Consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Why a Carnot process using a Van der Waals gas - or other fluid with uncommon equation of state - also runs at Carnot's efficiency. Textbooks often refer to an ideal gas when introducing Carnot's cycle - it's easy to calculate heat energies and work in this case. Perhaps this might imply that not only must the … Continue reading Consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics

The Heat Source Paradox

It is not a paradox - it is a straight-forward relation between a heat pump system's key data: The lower a heat pump's performance factor is, the smaller the source can be built. I would not write this post, hadn't I found a version of this statement with a positive twist  used in an advert! … Continue reading The Heat Source Paradox

Entropy and Dimensions (Following Landau and Lifshitz)

Some time ago I wrote about volumes of spheres in multi-dimensional phase space - as needed in integrals in statistical mechanics. The post was primarily about the curious fact that the 'bulk of the volume' of such spheres is contained in a thin shell beneath their hyperspherical surfaces. The trick to calculate something reasonable is … Continue reading Entropy and Dimensions (Following Landau and Lifshitz)

The Collector Size Paradox

Collector harvest does not change much if we only use half the collector. Perhaps counter-intuitive but explained by the characteristics of heat exchangers connected in series: Especially if one of the heat exchangers (in the tank or collector) is already much superior to the other one, it does not help to optimize the good one further.

Tinkering, Science, and (Not) Sharing It

I stumbled upon this research paper called PVC polyhedra: We describe how to construct a dodecahedron, tetrahedron, cube, and octahedron out of pvc pipes using standard fittings. ... In particular, if we take a connector that takes three pipes each at 120 degree angles from the others (this is called a “true wye”) and we … Continue reading Tinkering, Science, and (Not) Sharing It

Heat Transport: What I Wrote So Far.

Don't worry, The Subversive Elkement will publish the usual silly summer posting soon! Now am just tying up loose ends. In the next months I will keep writing about heat transport: Detailed simulations versus maverick's rules of thumb, numerical solutions versus insights from the few things you can solve analytically, and applications to our heat … Continue reading Heat Transport: What I Wrote So Far.

Spheres in a Space with Trillions of Dimensions

I don't venture into speculative science writing - this is just about classical statistical mechanics; actually about a special mathematical aspect. It was one of the things I found particularly intriguing in my first encounters with statistical mechanics and thermodynamics a long time ago - a curious feature of volumes. I was mulling upon how … Continue reading Spheres in a Space with Trillions of Dimensions

Simulating Peak Ice

This year ice in the tank was finally melted between March 5 to March 10 - as 'visual inspection' showed. Level sensor Mr. Bubble was confused during the melting phase; thus it was an interesting exercise to compare simulations to measurements. Simulations use the measured ambient temperature and solar radiation as an input, data points … Continue reading Simulating Peak Ice

Mr. Bubble Was Confused. A Cliffhanger.

This year we experienced a record-breaking January in Austria - the coldest since 30 years. Our heat pump system produced 14m3 of ice in the underground tank. The volume of ice is measured by Mr. Bubble, the winner of The Ultimate Level Sensor Casting Show run by the Chief Engineer last year: The classic, analog … Continue reading Mr. Bubble Was Confused. A Cliffhanger.

Ice Storage Hierarchy of Needs

Data Kraken - the tentacled tangled pieces of software for data analysis - has a secret theoretical sibling, an older one: Before we built our heat source from a cellar, I developed numerical simulations of the future heat pump system. Today this simulation tool comprises e.g. a model of our control system, real-live weather data, … Continue reading Ice Storage Hierarchy of Needs

On Photovoltaic Generators and Scattering Cross Sections

Subtitle: Dimensional Analysis again. Our photovoltaic generator has about 5 kW rated 'peak' power - 18 panels with 265W each. Peak output power is obtained under so-called standard testing condition - 1 kWp (kilo Watt peak) is equivalent to: a panel temperature of 25°C (as efficiency depends on temperature) an incident angle of sunlight relative to … Continue reading On Photovoltaic Generators and Scattering Cross Sections

And Now for Something Completely Different: Rotation Heat Pump!

Heat pumps for space heating are all very similar: Refrigerant evaporates, pressure is increased by a scroll compressor, refrigerant condenses, pressure is reduced in an expansion value. *yawn* The question is: Can a compression heat pump be built in a completely different way? Austrian start-up ECOP did it: They  invented the so-called Rotation Heat Pump. … Continue reading And Now for Something Completely Different: Rotation Heat Pump!

