The only online guide dedicated to heat exchangers
FUNCTION OF HEAT EXCHANGER
A heat exchanger is a device that is used to transfer thermal energy (enthalpy) between two or more fluids, between a solid surface and a fluid, or between solid particulates and a fluid, at different temperatures and in thermal contact.
In heat exchangers, there are usually no external heat and work interactions. Typical applications involve heating or cooling of a fluid stream of concern and evaporation or condensation of single- or multi component fluid streams.
In other applications, the objective may be to recover or reject heat, or sterilize, pasteurize, fractionate, distill, concentrate, crystallize, or control a process fluid.
In a few heat exchangers, the fluids exchanging heat are in direct contact.
In most heat exchangers, heat transfer between fluids takes place through a separating wall or into and out of a wall in a transient manner.
In many heat exchangers, the fluids are separated by a heat transfer surface, and ideally they do not mix or leak. Such exchangers are referred to as direct transfer type, or simply recuperators.
In contrast, exchangers in which there is intermittent heat exchange between the hot and cold fluids—via thermal energy storage and release through the exchanger surface or matrix—are referred to as indirect transfer type, or simply regenerators. Such exchangers usually have fluid leakage from one fluid stream to the other, due to pressure differences and matrix rotation/valve switching. Common examples of heat exchangers are shell-and tube exchangers, automobile radiators, condensers, evaporators, air pre-heaters, and cooling towers.
If no phase change occurs in any of the fluids in the exchanger, it is sometimes referred to as a sensible heat exchanger. There could be internal thermal energy sources in the exchangers, such as in electric heaters and nuclear fuel elements.
Combustion and chemical reaction may take place within the exchanger, such as in boilers, fired heaters, and fluidized-bed exchangers.
Mechanical devices may be used in some exchangers such as in scraped surface exchangers, agitated vessels, and stirred tank reactors. Heat transfer in the separating wall of a recuperator generally takes place by conduction.
However, in a heat pipe heat exchanger, the heat pipe not only acts as a separating wall, but also facilitates the transfer of heat by condensation, evaporation, and conduction of the working fluid inside the heat pipe. In general, if the fluids are immiscible, the separating wall may be eliminated, and the interface between the fluids replaces a heat transfer surface, as in a direct-contact heat exchanger.
Heat Exchangers are widely used in space heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, power plants, chemical plants, petrochemical plants, petroleum refineries, natural gas processing, and sewage treatment.