A History of Cooling Towers

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Cooling towers, which were developed to recycle 98% of wasted water in order to improve water and energy efficiency, and since their conception in the 19th century, they’ve come a long way in that venture. Read on for the historical perspective of cooling towers, and to see how far they have come.

Cooling towers were invented sometime in the 19th century, deriving from condensers in steam engines. These versions used cool or air temperature water to condense steam from the engine’s cylinders to reduce the pressure. This can reduce the steam and fuel consumption while also increasing power to the engine. The problem with these prototypes was that the cost of the water needed to cool the system often exceeded what the user was saving by using it. Marine engines did far better during this time than their land-based counterparts.

In the 20th century, the technology was developed further, using evaporative and natural draft methods to recycle the cooling water. A split in cooling tower types happened during this time; in urban areas, they stayed cooling towers, but in rural areas they took the form of cooling ponds, since there was more land to spread them out. The urban versions sat atop buildings or were free-standing, much like they are today. In 1918, Dutch engineers pioneered hyperboloid towers, which would spread throughout Europe within just a few years to be used in factories and plants.

Today, their quest to improve water efficiency and energy usage has taken on special importance amidst concerns about global warming and emissions from various businesses. Now, the largest cooling tower resides at Kalisindh Thermal Power Station in Jhalawar, Rajasthan, India– standing at 663 feet tall. Their improved efficiency has proven helpful to innumerable businesses, and has been necessary in some cases due to increased policy on carbon footprints from companies.

Today, cooling towers range from small rooftop units, to huge structures up to 660 feet tall. There are also regular, free-standing structures that are 130 feet tall and 260 feet long. Improved technology, such as corrosion resistant towers are paving the way for further progress.

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