(19)
(11)EP 1 645 852 A2

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
12.04.2006 Bulletin 2006/15

(21)Application number: 05256225.3

(22)Date of filing:  05.10.2005
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G01F 23/24  (2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC NL PL PT RO SE SI SK TR
Designated Extension States:
AL BA HR MK YU

(30)Priority: 07.10.2004 KR 2004080012

(71)Applicant: LG Electronics Inc.
Yongdungpo-gu Seoul (KR)

(72)Inventors:
  • Park, Bong-Soo
    Gwanak-Gu, Seoul (KR)
  • Oh, Sai-Kee
    Yangcheon-Gu, Seoul (KR)
  • Song, Chi-Woo
    Jung-Gu, Incheon (KR)
  • Kim, Ju-Won
    Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-Do (KR)
  • Chung, Baik-Young, Chojeong Maeul Doosan Apt.
    Gyeyang-Gu, Incheon (KR)
  • Chang, Se-Dong
    Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi-Do (KR)

(74)Representative: Hale, Peter et al
Kilburn & Strode 20 Red Lion Street
London WC1R 4PJ
London WC1R 4PJ (GB)

  


(54)Apparatus for controlling refrigerant level


(57) An apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level comprises a first detecting unit (110) installed at a lower side of the inside of a refrigerant tank (101), for detecting whether a refrigerant stored at a lower side of the inside of the refrigerant is a liquefied refrigerant or a gaseous refrigerant, a second detecting unit (120) installed at an upper side of the inside of the refrigerant tank (101), for detecting whether a refrigerant stored at an upper side of the inside of the refrigerant tank is a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant, and a control unit (130) controlling intake and discharge of the liquefied refrigerant according to a value measured by the first detecting unit (110) and the second detecting unit (120).




Description


[0001] The present invention relates to an apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level.

[0002] Figure 1 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a refrigerant tank provided with a conventional apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level.

[0003] As shown in Figure 1, the refrigerant tank 10 provided with a conventional apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level has a space portion 12 for storing a refrigerant in a main body 11.

[0004] An intake pipe 13 through which a liquefied refrigerant 12a is received in an upper portion of the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10. A discharge pipe 14 through which the liquefied refrigerant 12a is discharged is received in a lower portion of the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10.

[0005] An intake valve 13a for the refrigerant intake into the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10 is installed in the intake pipe 13, and a discharge valve 14a for discharging a refrigerant is installed in the discharge pipe 14.

[0006] An insertion hole 11 a is formed at an upper end of the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10, and a sealing member 11 b for sealing the insertion hole 11a is coupled to the insertion hole 11a.

[0007] An apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level using a specific gravity difference between a float and a refrigerant is provided in the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10.

[0008] The conventional apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level includes a guide 15 arranged vertically ride in the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank. Floats 16 and 17 respectively formed at upper and lower locations of the guide 15. Stoppers 18 and 19 respectively define the limits of movement of the floats 16 and 17.

[0009] Here, the specific gravity of the float 16 and 17 is less than that of the liquefied refrigerant 12a, and is greater than that of the gaseous refrigerant 12b. In general, if apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level is of a low pressure type, in which the inside of the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10 is at a low pressure, the floats 16 and 17 are formed as spherical rubber bodies. If the device is a high pressure type, in which the inside of the main body 11 of the refrigerant tank 10 is in a high pressure state, the spherical floats 16 and 17 are formed of metal. A gas is injected in the floats 16 and 17.

[0010] It is difficult to seal, with the sealing member, the insertion groove formed at an upper end of the main body of the refrigerant tank provided with the conventional apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level. The refrigerant can leak from a gap at the seal.

[0011] Also, if the height of the main body of the refrigerant tank increases, the height of the guide also has to increase. The entire structure becomes complicated, the manufacturing cost increases, and it is difficult to install the floats on the guide.

[0012] Also, in case of the high pressure type float, the float itself can be deformed by the pressure of the gas in it.

[0013] The present invention is defined in the accompanying independent claims. Some preferred features are recited in the dependent claims.

