of the discharge manifold 18 extend at an angle of 30 degrees relative to the rigid connectors 35b of the feed manifold 18. The rigid connectors 35a of the discharge manifold 18 also have a longer length than the connectors 35b of the feed manifold 14. The alternative manifold unit 200 also comprises handles 202 to facilitate transport.

The feed and discharge pipes 50, 52 may also be readily modified. For example, the feed pipe and/or the discharge pipe may comprise an assembly of multiple pipes.

Referring now to Figures 5A and 5B, in one embodiment feed and discharge pipes 50, 52 comprise an assembly 300 of a plurality of pipe sections 302 that are welded together by welds 304. Each pipe section may be connected to a plurality of supply/discharge tubes 48/49 in the manner described in the first embodiment of the invention. The arrangement of Figures 5A and 5B shows a connection to two supply/discharge tubes 48/49 per section and would thus be suitable for connecting six cooling elements. However, other numbers of tubes are possible.

In another embodiment, and with reference to Figures 6A and 6B, feed and discharge pipes 50, 52 comprise an assembly 400 of a plurality of pipe sections 402 that are joined together with releasable ball and socket joints 402.

With reference to Figures 7A and 7B, in yet another embodiment, feed and discharge pipes

50, 52 comprise an assembly 500 of a plurality of rigid pipe sections 502 joined together by flexible pipe sections 504, which are crimped to the rigid pipe sections 502. This arrangement allows folding of the assembly 500 along the flexible pipe sections to facilitate transport of the feed and discharge pipes 50, 52.