This paper presents an overview of the use of flow visualization in micro- and mini-channel geometries for the development of pressure drop and heat transfer models during condensation of refrigerants. Condensation flow mechanisms for round, square and rectangular tubes with hydraulic diameters in the range 1–5 mm for 0 < x < 1 and 150 kg/m2-s and 750 kg/m2-s were recorded using unique experimental techniques that permit flow visualization during the condensation process. The effect of channel shape and miniaturization on the flow regime transitions was documented. The flow mechanisms were categorized into four different flow regimes: intermittent flow, wavy flow, annular flow, and dispersed flow. These flow regimes were further subdivided into several flow patterns within each regime. It was observed that the intermittent and annular flow regimes become larger as the tube hydraulic diameter is decreased, at the expense of the wavy flow regime. These maps and transition lines can be used to predict the flow regime or pattern that will be established for a given mass flux, quality and tube geometry. These observed flow mechanisms, together with pressure drop measurements, are being used to develop experimentally validated models for pressure drop during condensation in each of these flow regimes for a variety of circular and noncircular channels with 0.4 < Dh < 5 mm. These flow regime-based models yield substantially better pressure drop predictions than the traditionally used correlations that are primarily based on air-water flows for large diameter tubes. Condensation heat transfer coefficients were also measured using a unique thermal amplification technique that simultaneously allows for accurate measurement of the low heat transfer rates over small increments of refrigerant quality and high heat transfer coefficients characteristic of microchannels. Models for these measured heat transfer coefficients are being developed using the documented flow mechanisms and the corresponding pressure drop models as the basis.

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