[0014] According to one embodiment, there is provided an apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level comprising: a first detecting unit installed at a lower side of the inside of a refrigerant tank, for detecting whether a refrigerant stored at a lower side of the inside of the refrigerant tank is a liquefied refrigerant or a gaseous refrigerant; a second detecting unit installed at an upper side of the inside of the refrigerant tank, for detecting whether a refrigerant stored at an upper side of the inside of the refrigerant tank is a liquefied refrigerant or a gaseous refrigerant, and a control unit controlling inflow of a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant from an intake pipe installed at an upper side of the refrigerant tank and controlling discharge of the liquefied refrigerant from a discharge pipe installed at a lower side of the refrigerant tank upon determining a level of a liquefied refrigerant according to values measured by the first detecting unit and the second detecting unit.

[0015] The first detecting unit may comprise: a first cell installed at a lower side of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion, a first cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed at an inner wall of the first cell, for measuring a temperature of the first cell, a first heat generation portion installed at the space portion of the first cell at an distance from the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat only to the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor, and a first refrigerant temperature sensor installed at the space portion of the first cell, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored at a lower side of the inside of the refrigerant tank.

[0016] The first heat generation portion may include a first heat generation body installed at the space portion of the first cell and a first power connected to the first heat generation body.

[0017] Preferably, a heat blocking layer of a heat insulation material or a filling material for decreasing heat transfer from the first heat generation body to the first refrigerant temperature sensor is installed between the first heat generation body and the first refrigerant temperature sensor.

[0018] The second detecting unit may comprise a second cell installed at a lower side of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion, a second cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed at an inner wall of the second cell, for measuring a temperature of the second cell, a second heat generation portion installed at the space portion of the second cell at an distance from the second cell inner wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat only to the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor, and a second refrigerant temperature sensor installed at the space portion of the second cell, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored at a lower side of the inside of the refrigerant tank.

[0019] The second heat generation portion may comprise a second heat generation body installed at the space portion of the second cell, and a second power connected to the second heat generation body.

[0020] Preferably, a heat blocking layer of a heat insulation material or a filling material for decreasing heat transfer from the second heat generation body to the second refrigerant temperature sensor is installed between the second heat generation body and the second refrigerant temperature sensor.

[0021] The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a unit of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the invention.

[0022] In the drawings:

Figure 1 is a sectional view that illustrates a conventional apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level;

Figure 2 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 3 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a first detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 4 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a second detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 5 is a flow chart that illustrates the operation of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 6 is a graph that illustrates heat conductivity of a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant according to the pressure;

Figure 7 is a graph that illustrates ΔT, which is a reference value of determining a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant;

Figure 8 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates an apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 9 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a first detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 10 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a second detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention; and

Figure 11 is a flow chart that illustrates the operation of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention.



[0023] Figure 2 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention. Figure 3 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a first detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention. Figure 4 is a longitudinal sectional view that illustrates a second detecting unit of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention, Figure 5 is a flow chart that illustrates the operation of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention. Figure 6 is a graph that illustrates heat conductivity of a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant according to the pressure. Figure 7 is a graph that illustrates ΔT, which is a reference value of determining a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant.

[0024] As shown, the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention includes: a first detecting unit 110 installed in a lower part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101 so as to detect whether refrigerant in the lower part of the refrigerant tank 101 is a liquefied refrigerant 102a or a gaseous refrigerant 102b by using the difference between heat-conductivity of liquefied refrigerant 102a and gaseous refrigerant 102b. A second detecting unit 120 is installed in the upper part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101 so as to detect whether a refrigerant in the upper part of the refrigerant tank 101 is a liquefied refrigerant 102a or a gaseous refrigerant 102b by using the same heat-conductivity differences between liquefied refrigerant 102a and gaseous refrigerant 102b. A control unit 130 controls inflow of the liquefied refrigerant 102a and the gaseous refrigerant 102b from an intake pipe 103 installed in the top of the refrigerant tank 101 in accordance with a level of a liquefied refrigerant 102a measured by the first detecting unit 110 and the second detecting unit 120, and controls discharge of the liquefied refrigerant 102a from a discharge pipe 104 installed in the bottom of the refrigerant tank 101.

[0025] The aforementioned first detecting unit 110 includes a first cell 111 installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank 101 and having therein a space portion 112. A first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 113 is installed on an inner wall of the first cell 111, for measuring a temperature of the first cell 111. A first heat generation portion 114 is installed in the space portion 112 of the first cell 111 at a distance from the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 113, for transferring heat only to the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 113. A first refrigerant temperature sensor 115 is installed in the space portion 112 of the first cell 111, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored in the lower part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101.

