Previously published research examined the overall efficiency of heat transfer through a copper plated micro-channel heat exchanger. However, since the device is sealed and composed entirely of copper, understanding the phase change, temperature field, and density field of the working fluid is difficult empirically. Given that the efficiency was shown to be greatly increased by the working fluid phase change, this understanding within the device is important to designing devices of greater efficiency and different working fluids. One method of determining device and component performance is numerical modeling of the system.
Fluids that undergo phase change have long frustrated those attempting to successfully numerically model systems with acceptable stability. Over the past twenty years, the lattice Boltzmann method (LBM) has transformed the simulation of multicomponent and multiphase flows. Particularly with multiphase flows, the LBM “naturally” morphs the phase change interface throughout the model without excessive computational complexity. The relative ease with which LBM has been applied to some multicomponent/multiphase systems inspired the use of LBM to track phase change within the previously recorded experimental boundary conditions for the copper plated heat exchanger.
In this paper, the LBM was used to simulate the evaporation and condensation of HFE-7200 within a capillary flow driven square micro-channel heat exchanger (MHE). All initial and boundary conditions for the simulation are exactly those conditions at which the empirical data was measured. These include temperature and heat flux measurements entering and leaving the MHE. Working fluid parameters and characteristics were given by the manufacturer or measured during experimental work. Once the lattice size, initial conditions, and boundary conditions were input into MATLAB®, the simulations indicated that the working fluid was successfully evaporating and condensing which, coupled with the capillary driven flow, allowed the system to provide excellent heat transfer characteristics without the use of any external work mechanism.
Results indicated successive instances of stratified flow along the channel length. Micro-channel flow occurring due to capillary action instead of external work mechanisms made differences in flow patterns negligible. Coupled with the experimentally measured thermal characteristics, this allowed simulations to develop a regular pattern of phase interface tracking. The agreement of multiple simulations with previously recorded experimental data has yielded a system where transport properties are understood and recognized as the primary reasons for such excellent energy transport in the device.