Modern Revisions of the Heat Exchanger Technology

by Emily on October 2, 2017

in Articles

Heat exchangers aren’t really a new technology – it has been around for a long time now. These tech solutions offer a ton of advantages, as they can be used for condensing, boiling and single-phase applications. This means that heat exchangers can be used over a wide range of temperatures and pressures, plus they can be made out of many different materials, in order to tackle corrosion and similar design requirements. However, the need for innovation was huge.

The limitations of the traditional design

The heat exchanger design is somewhat limited in design terms, and it has got a lot to do with the baffles on the shell side which provide direct flow through a circuitous course within the tubes. The low-flow areas, AKA “dead zones” occur in the vicinity of the mentioned baffles – fouling can occur, corrosion can go under the radar and the transfer of heat can be reduced. Additionally, the baffles cause directional changes, which leads to increased energy consumption. Finally, a frequent occurrence in the classic heat exchanger design is tube vibration, caused by the flow – this can ultimately result in complete failure.

Heat transfer: reinvented

Luckily, the engineers haven’t given up on this age-old technology – they have continued conducting research in order to enhance the shell-and-tube design. This resulted in new technological solutions that have improved the overall performance of heat exchangers, while counteracting fouling problems, at a reduced cost and increased efficiency.

Modern heat exchanger types

Types of modern heat exchangers vary according to their use. Some are used for processing simple fluids and viscous solutions, others for more aggressive applications. Here are some of the most important ones:

Plate heat exchangers

This heat transfer type is perfect for processing simple fluids and viscous solutions. Essentially, it is widely used for heating of clear liquids like process water, milk, wine, juice, beer, pool water and condenser water. Plate heat exchangers are usually used by food and beverage manufacturers to provide hygienic and maintenance-free operation.
The stainless steel construction of plate heat exchangers offers low maintenance costs, elimination of painting, a sanitary finish with high corrosive resistance and overall aesthetics.

Shell and tube heat exchangers

This type of a heat transfer device is perfect for fluids and gases where space conservation is of essence. The grouping of parallel tubes is supplied with the primary product, while the service fluid flows between and around the tubes inside the outer tube shell. This type of a heat exchanger can handle high pressures and temperatures and owing to the dimpled tube/pipe technology, a whole new dimension is added to its scope of use – turbulent flow conditions can be achieved at low flow rates, and this means increased efficiency!

Tube in tube heat exchangers

These heavy-duty heat transfer systems are used for aggressive applications, with products of high or fluctuating viscosities, fluids (even slurries with large particulates), ultra-high temperature processes, high pressured and hazardous fluids (steam/refrigerants), corrosive fluids, etc.

Here’s how this heat exchanger type works: the primary product or fluid that needs heating or cooling goes through the inner tube, with the service fluid for heating/cooling directed into the outer jacket. Each tube is designed to be self-draining and with no continuous corrugations for product retention or fluid cleaning.

The modern heat exchanger technology has a wide variety of applications. Wherever there are fluids that need cooling or heating, a certain type of heat transfer can be utilized. The modern revisits of this old technology have managed to transcend the majority of the initial limitations and, depending on the type of liquid and application, each of the mentioned heat exchanger types can fully serve its purpose.

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