Numerical Study of Convective Heat Transfer in Flat Tube Heat Exchangers Operating in Self-Sustained Oscillatory Flow Regimes
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Laminar, two-dimensional, constant-property numerical simulations of flat tube heat exchanger devices operating in flow regimes in which self-sustained oscillations occur were performed. The unsteady flow regimes were transition flow regimes characterized by cyclic variations of flow parameters such as stream-wise or cross-stream velocity. A computer code was developed to perform the numerical simulations. Spatial discretization was based upon a Control Volume Finite Element Method (CVFEM). Temporal discretization was based upon a semi-implicit Runge-Kutta method. Double Cyclic conditions were used to limit the numerical domains to one repeating geometric module. Nine geometric domains representing flat tube heat exchanger devices were tested over a range of Reynolds numbers. A maximum Reynolds number (Re) of 2000 was established to keep the study within the transition range. For each domain, a critical Reynolds number (Re_crit) was found such that for Re < Re_crit the flow was steady, laminar flow and for Re > Re_crit the flow exhibited cyclic oscillations. For the cases tested, the variation in longitudinal pitch had little impact on the Re_crit value for a fixed transverse pitch. However, for a fixed longitudinal pitch, the Re_crit was increased for decreasing transverse pitch. The results demonstrate the importance of using unsteady simulation methods for these cases. Nusselt numbers predicted by the unsteady method were on the order of 65% higher than predicted by steady methods for the same Reynolds numbers. Data for required pumping power versus resultant Nusselt number were collected which showed four distinct operating regions for these devices spanning the low Reynolds number, steady flow region through the self-sustained oscillating flow region. Based on the data, the recommended operating region is the region of self-sustained oscillations as this region is characterized by the highest increase in Nusselt number per increase in required pumping power.
Fullerton, Tracy (2011). Numerical Study of Convective Heat Transfer in Flat Tube Heat Exchangers Operating in Self-Sustained Oscillatory Flow Regimes. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from