22 November, 2017

Choosing the right heat exchanger for thermal processing

16 June, 2017

By Arnold Kleijn, product development manager, HRS Heat Exchangers.


There are a number of types of heat exchanger on the market: plate, tubular, corrugated tube, scraped surface, etc. Each is suited to a particular application, so think carefully about your process, including the nature of the material/s to be heated or cooled, the objective of the process (such as heating or pasteurisation) and any restrictions of the environment where the heat exchanger is to be used. The driving force for heat transfer is the difference in temperature between the two substances (in most cases fluids).

In the case of a smooth tubular heat exchanger, the temperature of two simple fluids changes as they pass through the heat exchanger. One of the reasons for making corrugated tube and scraped surface heat exchangers is that they are suitable for fluids and materials with complex properties, such as viscous and non-Newtonian fluids, or for materials containing particles or sediment.

You should therefore always be mindful of the material to be processed before selecting your heat exchanger and it’s a good idea to seek professional advice from manufacturers and their agents, to help with the selection process.

One size does not fit all

Once the correct type of exchanger has been chosen, processors must then make sure that the model supplied is correctly sized for the job. In other words, that it offers the right amount of heat transfer for the fluid/s being treated and at the throughput required. The heat exchanger must have a large enough heat transfer area for the specified fluids and their specified inlet and outlet temperatures. Most calculations should also factor in variables such as whether the heat exchanger operates using counter-flow or parallel flow.

Breaking down barriers

Another important factor controlling heat transfer is the resistance to heat flow through the various ‘layers’ that form a barrier between the two fluids. There are effectively five of these layers:

1. The inside ‘boundary layer’ formed by the fluid flowing in close contact with the inside surface of the tube.

2. The fouling layer formed by deposition of solids or semi-solids on the inside surface of the tube (which may or may not be present).

3. The thickness of the tube wall and the material used, which will govern the resistance to heat flow though the tube itself.

4. The fouling layer formed by deposition of solids or semi-solids on the outside surface of the tube (which may or may not be present).

5. The outside ‘boundary layer’ formed by the fluid flowing in close contact with the outside surface of the tube.

The values for numbers 2 and 4 can usually be supplied by the client based on experience, while the designer of the heat exchanger will select the tube size, thickness and materials to suit the application. The resistance to heat flow resulting from numbers 1 and 5 (known as the partial heat transfer coefficients) depends both on the nature of the fluids and the geometry of the heat transfer surfaces themselves.




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