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As the wet vapor leaves the cylinder there exists an opportunity to capture the deviation from equilibrium.  The ultimate heat sink for the process is the atmosphere, and while the “gas” must be re-heated to above atmospheric temperature to reject the final portion of the unavailable energy it contains; the liquid need not.  At this moment, the system can realize the gain made in the cylinder.  By separating the liquid from the gas, we can re compress a smaller mass fraction than we extracted energy from and therefore reject a smaller fraction of the gross-energy input.

It might be assumed at this point that we are proposing to violate Carnot!  This is certainly not the case.  The Carnot efficiency depends on the temperature difference.  By splitting the mass stream into two components, we are removing some of the energy of the stream at a far lower temperature than the temperature of the heat-sink, but this is an unstable or non-equilibrium state, the liquid and gas would return to a mean temperature above atmospheric, if they were allowed to do so.  It is only by exploiting this lag in the equilibrium that we obtain the advantage.




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Updated: 09/11/10 21:05