[0026] The first heat generation portion 114 includes a first heat generation body 114a installed in the space portion 112 of the first cell 111, and a first electrical power source 114b connected to the first heat generation body 114a.

[0027] Preferably, a heat blocking layer 116 of a heat-insulating material for inducing heat transfer to the first refrigerant temperature sensor 115 from the first heat generation body 114a is installed between the first heat generation body 114a and the first refrigerant temperature sensor 115.

[0028] The aforementioned second detecting unit 120 includes a second cell 121 installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank 10 and having therein a space portion 122. A second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 123 is installed on an inner wall of the second cell 121, for measuring a temperature of the second cell 121. A second heat generation portion 124 is installed at the space portion 122 of the second cell 121 at an distance from the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 123, for transferring heat only to the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 123. A second refrigerant temperature sensor 125 is installed in the space portion 122 of the second cell 121, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored at a lower side of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101.

[0029] The second heat generation portion 124 includes a second heat generation body 124a installed at the space portion 122 of the second cell, and a second electrical power source 124b connected to the second heat generation body 124a.

[0030] Preferably, a heat blocking layer 126 of a heat insulating material for reducing heat transfer from the second heat generation body 124a to the second refrigerant temperature sensor 125 is installed between the second heat generation body 124a and the second refrigerant temperature sensor 125.

[0031] It is desirable that the proper amount of liquefied refrigerant 102a is stored within the refrigerant tank 101 all the times. The first detecting unit 110 is installed in a lower part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101 and the second detecting unit 120 is installed in an upper part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 101 in order to detect the level of the liquefied refrigerant 102a by using the heat-conductivity difference between the liquefied refrigerant 102a and the gaseous refrigerant 102b.

[0032] Here, a "full" refrigerant tank 101 refers to a state in which the refrigerant tank 101 is filled with a liquefied refrigerant 102a, and an "empty" refrigerant tank 101 is filled with a gaseous refrigerant 102b after the liquefied refrigerant 102a is discharged.

[0033] When the first detecting unit 110 measures heat conductivity Kf and the second detecting unit 120 also measures heat conductivity Kf, the control unit 130 accurately determines the level of the liquefied refrigerant 102a within the refrigerant tank 101 based upon a value of the Kf measured by the first detecting unit 110 and a value of the Kf measured by the second detecting unit 120, and then, controls the intake valve 103a and discharge valve 104a to enable the proper amount of liquefied refrigerant 102a to be kept in the refrigerant tank 101 all the time.

[0034] Here, although the first detecting unit 110 and the second detecting unit 120 are placed at different positions, namely, at a lower part and an upper part of the refrigerant tank 101, respectively, they have the same construction.

[0035] The operation of the apparatus for controlling the level of refrigerant in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention will now be described.

[0036] As shown in Figure 6, the heat conductivity of the liquefied refrigerant 102a according to the pressure is 5 to 10 times greater than that of the gaseous refrigerant 102b.

[0037] Also, the amount of heat (Q) supplied to the heat generation portion can be defined by the following equation with respect to the heat conductivity (Kf), a difference (ΔT) between a cell-wall temperature (Tw) and a refrigerant temperature (Tf), an distance (d) between a cell-wall temperature sensor and a heat generation portion:



[0038] As described above, the method of determining the level of refrigerant within the refrigerant tank may be divided into two methods in consideration of heat conductivity characteristics of the liquefied refrigerant 102a and the gaseous refrigerant 102b.

[0039] As for the first method, preset Q, (Tw - Tf) and d are substituted for those of the equation Q = Kf x (Tw - Tf) / d, to thereby obtain Kf of the first detecting unit 110 and Kf of the second detecting unit 120. Then, if it is determined that the Kf obtained by the first detecting unit 110 and the Kf obtained by the second detecting unit 120 is the Kf of the liquefied refrigerant 102a or the Kf of the gaseous refrigerant 102b, the control unit 130 selectively closes or opens the intake valve 103a or the discharge valve 104a, such that the proper amount of refrigerant is kept within the refrigerant tank 101.

