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"The trouble with too much genre SF is that it's so obviously the product of the conscious mind."
- William Gibson

Hilsch Vortex Tube  
  A T-shaped device that admits air under pressure and outputs hot air from side and cold from the other.  

The Hilsch Tube is a real device that dates from 1928. A French physics student named George Ranque was experimenting with a pipe that produced a vortex when he noticed warm air coming from one end and cool air from the other. Pressurized air blown into the single "bottom" leg of the "T" encounters a special valve at the junction; if adjusted properly, hot air comes out of the right side upper end at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and cold air comes out the other end at -70 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it was not commercially viable at that time and was forgotten. It was picked up again by a German physicist named Rudolph Hilsch, who published a paper on the device.

Today, there are commercial companies that produce real, working Vortex Tubes; they produce cool air without electricity, and without all of the moving parts required by refrigeration equipment.

And Development had not developed but found a remarkable little thing called a high-speed Hilsch Tube. Using no power, it could refrigerate the pioneers' homes by using the hot tornadoes of Venus. It was a simple thing that had been lying around since 1943. Nobody until us had any use for it because nobody until us had that kind of wind to play with.
From The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth).
Published by St. Martin's Press in 1952
Additional resources -

Here's what I really like about the use of the Hilsch Vortex Tube in the story. It shows real flexibility of mind to take something which was of no apparent industrial use at the time (too much work involved in pressurizing the air going in), but would work in the new context of a windy Venus.

Even though the Technovelgy site is about science fiction, not fantasy, this seems to be a case in which Maxwell's demon really exists.

If you are interested in the Hilsch Vortex tube, you might also be fascinated with the Windhexe. Nicknamed the "Tornado in a Can", the Windhexe creates a tornado-force wind within a steel funnel. It can reduce two tons of trash into one ton of sterile powder at a fraction of the energy cost of typical crushers, shredders and dryers. And nobody knows exactly how it works.

Take a look at some other real-world technologies that are put to work in a science fiction setting: lidar used in floating nanobots in Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age, or the Sunpower screen that powered the grandfather of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) in Robert Heinlein's Coventry.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Space Merchants
  More Ideas and Technology by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth)
  Tech news articles related to The Space Merchants
  Tech news articles related to works by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth)

Hilsch Vortex Tube-related news articles:
  - Vortex Engine - Tame Tornadoes May Generate Power

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