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New device replaces heat exchangers

Agriculture.com Staff 09/02/2009 @ 7:57am

Steam traps were invented in 1835 and have been widely used ever since. They separate liquid from steam and reduce water hammering and other problems in steam systems.

Now, Lauren Kiest, who invented the Equaply NH3 system 10 years ago, has developed a reverse steam trap to take vapor out of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) as it flows from nurse tanks to manifolds on application equipment. You can also think of it as an upside-down steam trap.

Vapor is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to handling NH3. It's virtually impossible to measure and meter a combination of liquid and vapor. Consequently, it's a challenge to apply the desired rate, and some outlets on many applicators apply much more nitrogen (N) than others.

Kiest says his invention, called the Liquimatic Vapor Separator, eliminates the need for heat exchangers. "The only purpose for the heat exchanger in an anhydrous ammonia system is to condense ammonia vapor back to a liquid," he says.

According to Kiest, the stream of NH3 entering the Liquimatic is about 45% gas and 55% liquid, by volume. NH3 is a liquid in nurse tanks, but vapor is formed by friction as it flows through hoses and pipes after leaving the tank.

In addition to eliminating most of the vapor, Kiest says the Liquimatic also has more capacity than heat exchangers. For example, he says the two heat exchangers on his company's original Equaply system can supply about 60 gallons per minute, whereas the Liquimatic system can handle rates in excess of 80 gallons.

"That's enough capacity for a 60-foot applicator going 12 mph to apply 250 pounds of anhydrous ammonia per acre," he says. (That's just over 200 pounds of N).

After five years of development, Kiest and his company -- aNH3 Company -- are now starting to sell the new devices, which are patented (U.S. 7,096,802).

Steam traps were invented in 1835 and have been widely used ever since. They separate liquid from steam and reduce water hammering and other problems in steam systems.

The Liquimatic is surprisingly simple. A weir, or metal dam, in the canister diverts the incoming mix of liquid and vapor upward. The liquid flows up and over the dam. Meanwhile, the vapor rises to the top of the canister (see illustration).

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