A Study on Computational Cost Reduction of Simulations of Phase-Change Material (PCM) Embedded Heat Exchangers
Thermal storage, Phase-Change Material, Heat Exchanger, CFD
Thermal storage can be implemented using Phase-Change Materials (PCM), which absorb significant latent heat with a relatively small temperature change. PCM phase-change processes are transient and are driven by thermal diffusion and natural convection – the latter, especially for melting process. Modeling and simulation of PCM heat exchangers (HX’s) is typically computationally intensive due to the relatively complex time-dependent physics. Most of the PCM modeling work in the literature uses high-order modeling tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Lattice-Boltzmann Method (LBM). For design purposes, the existing PCM modeling approaches are not practical, limiting researchers in their ability to investigate new ideas and different PCM’s with faster turnarounds. This paper presents a study investigating the reduction of computational cost of PCM embedded HX’s CFD models by evaluating the feasibility of spatial reduction without losing accuracy. The analysis consists of comparing full and partial domain under full melting conditions. The subject of this study is a single straight tube with circular transverse fins in the vertical orientation, using PCM’s with 35oC nominal melting temperature. Different tube and fin dimensions are investigated. Results indicate that the reduced domain reproduces -in half the run time -the same behavior as the full domain since the buoyancy effects are localized and patterned. The outputs from the partial domain simulation were used to build a non-general correlation for the PCM heat transfer characteristics and demonstrated how it can be implemented in a Finite Control Volume Reduced Order Model (ROM). The ROM can accurately reproduce the CFD simulations at 4 to 5 orders of magnitude faster.