PFE-4 Heat Transfer and Pressure Drop Methods for Plate-fin Heat Exchangers

T. G. Lestina

Plate-fin heat exchangers sandwich fins between pressure plates which separate the hot and cold fluids. Aerospace, cryogenic, process, power, and electronics industries have relied upon plate-fin heat exchangers for decades. Data and correlations are available in the literature for single-phase vapor with offset strip, louvered, wavy, and plain fins, but data for single-phase liquids are limited. For two-phase applications, substantial literature is available for pressure drop and boiling but remains relatively sparse for condensation. This report reviews the available literature on thermal rating methods for plate-fin heat exchanger technology, identifying recommended methods. Overall, the amount of validating data and the range of geometries tested are small for these recommended methods. Additional research is planned to establish the accuracy of these methods and to identify areas for improvement, such as flow distribution, transition from methods for conventional tubes to methods suitable for compact surfaces, flow regimes, and two-phase pressure drop.