You may not know it, but you’ve probably seen a few cooling towers in your time, and if you have a TV, you’re more than likely to have seen them in the opening credits of The Simpsons; they are those two, tall and chunky grey structures that make up Springfield’s Nuclear Power Plant. But besides from being an image on a colourful cartoon horizon, real life cooling towers are vital parts of any power station, and are also a common site on a number of other buildings and structures hirein.
They are, as you may have guessed by the name, are designed to remove process excess waste heat from a power station and into the atmosphere, thus keeping the power station’s reactors cool and safe. They do this in a number of ways, by using the evaporation of water to remove process heat and cool the working fluid to the wet-bulb temperature, or proper temperature, and by relying on air to cool the working fluid to the dry-bulb temperature, it depends on the type of cooling tower used.
These towers can vary in size, depending on the size of the building, and the type of work being carried on inside. Some towers are actually very small, and can also be referred to as roof-top units, to larger rectangular units that can be over 40 metres tall and 80 metres long to the extremely large, curved structures that can be over 100 metres tall and 100 meters wide. In fact, the world’s biggest cooling tower is the tower at the Niederaussem Power Station in Germany, which stands at an amazing 200 metres tall.
There are also many different types of towers to be found, and the type of tower will depend on the work it has to do. For example, HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) cooling towers are a subcategory of the original cooling tower, that are used for taking heat from a chiller, or a machine that removes heat from a liquid via a vapour-compression cycle.