Open and Closed Type of Refrigeration System – Advantages and Application


Air cycle refrigeration is one of the earliest methods used for cooling. The key features of this method is that, the refrigerant air remain gaseous state throughout the refrigeration cycle. Based on the operation, the air refrigeration system can be classified into
  1. Open air refrigeration cycle
  2. Closed refrigeration cycle

Open air refrigeration cycle

In an open refrigeration system, the air is directly passed over the space is to be cooled, and allowed to circulate through the cooler. The pressure of open refrigeration cycle is limited to the atmospheric pressure.  A simple diagram of the open-air Refrigeration system is given below.

Advantages and application

  • It eliminates the need of a heat exchanger.
  • It is used in aircraft because it helps to achieve cabin pressurization and air conditioning at once


One of the disadvantages of this system is that its large size. The air supplied to the refrigeration system is at atmospheric pressure, so the volume of air handled by the system is large. Thus the size of compressor and expander also should be large. Another disadvantage of the open cycle system is that the moisture is regularly carried away by the circulating air, this leads to the formation of frost at the end of the expansion process and clogs the line, and hence a use of dryer is preferable to the open air refrigeration system.

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Closed refrigeration system / Dense air refrigeration cycle

In closed or dense air refrigeration cycle, air refrigerant is contained within pipes and component part of the system at all time. The circulated air does not have to direct contact with the space to be cooled. The air is used to cool another fluid (brine), and this fluid is circulated into the space to be cooled. So the disadvantages listed in open air refrigeration can be eliminated.  The advantages of closed air refrigeration system are


  • The suction to the compressor may be at high pressure, therefore the volume of air handled by the compressor and expander is low when compared to an open system. Hence the size of compressor and expander is small compared to the open air system.
  • The chance of freezing of moister and choke the valve is eliminated.
  • In this system, higher coefficient of performance can be achieved by reducing operating pressure ratio.

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