Frost Growth Detection; Capacitive Sensor; Defrost Control
Frost buildup on surfaces could be an undesired situation in many applications. In refrigeration and heat pump system, typically, frost grows on the fin surface of the heat exchanger due to different environmental/operational conditions. On one hand, it can block the air flow and increase air-side pressure drop; on the other hand, can increase the thermal resistance and deteriorate heat transfer performance. As a result, frost buildup can significantly reduce the system’s COP. Therefore, most systems encountered frost buildup run the defrost cycle. The frost growth process is affected by many factors, such as environmental conditions (air humidity, temperature, flow rate), operational conditions (working fluids, saturated temperature), heat exchangers (structures, fin type and fin surface wettability) et. al.. All those factors are coupled together, which makes frost growth a very complex dynamic process with variable spatial distribution of its characteristic parameters. It is very important to dynamically detect frost growth for both effective defrost control and precise frost modelling. In this work, a capacitive sensor for frost detection has been developed, which consists of three parts as shown in Figure 1(a): 1) commercial capacitive to digital converter (FDC2214 from Texas Instruments and the resolution of the reading is 0.0001pF), 2) PCB connector and 3) fabricated electrodes. The fabricated copper electrode is attached to the PCB connector, which is mounted to the capacitive to digital converter and connected to the computer by a USB interface. Capacitance variation can be measured when the target properties changes. The interdigital electrodes has a high sensitivity and were fabricated by lithophotography, using copper laminates/ deposited copper thin layer as shown in Figure 1(b) The sensitivity can be affected by metallization ratios, width and thickness of the insulation layer, which are also explored in this work. The frost grows on a cold plate which is placed in the wind tunnel with a controlled air temperature, humidity and flow rate. The electrode of the capacitive sensor is located beside the side wall of the cold plate, as shown in Figure 1(c). The frost growth process can be detected and reflected by the capacitance variation of the sensor, as shown in Figure 2, the capacitance variation can reflect different stage of the frost growth period, starting from condensation to mature growth. Images are also captured by a CCD camera to calibrate the signal. This work demonstrates the dynamic frost growth detection at the first time and could play a significant role to understanding frost growth mechanism and defrost control strategy.