Would someone out there please explain vortex tubes to me or tell
me where I could find info on this. Please if you explain it
go into detail. It is for me to decide on a science fair project.
I have no idea what a vortex "tube" is, but a vortex is what
you get in a liquid when you pull the plug - circulating fluid
basically. There is all sorts of fancy versions of this in
different circumstances - for example the vortices of a superconductor
are associated with circulating currents rather than a circulating
liquid. Could you describe the "vortex tube" discussed in a little
more detail? Or maybe somebody else knows what this is?
I presume you are referring to an instrument that I know as a
Ranque-Hilsch tube, which "separates" an input compressed-air stream into hot
air streams, which then exit from different parts of the tube. A good place
to start reading is in "The Flying Circus of Physics, with Answers" by
Jearl Walker (1977), page 96 (Walker's explanation is on page 260). This
book also offers a number of references, some of them perhaps a bit more
technical than you are looking for. Another good and not-too-technical paper
is "Laboratory Applications of the Vortex Tube" by Thomas Bruno, in the
Journal of Chemical Education, Volume 64 (November 1987), p. 987-8. If you
have a problem finding these resources send me a postal address via Newton
mail or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will mail you photocopies.
It is not a dead topic: there is a (pretty technical) article about it in
last March's Journal of Physics D.
Maybe the student is asking about the quantized magnetic vortices
which occur in high-temperature superconductors when a
magnetic field is applied below the transition temperature...?
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Update: June 2012