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Heat Pipes for Giant Slalom
November 8, 2007 17:18

Scheme of a heat pipe

Russian think-tank has developed a technology for preserving snow cover on race and mountain skiing tracks, even when air temperature exceeds ice melting point. Their technical solution, based upon inclined heat pipes of special design, is called refrigeration system. Said system is developed for Sochi, the capital city of Winter Olympics-2014, which is famous for its unpredictable weather.

Main working principle of these heat pipes is known quite well. In simple words, very hot gas, put in a closed space (a long and narrow pipe, for instance), transforms into liquid and vice versa, but these processes are separated in space. In heating compartment liquid evaporates, consuming energy, thus absorbing heat. In refrigerating compartment liquid condensates, cooling its environment. Thus, anyone can cool one end of the pipe by heating its other end, which can be quite far from the first end.

The problem is to return liquid to its evaporation zone. In case of cooling a building foundation (erected on permafrost) to avoid its “drifting” in summer, heat pipes are arranged vertically, and gravity simply makes liquid flowing down. And what if the pipe lies horizontally or bent under a skiing track? Solution appeared from scientific “space experience”, since researchers work in the space field oriented on zero gravity conditions. Researchers suggested sawing thinnest capillaries on inner sides of pipes. Such capillary network allows returning liquid to its evaporation zones despite pipe’s spatial location, since capillary forces do not depend on capillary orientation. As for the technique for sawing described capillaries, the method was developed by engineers of Moscow Bauman State University.


  For cooling the condensation compartment Russian scientists suggest using special equipment – Peltier elements, named after their creator Jean-Charles Peltier, who was the first to discover the effect of heat emission or consumption, when electric current flows through metal pairs, alloys or semiconductors. Said elements provide necessary cooling of the condensation compartment under little energy consumption, making the whole system quite cheap. Taking into consideration enormous effective thermal conductivity of heat pipes, which exceeds same parameter of copper and gold, one can conclude that general effectiveness of this system is also very high. Another advantage of the system is its total safety, making it ecologically friendly, and last but not the least characteristics are low weight and security, because it lacks movable parts! We should also mention that this original technology is Russian and protected by patents.


Over five hundred cooling systems are already operating. Among their advantages one shouldn’t forget about high security, since there’s not more than one meter between pipes, and failure of one or two components doesn’t have a serious effect on the whole system’s efficiency. All units have identical structure, but each has its own temperature control, which is important for long and large constructions and for leveling natural climatic qualities of tracks.

Plans for the Olympics provide opportunities of space control and management of said systems, thus united system of artificial climate to be controlled from one centre is highly desired. We have reasons to hope that skiing tracks of the Olympic Sochi will be covered with fresh crispy snow, not by muddy puddles, and artificial refrigeration system will be responsible for that.

    Russian Science News

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists Russian technologies    

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