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Experimental Investigation and Modeling of Key Design Parameters in Flow Boiling and Condensation

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posted on 15.08.2019 by Lucas E O'Neill
In order to better understand and quantify the effect of instabilities in systems utilizing flow boiling heat transfer, the present study explores dynamic results for pressure drop, mass velocity, thermodynamic equilibrium quality, and heated wall temperature to ascertain and analyze the dominant modes in which they oscillate. Flow boiling experiments are conducted for a range of mass velocities with both subcooled and saturated inlet conditions in vertical upflow, vertical downflow, and horizontal flow orientations. High frequency pressure measurements are used to investigate the influence of individual flow loop components (flow boiling module, pump, pre-heater, condenser, etc.) on dynamic behavior of the fluid, with fast Fourier transforms of the same used to provide critical frequency domain information. Conclusions from this analysis are used to isolate instabilities present within the system due to physical interplay between thermodynamic and hydrodynamic effects. Parametric analysis is undertaken to better understand the conditions under which these instabilities form and their impact on system performance. Several prior stability maps are presented, with new stability maps provided to better address contextual trends discovered in the present study.
Further, this study utilizes experimental results for vertical upflow boiling of FC-72 in a rectangular channel with finite inlet quality to investigate Density Wave Oscillations (DWOs) and assess their potential impact on design of two-phase systems for future space missions. High-speed flow visualization image sequences are presented and used to directly relate the cyclical passage of High and Low Density Fronts (HDFs and LDFs) to dominant low-frequency oscillations present in transient pressure signals commonly attributed to DWOs. A methodology is presented to determine frequency and amplitude of DWO induced pressure oscillations, which are then plotted for a wide range of relevant operating conditions. Mass velocity (flow inertia) is seen to be the dominant parameter influencing frequency and amplitude of DWOs. Amplitude of pressure oscillations is at most 7% of the time-averaged pressure level for current operating conditions, meaning there is little risk to space missions. Reconstruction of experimental pressure signals using a waveform defined by frequency and amplitude of DWO induced pressure fluctuations is seen to have only moderate agreement with the original signal due to the oversimplifications of treating DWO induced fluctuations as perfectly sinusoidal in nature, assuming they occur at a constant frequency value, and neglecting other transient flow features. This approach is nonetheless determined to have potential value for use as a boundary condition to introduce DWOs in two-phase flow simulations should a model be capable of accurately predicting frequency and amplitude of oscillation.
Additionally, this study presents a new mechanistic model for Density Wave Oscillations (DWOs) in vertical upflow boiling using conclusions drawn from analysis of flow visualization images and transient experimental results as a basis from which to begin modeling. Counter to many prior studies attributing DWOs to feedback effects between flow rate, pressure drop, and flow enthalpy causing oscillations in position of the bulk boiling boundary, the present instability mode stems primarily from body force acting on liquid and vapor phases in a separated flow regime leading to liquid accumulation in the near-inlet region of the test section, which eventually departs and moves along the channel, acting to re-wet liquid film along the channel walls and re-establish annular, co-current flow. This process was modeled by dividing the test section into three distinct control volumes and solving transient conservation equations for each, yielding predictions of frequencies at which this process occurs as well as amplitude of associated pressure oscillations. Values for these parameters were validated against an experimental database of 236 FC-72 points and show the model provides good predictive accuracy and capably captures the influence of parametric changes to operating conditions.
Also, this study shows analysis of pressure signals in condensing systems reveal the presence of relevant oscillatory phenomena during flow condensation as well, which may impact performance in applications concerned with precise system control. Towards this end, the present study presents results for oscillatory behavior observed in pressure measurements during flow condensation of FC-72 in a smooth circular tube in vertical upflow, vertical downflow, and horizontal flow orientations. Dynamic behavior observed within the test section is determined to be independent of other components within the flow loop, allowing it to be isolated and interpreted as resulting from physical aspects of two-phase flow with condensation. The presence of a peak oscillatory mode (one of significantly larger amplitude than any others present) is seen for 72% of
vertical upflow test cases, 61% of vertical downflow, and 54% of horizontal flow. Relative intensities of this peak oscillatory mode are evaluated through calculation of Q Factor for the corresponding frequency response peak. Frequency and amplitude of peak oscillatory modes are also evaluated. Overall, vertical upflow is seen to exhibit the most significant oscillatory behavior, although in its maximum case amplitude is only seen to be 7.9% of time-averaged module inlet pressure, indicating there is little safety risk posed by oscillations under current operating conditions. Flow visualization image sequences for each orientation are also presented and used to draw parallels between physical characteristics of condensate film behavior under different operating conditions and trends in oscillatory behavior detected in pressure signals
Further, the present work outlines a new methodology utilizing temperature and pressure measurements to identify condensation flow regimes. For vertical upflow condensation, amplitude of dynamic temperature and pressure oscillations are shown to clearly indicate transition from counter-current flow regimes (i.e., falling film, oscillating film, flooding) to annular, co-current flow (climbing film flow regime). In horizontal flow condensation, standard deviation between multiple thermocouple measurements distributed around the tube circumference was calculated at all axial (stream-wise) measurement locations. High values of standard deviation are present for stratified flow (stratified flow, wavy-stratified, plug flow), while axisymmetric flow regimes (i.e., slug flow, annular flow) yield significantly lower values. Successful development of this technique represents a valuable contribution to literature as it allows condensation flow regime to be identified without the often-costly restriction of designing a test section to allow optical access. Identified flow regimes in both vertical upflow and horizontal flow orientations are compared to regime maps commonly found in the literature in pursuit of optimum performing maps.
Finally, the present study aims to better analyze the influence of body force on flow condensation heat transfer by conducting tests at multiple orientations in Earth’s gravity. Dielectric FC-72 is condensed in a smooth stainless-steel tube with 7.12 mm diameter and 574.55 mm condensing length by counterflow of cooling water across the outer surface of the tube. Test conditions span FC-72 mass velocities of 50.3 – 360.3 kg/m2s, test section inlet pressures of 127.0 – 132.1 kPa, and test section inlet thermodynamic equilibrium qualities of 0.13 – 1.15. A subset of data gathered corresponding to axisymmetric, annular condensation heat transfer is identified and a detailed methodology for data reduction to calculate heat transfer coefficient presented. Uncertainty analysis is also presented and indicates channel average heat transfer coefficients are calculated within ±3.6% to ±26.7% (depending on operating conditions). Analysis of parametric trends for condensation heat transfer reveals the dominant influence of mass velocity (flow inertia), secondary influence of vapor mass fraction (thermodynamic equilibrium quality), and strong dependence on orientation (body force) at low mass velocities. At higher mass velocities results for all orientations investigated begin to converge, indicating body force independent annular condensation heat transfer is achieved. Separated Flow Model predictions of vertical downflow condensation heat transfer provide reasonable agreement with experimental results, evidence by a Mean Absolute Error (MAE) of 31.2%. Evaluation of condensation heat transfer correlations for horizontal flow reveal most correlations struggle for cases with high liquid content. Specific correlations are identified for superior accuracy in predicting the measured data.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Issam Mudawar

Additional Committee Member 2

Steven Collicott

Additional Committee Member 3

Amy Marconnet

Additional Committee Member 4

Carlo Scalo