The influence of header design on two-phase flow distribution in plate-fin heat exchangers

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Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology


Fluid flow maldistribution causes deterioration of heat transfer as well as pressure drop penalty in heat exchangers. A test bench was set up to investigate the effect of different header designs on air-water flow distribution in plate-fin heat exchangers (PFHX). Two-phase flow distribution was examined for air Reynolds numbers (ReG) of 28293542 and inlet qualities (x) of 46.3–64.0%. Two-phase flow distribution was seen to be more uneven in the heat exchanger in comparison with single-phase flow, the water distribution being more uneven than that of the air. For a fixed inlet quality, as the air flowrate was increased, the distribution of two-phase flow became increasingly nonuniform, showing a pattern similar to single-phase flow. Furthermore, the air distribution became more even, while the water flow became more unevenly distributed as the inlet quality increased. To mitigate the maldistribution, perforated plates were incorporated in the heat exchanger header. The improved headers significantly aided in distributing the two-phase flow more evenly. At ReG = 2829 and x = 46.3%, the heat exchanger effectiveness was expressed in terms of the unevenness in quality, Sx. The effectiveness decreased as the unevenness of the flow distribution was exacerbated, emphasizing the significance of uniform phase and flow distribution as a key element of heat exchanger design.

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Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering Applications