Until sent me a press release about a company incentive used by two ice rinks in the N.H. Seacoast to install REALice systems (that goofy capitalization is the trade name) to save money:
Ice rinks traditionally use extremely hot water to resurface the ice to remove the micro air bubbles in the water – tiny bubbles that create fragile, brittle ice. The REALice System acts like hot water, but without the same water heating expense. As a result, the rinks are no longer heating up the floodwater to extremely high temperatures like they were before REALice was installed, saving on energy.
Because the resulting water has fewer air bubbles in it than heated water, the ice freezes faster, which has an impact both on how the refrigeration plant runs as well as the arenas’ brine temperature settings, which will need to be reset higher. This further reduces energy usage.
I was baffled. know about those tiny bubbles – they are the answer to the weird question of why you can often make ice cubes more quickly with hot water than cold water – but how does cold water “act like hot water”?
According to the company’s web page, spinning the water in a vortex gets rid of those tiny air bubbles without heating:
In the vortex chamber, the vortices from the channels are wound together, similar to how a rope is spun together from a set of threads. A strong and stable vortex flow is formed inside the vortex chamber, causing a strongly reduced pressure along the vortex axis.
Macroscopic and microscopic gas bubbles in water will be pulled into the low-pressure zone in the vortex chamber. The low pressure will cause them to expand and gather into large bubbles that can be easily extracted downstream of the vortex generator.
I have heard that fluid dynamics is the most complicated physical system this side of the quantum world, so I have no idea how this works. The fact that it’s being installed by many ice rinks does seem to indicate that it works.