Void fraction remains a crucial parameter in understanding and characterizing two-phase flow. It appears as a key variable in both heat transfer and pressure drop correlations of two-phase flows, from the macro to micro-channel scale. Void fraction estimation dictates the sizing of both evaporating and condensing phase change heat exchangers, for example. In order to measure void fraction some invasive approach is necessary. Typically, visualization is achieved either downstream of the test section or on top by machining to expose the channel. Both approaches can lead to inaccuracies. The former assumes the flow will not be affected moving from the heat exchanger surface to the transparent section. The latter distorts the heat flow path.
Neutron Imaging can provide a non-invasive measurement because metals such as Aluminum are essentially transparent to neutrons. Hence, if a refrigerant is selected that provides suitable neutron attenuation; steady-state void fraction measurements in two-phase flow are attainable in-situ without disturbing the fluid flow or heat flow path.
Neutron Imaging has been used in the past to qualitatively describe the flow in heat exchangers in terms of maldistributions without providing void fraction data. This work is distinguished from previous efforts because the heat exchanger has been designed and the refrigerant selected to avail of neutron imaging.
This work describes the experimental flow loop that enables a boiling two-phase flow; the heat exchanger test section and downstream transparent section are described. The flow loop controls the degree of subcooling and the refrigerant flowrate. Heating cartridges embedded in the test section are employed to control the heat input. Neutron-imaged steady-state void fraction measurements are captured and compared to representative high-speed videography captured at the visualization section. This allows a qualitative comparison between neutron imaged and traditional techniques. The measurements are also compared to correlations in the literature.
Preliminary void fraction images from a macro-channel flow are presented, consisting of 1 channel, 4mm wide, 4mm high and 83.32mm long. Flow regime identification is examined.
The experiments were conducted at the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) Cold Guide 1D neutron imaging facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, USA.