Two-phase heat exchangers are used in a variety of industrial processes in which the boiling fluid flows through a network of parallel channels. In some situations, the fluid may not be uniformly distributed through all the channels, causing a degradation in the thermal performance of the system. Amethodology for modeling two-phase flow distributions in parallel-channel systems is developed. The methodology combines a pressure-drop model for individual parallel channels with a pump curve into a system flow network. Due to the non-monotonicity of the pressure drop as a function of flow rate for boiling channels, many steady-state solutions exist for the system flow equations. A new numerical approach is proposed to analyze the stability of these solutions, based on a generalized eigenvalue problem. The method is specifically designed for analyzing systems with hundreds of identical parallel channels. The method is first applied to analyze the flow distribution and stability behavior in two-channel and five-channel systems. The asymptotic behavior of the flow stability is then analyzed for increasing numbers of channels, and it is shown that the stability behavior of a system with a constant flow-rate pump curve simplifies to the stability behavior for a constant pressure-drop pump curve. A parametric study is conducted to assess the influence of inlet temperature, heat flux, and flow rate on the stability of the uniform flow distribution solution as well as on the severity of flow maldistribution. Below some critical inlet subcooling, uniform flow distribution is always stable and maldistribution does not occur, regardless of heat flux and flow rate. Above this critical inlet subcooling, there is a range of operating parameters for which uniform flow distribution is unstable. With increasing inlet subcooling, this range broadens and the severity of the associated maldistribution increases.
Two-phase flow, microchannel, parallel channels, flow distribution, maldistribution, stability analysis
Date of this Version
T. Van Oevelen, J.A. Weibel and S.V. Garimella, “Predicting Two-Phase Flow Distribution and Stability in Systems with Many Parallel Heated Channels,” International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 107, pp. 557-571, 2017