Geometry of plate heat exchangers (PHE) is characterized by a complex net of narrow channels. It enhances turbulence and results in better heat transfer performance. Theoretically, larger number of channels (plates) should proportionally increase the PHE heat power capacity. In practice a nonuniform massflow distribution in consecutive flow channels can significantly deteriorate the overall heat exchange performance. The flow maldistribution is one of the most commonly reported exploitation problems and is present in PHE with and without phase-change flows. The presented paper investigates numerically a flow pattern in PHE with evaporation of R410A refrigerant. Various sizes of PHE are considered. The paper introduces a robust methodology to transform the complicated geometry of a real 3D PHE to its 2D representation. It results in orders of magnitude faster calculations and allows for fast evaluation of different geometrical changes of PHE and their effect on flow maldistribution.
Given its high efficiency, low emissions and multiple fuelling options, the solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) offer a promising alternative for stationary power generators, especially while engaged in micro-combined heat and power (μ-CHP) units. Despite the fact that the fuel cells are a key component in such power systems, other auxiliaries of the system can play a critical role and therefore require a significant attention. Since SOFC uses a ceramic material as an electrolyte, the high operating temperature (typically of the order of 700–900°C) is required to achieve sufficient performance. For that reason both the fuel and the oxidant have to be preheated before entering the SOFC stack. Hot gases exiting the fuel cell stack transport substantial amount of energy which has to be partly recovered for preheating streams entering the stack and for heating purposes. Effective thermal integration of the μ-CHP can be achieved only when proper technical measures are used. The ability of efficiently preheating the streams of oxidant and fuel relies on heat exchangers which are present in all possible configurations of power system with solid oxide fuel cells. In this work a compact, fin plate heat exchanger operating in the high temperature regime was under consideration. Dynamic model was proposed for investigation of its performance under the transitional states of the fuel cell system. Heat exchanger was simulated using commercial modeling software. The model includes key geometrical and functional parameters. The working conditions of the power unit with SOFC vary due to the several factors, such as load changes, heating and cooling procedures of the stack and others. These issues affect parameters of the incoming streams to the heat exchanger. The mathematical model of the heat exchanger is based on a set of equations which are simultaneously solved in the iterative process. It enables to define conditions in the outlets of both the hot and the cold sides. Additionally, model can be used for simulating the stand-alone heat exchanger or for investigations of a semiadiabatic unit located in the hotbox of the μ-CHP unit.
The paper describes issues related to pressure drop that accompanies the phenomenon of maldistribution of working fluid between the channels of a model minichannel plate heat exchanger. The research concerns a single exchanger’s plate containing 51 (in every geometry) parallel rectangular minichannels of hydraulic diameters 461 μm, 571 μm, 750 μm, and 823 μm. In addition, more complex geometry has been investigated, equipped with additional diagonal channels (so called extended geometry). The moment of the liquid phase transition through the heat exchanger was recorded at the flow rates ranging from 0.83 g/s to 13.33 g/s in the inlet manifold. The paper discusses the total pressure drop as a function of the flow rate and the characteristic dimension of minichannels, as well as the pressure drop as a function of the time of the fluid passage through the main part of the measuring section in which measurements were done. The resulting profiles correlate with the images of the flow distribution between channels recorded using the fast shutter speed camera, that allows to draw a further conclusions about the specifics of the maldistribution process. The impact of the total pressure drop on the actual range of optimum operating conditions of the heat exchanger was analyzed.
Analysis of the state of-the-art in research of minichannel heat exchangers, especially on the topic of flow maldistribution in multiple channels, has been accomplished. Studies on minichannel plate heat exchanger with 51 parallel minichannels with four hydraulic diameters, i.e., 461 μm, 574 μm, 667 μm, and 750 μm have been presented. Flow at the instance of filling the microchannel with water at low flow rates has been visualized. The pressure drop characteristics for single minichannel plate have been presented along with the channels blockage, which occurred in several cases. The impact of the mass flow rate and channels’ cross-section dimensions on the flow maldistribution were illustrated.
Heat exchangers of different types find application in power systems based on solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). Compact plate fin heat exchangers are typically found to perfectly fit systems with power output under 5 kWel. Micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP) units with solid oxide fuel cells can exhibit high electrical and overall efficiencies, exceeding 85%, respectively. These values can be achieved only when high thermal integration of a system is assured. Selection and sizing of heat exchangers play a crucial role and should be done with caution. Moreover, performance of heat exchangers under variable operating conditions can strongly influence efficiency of the complete system. For that reason, it becomes important to develop high fidelity mathematical models allowing evaluation of heat exchangers under modified operating conditions, in high temperature regimes. Prediction of pressure and temperatures drops at the exit of cold and hot sides are important for system-level studies. Paper presents dedicated mathematical model used for evaluation of a plate fin heat exchanger, operating as a part of micro-CHP unit with solid oxide fuel cells.