Evaporating flows in parallel channels occurring in a variety of industrial heat exchange processes can encounter non-uniform flow distribution between channels as a result of two-phase flow instabilities. Such flow maldistribution can have a negative impact on the performance, robustness and predictability of these systems. Two-phase flow modeling can assist in understanding the mechanistic behavior of this flow maldistribution, as well as determine parametric trends and identify safe operating conditions.
The work described in this paper expands on prior two-phase flow distribution modeling efforts by including and assessing the effect of thermal conduction in the walls surrounding the parallel channels. This thermal conduction has a critical dampening effect on wall temperature gradients. In particular when a channel is significantly starved of flow rate and risks dryout, channel-to-channel thermal coupling can redistribute the heat load from the flow-starved channel to neighboring channels. The model is used to simulate the two-phase flow distribution in a system of two parallel channels driven by a constant flow rate pump. A comparison between thermally isolated and coupled channels indicates that thermally coupled channels are significantly less susceptible to maldistribution. Furthermore, a parametric study reveals that flow maldistribution is only possible in thermally coupled systems beyond a certain critical heat flux threshold. This threshold heat flux increases as the lateral wall conductance is increased, converging to a constant value in the limit of very high lateral conductance.
Two-phase flow, Parallel microchannels, Flow distribution, Maldistribution Stability analysis, Thermal coupling
Date of this Version
T. Van Oevelen, J. A. Weibel, and S. V. Garimella, “The Effect of Lateral Thermal Coupling Between Parallel Microchannels on Two‐Phase Flow Distribution,” International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 124, pp. 769-781, 2018.