[0040] As for the second method, preset Q, (Tw - Tf) and d are substituted for those of the equation Q = Kf x (Tw - Tf) / d, to thereby obtain ΔT of the first detecting unit 110 and ΔT of the second detecting unit 120. Then, if it is determined that ΔT obtained by the first detecting unit 110 and ΔT obtained by the second detecting unit 120 are ΔT of the liquefied refrigerant 102a or ΔT of the gaseous refrigerant 120b, then the control unit 130 selectively closes or opens the intake valve 103a or the discharge valve 104a, such that the proper amount of refrigerant can stay within the refrigerant tank 101.

[0041] The first method will now be described schematically.

[0042] As shown in Figure 3, when power is applied to the first detecting unit 110 through the first power source114a, the first heat generation body 114b is heated.

[0043] Here, as given conditions, Q is 10 (W), and the distance "d" between the first cell wall temperature sensor 113 and the first heat generation body 114a is 0.005m. Also (Tw - Tf) = ΔT can be measured by the first cell wall temperature sensor 113 and the first refrigerant temperature sensor 115. Thus, if those data values are input to the equation Q = Kf x (Tw - Tf) / d, the value of Kf can be obtained.

[0044] If the measured value of Kf is 0.07~0.1 (W / m x k) as shown in Figure 6, the refrigerant is determined to be a liquefied refrigerant, and if the value of Kf is 0.01~0.015 (W / m x k), the refrigerant is determined to be a gaseous refrigerant.

[0045] In the same manner as that of the first detecting unit 110, when power is applied to the second detecting unit 120 through the second power 124b, the first heat generation body 124a is heated.

[0046] Here, as given conditions, Q is 10 (W), and the distance "d" between the second cell wall temperature sensor 123 and the second heat generation body 124a is 0.005 (m). Also (Tw - Tf) = ΔT can be measured by the second cell wall temperature sensor 123 and the second refrigerant temperature sensor 125. Thus, if those data values are put into the equation Q = Kf x (Tw - Tf) / d, the value of Kf can be obtained.

[0047] If the measured value of Kf is 0.07~0.1 (W / m x k) as shown in Figure 6, the refrigerant is determined to be a liquefied refrigerant, and if the value of Kf is 0.01~0.015 (W / m x k), the refrigerant is determined to be a gaseous refrigerant.

[0048] The control unit 130 controls a refrigerant flow-rate controller 131, to thereby allow the proper amount of refrigerant to be kept within the refrigerant tank 101.

[0049] The second method will now be described schematically.

[0050] As shown in Figure 6, the heat conductivity Kf of a liquefied refrigerant is 0.07~0.1 (W / m x k). Thus, those values are inputted to the equation above, such that, from 10 (W) = 0.07~0.1 (W / m x k) x ΔT (°C) / 0.005 (m), ΔT = 0.5~0.7 (°C) can be obtained.

[0051] Accordingly, if ΔT is 0.5~0.7 (°C), currently, it can be seen that the liquefied refrigerant level in the refrigerant tank is at a first detecting unit level.

[0052] On the assumption that Q = 10 (W) and d = 0.005 (m), the heat conductivity Kf of a gaseous refrigerant is 0.01~0.015 (W / m x k). Upon inputting those values to the above-described equation, ΔT = 5-3.3 (°C) can be obtained from 10 (W) = 0.01~0.015 (W / m x k) x ΔT (°C) / 0.005 (m).

[0053] Accordingly, if ΔT is 5~3.3 (°C), it can be seen that the gaseous refrigerant is at a level in the refrigerant tank at the second detecting unit.

[0054] As shown in Figure 7, ΔT of the liquefied refrigerant and ΔT of the gaseous refrigerant are separated on the basis of ΔT = 2 (°C). If ΔT from measurements made by the first detecting unit 110 or the second detecting unit 120 is greater than 2 (°C), it indicates that the gaseous refrigerant is stored at the current position, and if ΔT is smaller than 2 (°C), it indicates that the liquefied refrigerant is stored at the current position.



[0055] In Table 1, "high" indicates the situation where ΔTs of the first detecting unit 110 and the second detecting unit 120 are greater than 2 (°C), and "low" indicates the opposite situation.

[0056] Accordingly, as shown in the first case of Table 1, if ΔT measured by the second detecting unit 120 is greater than 2 (°C) and ΔT measured by the first detecting unit 110 is greater than 2 (°C), it indicates that the refrigerant tank 101 is filled with the gaseous refrigerant, namely, in the "empty" state.

