Profile: William Hampson and Carl von Linde - Liquefaction

This post is a part of the 12 Chemical Engineers who Changed the World series.

The Hampson–Linde cycle is process for liquefaction of gases that was independently invented by William Hampson and Carl von Linde in 1895.

Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde was born in June 11, 1842, in Berndorf, Kingdom of Bavaria (present-day Thurnau, Germany). Despite his father being a Lutheran minister, von Linde did not follow the path of faith as was expected during his time. Instead, went on to study the sciences.

After attending Kempten Gymnasium in Kempten, Kingdom of Bavaria, von Linde entered the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich in Switzerland in 1861, where he studied engineering. Interestingly, this then–newly founded institution would later produce the best minds of the Western world, including Nobel Prize laureates Albert Einstein and Fritz Haber.

Among von Linde’s teachers were Rudolf Clausius, who is known for his pioneering contributions in the field of thermodynamics; Franz Reuleaux, who is today lauded as the father of kinematics, a branch of classical mechanics that is concerned with describing motion; and Gustav Zeuner, who is the founder of technical thermodynamics, which is a discipline that deals with the engineering applications of thermodynamics.

Von Linde was never able to graduate, however, as he was expelled out of the university in 1864 for his participation in a student protest.

Nevertheless, his profound scientific education did not go to waste; he was able to land a job as an apprentice at a cotton-spinning plant in Kempten, through the recommendation of his ETH professor Reuleaux. He did not stay here for long, and soon enough he moved to the Berlin factory Borsig–Werke. Owned by German industrialist August Borsig, the factory produced steam engine locomotives.

Von Linde’s work experience here deepened his knowledge about gases and thermodynamics further. He finally moved to a Krauss Locomotive Works, a Munich factory which also produced locomotives.

In September 17, 1865, von Linde married Helene Grimm. They were married for 53 years until his death and had six children.

After learning that a new engineering university is to be set up in Munich, von Linde applied for a lecturer position at the present-day Technical University Munich in 1868. He was elevated to professor of mechanical engineering in 1872, and taught many future world-changing engineers, such as Rudolf Diesel who invented the diesel engine.

Von Linde was a very active researcher during his tenure, and produced several works on mechanical engineering, including refrigeration, a field he pioneered. Realizing the potential of his invention, von Linde sought to commercialized his innovative refrigeration process and set up the present-day Linde AG in Wiesbaden, Kingdom of Hesse. Despite the difficult German economy of his time, von Linde experienced lucrative business as his invention found various applications in Germany’s thriving brewing and slaughterhouse industries.

In recognition for his work, he was ennobled in 1897 as Ritter von Linde through his appointment to the Order of Merit of the Bavarian Crown. In and at 92 years of age, von Linde died in Munich out of natural causes.

William Hampson, on the other hand, was born on March 14, 1854 in Berbington, United Kingdom. He was the second son of William Hampson. As for his educational background, he attended Manchester Grammar School and Trinity College at Oxford University, where he was admitted in 1874 at the age of 20.

Surprisingly, he never got any formal education in the sciences and engineering; he took up classics during his stay at Oxford, leading many historians to believe that he was self-taught. And by the looks of it, it seems he performed another marvel: he was the first person to file a patent for gas liquefaction technology, doing so only 13 days ahead of von Linde.

Hampson’s machine used the same principle. For this reason, the process is usually dubbed the Hampson–Linde cycle. As with von Linde’s, Hampson’s invention was a commercial success.

His interests and scientific contributions were far-ranging. For instance, he published works for the public understanding of science on thermodynamics and radioactivity. He was also a licensed apothecary, and did practice in major London hospitals. He conducted research on the pacemaker and contributed minor improvements to the x-ray tube. He also published works on economics.

The Hampson-Linde cycle works by exploiting the Joule–Thompson effect which says that virtually all gases would cool down when expanded in a hollow container.

It starts by compressing the gas in question. This causes it to initially rise in temperature.

The heated gas is sent into a heat exchanger without changing the pressure, then to an expansion chamber where it drastically cools down due to the sudden loss of pressure. This cooled gas is passed through the same heat exchanger where the heated gas was passed earlier.

Hence, the cooled gas absorbs the heat from the heated gas. After heat exchange, the gas is put back into the original chamber for recompression. With the gas losing heat with each iteration of the cycle, this process is done multiple times until the gas cools down enough to allow for it to liquefy. This liquefied gas can then be collected from the expansion chamber (where much of the actual cooling happens).

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