The forces due to surface tension, inertia, and momentum change during evaporation in microchannel govern the two-phase flow patterns and the heat transfer characteristics during flow boiling. These forces are analyzed in this paper, and two new non-dimensional groups, K1 and K2, relevant to flow boiling phenomenon are derived. These groups are able to represent some of the key flow boiling characteristics, including the CHF. The small hydraulic dimensions of microchannel flow passages present a large frictional pressure drop in single-phase and two-phase flows. In order to keep the pressure drop within limits, the channel lengths are generally shorter and the mass fluxes are generally lower than those with conventional channels (Dh>3 mm). The resulting lower mass fluxes, coupled with small Dh, lead to Reynolds numbers in the range 100–1000. Such low Reynolds numbers are rarely employed for flow boiling in conventional channels. In these low Reynolds number flows, nucleate boiling systematically emerges as the dominant mode of heat transfer. Aided by strong evaporation rates, the bubbles nucleating on the wall grow quickly and fill the entire channel. The contact line between the bubble base and the channel wall surface now becomes the entire perimeter at both ends of the vapor slug. Evaporation occurs at the moving contact line of the expanding vapor slug as well as over the channel wall covered with a thin liquid film surrounding the vapor core. The usual nucleate boiling heat transfer mechanisms, including liquid film evaporation and transient heat conduction in the liquid adjacent to the contact line region, play an important role. The liquid film under the large vapor slug evaporates completely at downstream locations thus presenting a dryout condition periodically with the passage of each large vapor slug. The flow boiling correlation by Kandlikar [1, 2] with (i) the nucleate boiling dominant region equation, and (ii) the laminar flow equation for single-phase all-liquid flow heat transfer coefficient hLO was successful in correlating the available R-134a data for parallel microchannels of 190 μm hydraulic diameter.

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