An experimental study of a counter-flow Ranque–Hilsch vortex tube is reported here. Literature has been divided over the mechanism of energy transfer responsible for the temperature separation in the vortex tube. A black box approach is used to design experiments to infer the relative roles of heat transfer and shear work transfer in the counter-flow vortex tube. To this end, the stagnation temperature and the mass flow rates are measured at the inlet and the two outlets. In addition, pressure measurements at the stagnation condition and at the inlet section to the vortex tube were made. Based on these experiments, it is reasoned that the predominant mode of energy transfer responsible for temperature separation in a counter-flow vortex is the shear work transfer between the core and the periphery.