Re-Visiting Carnot’s Theorem

The proof by contradiction used in physics textbooks is one of those arguments that appear surprising, then self-evident, then deceptive in its simplicity. You - or maybe only: I - cannot resist turning it over and over in your head again, viewing it from different angles. tl;dr: I just wanted to introduce the time-honored tradition … Continue reading Re-Visiting Carnot’s Theorem

Alien Energy

I am sure it protects us not only from lightning but also from alien attacks and EMP guns ... So I wrote about our lightning protection, installed together with our photovoltaic generator. Now our PV generator is operational for 11 months and we have encountered one alien attack, albeit by beneficial aliens. The Sunny Baseline … Continue reading Alien Energy

Rowboats, Laser Pulses, and Heat Energy (Boring Title: Dimensional Analysis)

Dimensional analysis means to understand the essentials of a phenomenon in physics and to calculate characteristic numbers - without solving the underlying, often complex, differential equation. The theory of fluid dynamics is full of interesting dimensionless numbers -  Reynolds Number is perhaps most famous. In the previous post on temperature waves I solved the Heat … Continue reading Rowboats, Laser Pulses, and Heat Energy (Boring Title: Dimensional Analysis)

Temperature Waves and Geothermal Energy

Nearly all of renewable energy exploited today is, in a sense, solar energy. Photovoltaic cells convert solar radiation into electricity, solar thermal collectors heat hot water. Plants need solar power for photosynthesis, for 'creating biomass'. The motion of water and air is influenced by the forces caused by the earth's rotation, but by temperature gradients … Continue reading Temperature Waves and Geothermal Energy

Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Peter von Rittinger's biography reads like a Victorian novel, and his invention was a text-book example of innovation triggered by scarcity. Born 1811, he was poor and became an orphan early. Yet he was able to study mathematics and physics as his secondary education had been financed by the Piarist Order. He also studied law … Continue reading Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump (AKA: The First Heat Pump)

Heat Pump System Data: Three Seasons 2012 – 2015

We have updated the documentation of monthly and seasonal measurement data - now including also the full season September 2014 to August 2015. The overall Seasonal Performance Factor was 4,4 - despite the slightly lower numbers in February and March, when was the solar collector was off during the Ice Storage Challenge. Edit: I have … Continue reading Heat Pump System Data: Three Seasons 2012 – 2015

Lest We Forget the Pioneer: Ottokar Tumlirz and His Early Demo of the Coriolis Effect

Two years ago I wrote an article about The Myth of the Toilet Flush, comparing the angular rotation caused by the earth's rotation to the typical rotation in experiments with garden hoses that make it easy to observe the Coriolis effect. There are several orders of magnitude in difference, and the effect can only be … Continue reading Lest We Forget the Pioneer: Ottokar Tumlirz and His Early Demo of the Coriolis Effect

An Efficiency Greater Than 1?

No, my next project is not building a Perpetuum Mobile. Sometimes I mull upon definitions of performance indicators. It seems straight-forward that the efficiency of a wood log or oil burner is smaller than 1 - if combustion is not perfect you will never be able to turn the caloric value into heat, due to … Continue reading An Efficiency Greater Than 1?

How to Evaluate a Heat Pump’s Performance?

The straight-forward way is to read off two energy values at the end of a period - day, month, or season: The electrical energy used by the heat pump and the heating energy delivered. The Seasonal Performance Factor (SPF) is the ratio of these - the factor the input electrical energy is 'multiplied with' to … Continue reading How to Evaluate a Heat Pump’s Performance?

Ice Storage Challenge: High Score!

Released from ice are brook and river By the quickening glance of the gracious Spring; The colors of hope to the valley cling, And weak old Winter himself must shiver, Withdrawn to the mountains, a crownless king. These are the first lines of the English version of a famous German poem on spring, from the … Continue reading Ice Storage Challenge: High Score!

A Sublime Transition

Don't expect anything philosophical or career-change-related. I am talking about water and its phase transition to ice because ... ...the fact that a process so common and important as water freezing is not fully resolved and understood, is astonishing. (Source) There are more spectacular ways of triggering this transition than just letting a tank of water … Continue reading A Sublime Transition

More Ice? Exploring Spacetime of Climate and Weather.

I have become obsessed with comparing climate data for different regions in the world and in different years (space + time). Finally I have found the tool I was looking for; now I can compare average Ice Days quickly - days with a maximum temperature < 0°C. In the first quarter of 2014 there were: 5 … Continue reading More Ice? Exploring Spacetime of Climate and Weather.

All Kinds of Turbines

I got an interesting question, related to the heat-from-the-tunnel project: Has anyone considered the fact that the water can be used to first drive turbines and then distributed to supply the input source for the heat pumps? I am a water turbine fan, and every time I spot a small hydro power plant on a … Continue reading All Kinds of Turbines

Pumped Heat from the Tunnel

The idea to use a reservoir of water as a heat pump's heat source is not new. But now and then somebody dares to do it again in a more spectacular way. Provided governmental agencies give you permit, lakes or underground aquifers could be used. Today a (German) press release about a European research project called Sinfonia … Continue reading Pumped Heat from the Tunnel

What Learning about Feynman’s Path Integrals Was Good for

I have gone to great lengths on this blog in order to explain how and why a degree in physics prepares you for seemingly different careers, or at least does not hurt. But it would have been so simple. I will now illustrate this - using just two incomprehensible images. Actually, I have a hidden … Continue reading What Learning about Feynman’s Path Integrals Was Good for

Grim Reaper Does a Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation

I have a secondary super-villain identity. People on Google+ called me: Elke the Ripper or Master of the Scythe. [FAQ] No, I don't lost a bet. We don't have a lawn-mower by choice. Yes, we tried the alternatives including a reel lawn-mower. Yes, I really enjoy doing this. It is utterly exhausting - there is no … Continue reading Grim Reaper Does a Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation