June 17th, 2011 | Newsletter 1/2011

Doctoral Thesis

Flow Boiling Heat Transfer in Single Vertical Channels of Small Diameter

Microchannel heat exchangers present many advantages, such as reduced size, high thermal efficiency and low fluid inventory; and are increasingly being used for heat transfer in a wide variety of applications including heat pumps, automotive air conditioners and for cooling of electronics.

However, the fundamentals of fluid flow and heat transfer in microscale geometries are not yet fully understood. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a better understanding of the underlying physical phenomena in single-phase and specially flow boiling heat transfer of refrigerants in small channels. For this purpose, well characterized heat transfer experiments have been performed in uniformly heated, single, circular, vertical channels ranging from 0.64 to 1.70 mm in diameter and using R-134a, R-22 and R-245fa as working fluids. Furthermore, flow visualization tests have been carried out to clarify the relation between the two-phase flow behavior and the boiling heat transfer characteristics. Single-phase flow experiments with subcooled liquid refrigerant have confirmed that conventional macroscale theory on single-phase flow and heat transfer is valid for circular channels as small as 640μm in diameter.

Through high-speed flow boiling visualization of R-134a under nonadiabatic conditions seven flow patterns have been observed: isolated bubbly flow, confined bubbly flow, slug flow, churn flow, slug-annular flow, annular flow, and mist flow. Two-phase flow pattern observations  are presented in the form of flow pattern maps. Annular-type flow patterns are dominant for vapor qualities above 0.2. Onset of nucleate boiling and subcooled flow boiling heat transfer of R-134a has been investigated. The wall superheat needed to initiate boiling was found as large as 18 ºC. The experimental heat transfer coefficients have been compared to predictions from subcooled flow boiling correlations available in the literature showing poor agreement. Saturated flow boiling heat transfer experiments have been performed with the 640 μm diameter test section. The heat transfer coefficient has been found to increase with heat flux and system pressure and not to change with vapor quality or mass flux when the quality is less than 0.5. For vapor qualities above this value, the heat transfer coefficient decreases with vapor quality. This deterioration of the heat transfer coefficient is believed to be caused by the occurrence of intermittent dryout in this vapor quality range. The experimental database, consisting of 1027 data points, has been compared against predictions from correlations available in the literature. The best results are obtained with the correlations by Liu and Winterton (1991) and by Bertsch et al. (2009). However, better design tools to correctly predict the flow boiling heat transfer coefficient in small geometries need to be developed. Dryout incipience and critical heat flux (CHF) have been investigated in detail. CHF data is compared to existing macro and microscale correlations. The comparison shows best agreement with the classical Katto and Ohno (1984) correlation, developed for conventional large tubes.

Claudi Martín Callizo
Division of Applied Thermodynamics and Refrigeration
Royal Institute of Technology, KTH Stockholm, Sweden

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