[0057] As shown in the second case of Table 1, if ΔT measured by the second detecting unit 120 is greater than 2 (°C) and ΔT measured by the first detecting unit 110 is smaller than 2 (°C), it indicates that the refrigerant tank 101 is properly filled with liquefied refrigerant, namely, that it is in the "normal" state.

[0058] Finally, as shown in the third case of Table 1, if ΔT measured by the second detecting unit 120 is smaller than 2 (°C) and ΔT measured by the first detecting unit 110 is smaller than 2 (°C), it indicates that the refrigerant tank 101 is filled with the liquefied refrigerant, namely, in the "full" state.

[0059] Accordingly, when the refrigerant tank 101 is in the "empty" state, the control unit 130 minimizes the flow rate of refrigerant through the refrigerant flow rate controller 131 which is, for example, a pump flow rate controller. When the refrigerant tank 101 is in the "full" state, the flow rate of the refrigerant is maximized through the refrigerant flow rate controller (not shown). In such a manner, the control unit 130 allows the proper amount of liquefied refrigerant 102a to be kept in the refrigerant tank 101.

[0060] The apparatus for controlling refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to Figures 8, 9 and 10 of the accompanying drawings.

[0061] The apparatus 200 for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment includes a first detecting unit 210 installed in a lower part of the inside of the refrigerant 201 so as to detect whether a refrigerant stored in the lower part of the refrigerant tank 201 is liquefied refrigerant 102a or gaseous refrigerant 102b by using the heat conductivity difference between liquefied refrigerant 102a and gaseous refrigerant 102b. A second detecting unit 220 is installed in an upper part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 201 so as to detect whether refrigerant stored in the upper part of the inside of the refrigerant tank 201 is liquefied refrigerant 102a or gaseous refrigerant 102b by using the heat conductivity difference between the liquefied refrigerant 102a and the gaseous refrigerant 102b. A control unit 230 controls inflow of liquefied refrigerant 102a and gaseous refrigerant 102b from an intake pipe 203 installed in the top of the refrigerant tank 201 upon determining that the level of the liquefied refrigerant according to values measured by the first detecting unit 210 and the second detecting unit 220, and controls discharge of the liquefied refrigerant 102a from a discharge pipe 204 installed in the bottom of the refrigerant tank 201.

[0062] The first detecting unit 210 includes a first cell 211 installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank 201 and having therein a space portion 212. A first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 213 is installed on an inner wall of the first cell 211, for measuring the temperature of the first cell 211. A first heat generation portion 214 is installed in the space portion 212 of the first cell at an distance from the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 213, for transferring heat only to the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor 213. A first auxiliary cell 216 installed beneath the first cell 211 and having therein a space portion 212. A first refrigerant temperature sensor 215 is installed in the space portion 212 of the first auxiliary cell 216, for detecting the temperature of refrigerant in the lower part of the refrigerant tank 201.

[0063] The first heat generation portion 214 includes a first heat generation body 214a installed in the space portion 212 of the first cell 211, and a first electrical power source 214b connected to the first heat generation body 214a.

[0064] The second detecting unit 220 includes a second cell 221 installed in the lower part of the refrigerant tank 201 and having therein a space portion 222. A second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 223 is installed on an inner wall of the second cell 211, for measuring a temperature of the second cell 221. A second heat generation portion 224 is installed in the space portion 222 of the second cell 221 at an distance from the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 223, for transferring heat only to the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor 223. A second auxiliary cell 226 is installed in the lower part of the second cell 221 and having therein a space portion 226a. A second refrigerant temperature sensor 225 is installed in the space portion 226a of the second auxiliary cell 226, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored in the lower part of the refrigerant tank 201.

[0065] The apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention constructed in the aforementioned manner has the same structure as that of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment, except that the second refrigerant temperature sensor 225 is installed at the space portion 226a of the second auxiliary cell 226.

[0066] Also, as shown in Figure 11, as for the operational effect of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the second embodiment of the present invention, with the same principle as that of the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention, the control unit 230 determines measured values detected by the first detecting unit 210 and the second detecting unit 220 and controls a refrigerant flow rate controller 231, thereby allowing the proper amount of refrigerant to be kept within the refrigerant tank 201.

[0067] As described so far, the apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level in accordance with the present invention achieves simplicity in structure, economical efficiency, reliability in operation and durability.

