A high-performance lung-inspired ceramic 3D-printed heat exchanger for high-temperature energy-efficient systems

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency of next-generation supercritical carbon dioxide and concentrated solar power plants is significantly augmented by operating at temperatures exceeding 1000 °C if durable, compact, high-temperature heat exchangers (HXs) are developed. Whereas metal 3D-printed HXs fail to operate under extreme temperature conditions, ceramic 3D-printed HXs are deemed promising candidates for high-temperature, highly oxidizing environments. Ceramic 3D-printed HXs, however, exhibit a high gas permeability issue through hot and cold separating walls due to an excessive non-volatile photopolymer content utilized. Here, a novel leak-free lung-inspired ceramic 3D-printed HX employing a highly complex heat transfer topology is introduced for high-temperature energy-efficient systems. The high permeability issue of ceramic 3D-printed HXs is fully eliminated through a uniform zinc-based coating. It was determined that the effective thermal conductivity of the sintered ceramic heat exchangers is affected by the coated layer. The high-temperature thermal and hydraulic characteristics of the lung-inspired ceramic 3D-printed HX are comprehensively examined and compared against a millichannel 3D-printed HX module. Experimental results indicated that the lung-inspired 3D-printed ceramic HX significantly outperforms its millichannel counterpart. The lung-inspired HX shows a volume-based power density of 8.2 MW/m3 at a hot-side inlet air temperature of 700 °C, a 71 % improvement compared with that of the millichannel HX. More importantly, the higher thermal duty of the lung-inspired 3D-printed HX is realized at a lower normalized pressure drop penalty of 510 Pa/W, 22 % lower than that of the millichannel ceramic HX. This study accelerates the advancement of high-performance ceramic 3D-printed HXs with complex topologies for high-temperature energy-efficient systems and/or corrosive environments.

Publication Title

Applied Thermal Engineering