How long have Vortex Tubes been around?
The Vortex Tube was invented quite by accident in 1928. George Ranque, a French physics student, was experimenting with a vortex-type pump he had developed when he noticed warm air exhausting from one end, and cold air from the other. Ranque soon forgot about his pump and started a small firm to exploit the commercial potential for this strange device that produced hot and cold air with no moving parts. However, the business soon failed and the Vortex Tube slipped into obscurity until 1945 when Rudolph Hilsch, a German physicist, published a widely read scientific paper on the device.
Much earlier, the great nineteenth century physicist, James Clerk Maxwell postulated that since heat involves the movement of molecules, we might someday be able to get hot and cold air from the same device with the help of a “friendly little demon” who would sort out and separate the hot and cold molecules of air.
Thus, the Vortex Tube has been variously known as the “Ranque Vortex Tube”, the “Hilsch Tube”, the “Ranque-Hilsch Tube”, and “Maxwell’s Demon”. By any name, it has in recent years gained acceptance as a simple, reliable and low cost answer to a wide variety of industrial spot cooling problems.