[0068] Also, by using a heat conductivity difference between a liquefied refrigerant and a gaseous refrigerant, a level of a liquefied refrigerant within a refrigerant tank can be easily and quickly determined using a reliable product.

[0069] As the present invention may be embodied in several forms without departing from the essential characteristics thereof, it should also be understood that the above-described embodiments are not limited by any of the details of the foregoing description, unless otherwise specified, but rather should be construed broadly within its scope as defined in the appended claims, and therefore all changes and modifications that fall within the metes and bounds of the claims, or equivalence of such metes and bounds are therefore intended to be embraced by the appended claims.


Claims

1. An apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level, the apparatus comprising:

a detecting unit installed in a refrigerant tank; and

a control unit controlling refrigerant level within the refrigerant tank according to a value measured by the detecting unit.


 
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the detecting unit comprises:

a first detecting unit installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank; and

a second detecting unit installed in an upper part of the refrigerant tank.


 
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the control unit controls a refrigerant flow-rate controller according to values measured by the first detecting unit and the second detecting unit, thereby to maintain the amount of refrigerant within the refrigerant tank.
 
4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the first detecting unit comprises:

a first cell installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion;

a first cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed in relation to the first cell, for measuring a temperature of the first cell;

a first heat generation portion installed in the space portion of the first cell at a distance from the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat to the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor; and

a first refrigerant temperature sensor installed in relation to the space portion of the first cell, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored in a lower part of the refrigerant tank.


 
5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the first heat generation portion comprises:

a first heater means installed in the space portion of the first cell; and

a first power source connected to the first heater means.


 
6. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein a layer of a heat insulation material for reducing heat transfer from the first heater means to the first refrigerant temperature sensor is installed between the first heater means body and the first refrigerant temperature sensor.
 
7. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the second detecting unit comprises:

a second cell installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion;

a second cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed in relation to the second cell, for measuring a temperature of the second cell;

a second heat generation portion installed in the space portion of the second cell at a distance from the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat to the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor; and

a second refrigerant temperature sensor installed in relation to the space portion of the second cell, for detecting a temperature of a refrigerant stored in a lower part of the refrigerant tank.


 
8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the second heat generation portion comprises:

a second heater means installed in the space portion of the second cell; and

a second power source connected to the second heater means.


 
9. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein a heat blocking layer of a heat insulation material for reducing heat transfer from the second heater means to the second refrigerant temperature sensor is installed between the second heater means and the second refrigerant temperature sensor.
 
10. An apparatus for controlling a refrigerant level, the apparatus comprising:

a first detecting unit installed in a lower part of the inside of a refrigerant tank, for detecting whether refrigerant stored in the lower part of the refrigerant tank is a liquefied refrigerant or a gaseous refrigerant;

a second detecting unit installed in an upper part of the inside of the refrigerant tank, for detecting whether refrigerant stored in the upper part of the refrigerant tank is a liquefied refrigerant or a gaseous refrigerant; and

a control unit for controlling a refrigerant flow-rate controller according to values measured by the first detecting unit and the second detecting unit, thereby to maintain the proper amount of refrigerant within the refrigerant tank.


 
11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the first detecting unit comprises:

a first cell installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion;

a first cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed on an inner wall of the first cell, for measuring a temperature of the first cell;

a first heater means installed in the space portion of the first cell at a distance from the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat only to the first cell inner-wall temperature sensor;

a first auxiliary cell installed in a lower part of the first cell and having therein a space portion; and

a first refrigerant temperature sensor installed in the space portion of the first auxiliary cell, for detecting a temperature of refrigerant stored in the lower part of the refrigerant tank.


 
12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the first heater means comprises:

a first heat generation body installed in the space portion of the first cell; and

a first power source connected to the first heat generation body.


 
13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the second detecting unit comprises:

a second cell installed in a lower part of the refrigerant tank and having therein a space portion;

a second cell inner-wall temperature sensor installed on an inner wall of the second cell, for measuring a temperature of the second cell;

a second heater means installed in the space portion of the second cell at a distance from the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor, for transferring heat only to the second cell inner-wall temperature sensor;

a second auxiliary cell installed in a lower part of the second cell and having therein a space portion; and

a second refrigerant temperature sensor installed in the space portion of the second auxiliary cell, for detecting a temperature of refrigerant stored in the lower part of the refrigerant tank.


 




Drawing