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Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

The 7th International Conference on Applied Energy ICAE2015

Numerical Simulation of H2O/LiBr Falling Film Absorption


Process
Lianying Zhang, Yuan Wang, Yongxia Fu, Liu Xing, Liwen Jin*
Department of Building Environment and Energy Engineering, Xian Jiaotong University, Shaanxi and 710049, China

Abstract

Absorber is a critical component of an absorption air-conditioning system. Its performance influences


directly the overall efficiency and volume. In this paper, the commercial simulation software CFDFLUENT was used to simulate the falling film absorption process of the coolant LiBr/H2O solution. This
research attempts to know the effects of various Reynolds number on the absorption progress. The
simulation results indicated that there was an optimized Reynolds number of liquid film which leads to an
averaged maximum mass flux of 2.910-3kgm-2s-1 at the interface. The local interfacial mass transfer
coefficient arrives at the maximum at the inlet, then decreases rapidly along the flow direction and
approaches to a constant value gradually. It is also find that the local interfacial mass transfer coefficient
increases with the increase of Reynolds number while the local heat transfer coefficient exhibits the
opposite trend.

Authors.
Published
by Elsevier
Ltd. This
is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
2015
2015The
The
Authors.
Published
by Elsevier
Ltd.
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of ICAE
Peer-review under responsibility of Applied Energy Innovation Institute

Keywords
absorption; numerical simulation; heat and mass transfer; H2O/LiBr
1. Introduction
Absorption air-conditioning system is achieving acceptance as a promising candidate for solar energy
and waste heat recovery [1]. Absorption of vapour into a falling liquid film is an important chemical
process for absorption air-conditioning. There were plenty of researches that have been carried out on the
combined heat and mass transfer in the absorber. Nakoryakov and Grigoreva [2] obtained analytical
solutions for combined heat and mass transfer by Fourier separation of variables techniques. After that, in

Corresponding author. Tel.: +86-29-83395127; fax: +86-29-83395100.


E-mail address: lwjin@mail.xjtu.edu.cn.

1876-6102 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Peer-review under responsibility of Applied Energy Innovation Institute
doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2015.07.644

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Lianying Zhang et al. / Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

1983 Grossman [3] developed the parabolic velocity profile to replace the uniform velocity, that is, the
velocity in the inlet is corresponded to Nusselt solution. Grossman [4] considered the falling film model
with the complete form governing equations to evaluate the contribution of the inter-diffusion and
obtained a short-exposure time solution. Since that time the model has been extended to film thickness,
shear stress and latent heat at the free surface and so on. Conlisk [5] found that the heat transfer
coefficient increases with a decrease of film thickness; while the mass transfer coefficient decreases with
a decrease of film thickness. There were also other studies focused on the mathematical model of coupled
heat and mass transfer during the absorption process [6-8]. In addition, there were many authors have
studied the different factors which influence the absorption process. Such as Hamza [9] studied the effect
of the non-absorbable gases on the absorption efficiency and so on.
Despite of the large amount of knowledge of falling film acquired, there are still many improvements
for its model. In particular, as we all know, falling film flows are classified in non-wavy laminar, wavy
and turbulence according to the Reynolds number variations [10]. We can learn that the Reynolds number
has significant influence on the absorption process. However, there are few authors to study the effects of
Reynolds number on the absorption process.
In this paper, the commercial simulation software CFD-FLUENT was used to simulate the falling film
absorption process of the coolant LiBr/H2O solution. The lithium bromide aqueous solution properties
and absorption heating were expressed by the User Defined Functions (UDF) which is an extended
function of the Fluent. The concentration of the lithium bromide aqueous solution was defined by UDS
(User Defined Scalars). The diffusion coefficient was assumed to be constant with considering the
molecular diffusion and convective diffusion. The change of variables was gotten by UDM (User Define
Memory). It was obtained that the wall temperature and the interfacial mass flux along the falling film
change with the different Reynolds number. The interfacial local mass transfer and heat transfer
coefficient along the falling film were discussed.
Nomenclature
c

solution concentration (kg/m3)

T temperature(C)

c0 the initial solution concentration %

Twall wall temperature (C)

CP Specific heat capacity (J/kgK)

Tin Inlet temperature

Cin Inlet concentration

Tw wall temperature(C)
2

Mass diffusivity (m /s)

Gravitational acceleration (m/s2)

time(s)
mean flow rate (ms-1)

hm Local mass transfer coefficient (m/s)

ui interfacial velocities of the falling film(m/s)

hi

Absorption heat (Kj/kg)

Thermal conductivity /W/mK

is the Film flow rate (kgm-1s-1)

Plate length (m)

Film thickness (m)


2

solution density (kg/m3)

mx is mass flux (kg/m s)

dynamic viscosity (Pas)

Pressure(Pa)

Axis perpendicular to flow direction (m)

u Velocity in x direction (m/s)

Velocity in y direction (m/s)

Axis to flow direction (m)

Lianying Zhang et al. / Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

Subscripts
w wall

i interface

in inlet

0 initial

p pressure
2. Analysis model and governing equations
The system analyzed in the present study is depicted schematically in Fig. 1. A falling film of the
LiBr aqueous solution flows into a full of water vapor absorber along the vertical wall.

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of absorption process

In addition, to simplify the governing equations, the following assumptions were made:
1) The density and specific heat are constant, the pressure p throughout the lithium bromide aqueous
solution is constant;
2) The heat conductivity coefficient and viscosity depend on temperature and concentration of the
lithium bromide aqueous;
3) The liquid film is flat without surface waves;
4) Vapor pressure is constant and the resistance of mass transfer is ignored;
5) The interface of vapor-liquid is in a state of equilibrium; the concentration of the film is dependent
on the temperature and pressure.
6) The film thickness and flow velocities are considered as constant; Absorption heat is added by
source item and conducted to the lithium bromide aqueous.
7) The solution is a Newtonian binary mixture where the absorbent is non-volatile and the flow is a
laminar flow;
8) The heat flux transfer to the gas phase can be neglected.
9) Ignoring the influence of non-absorbable gases.

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Under the above assumptions, the 2D control equation could be reduced as follows:
Continuity equation

( U v)

(1)

Momentum equation

wv
 ( U vv) p  ( Pv)  g
wt
Energy equation

wT
 ( U vcT )
wt

(kT ) 

w(mx hi )
wy

(2)

(3)

Mass transfer equation

wc
 (vc) D(c)
wt

(4)
The boundary condition and initial condition are as follows:
1) The boundary conditions are as follows:
(5)
u=0; v=0; wc 0 ; T = Tw
wx
2) At the entrance, the concentration of the solution is in equilibrium at its pressure and temperature.
According to the Nusselt theory, transverse velocity v is zero and the downstream velocity profile u is
given as follows:
3

2
c c0 , u( y) 2 u(2( G )  ( G ) )

where
u

(6)

3*P 13
4.0 *
)
Re
U2g
P

UG
(7)
3) At the interface, LiBr/H2O solution is in thermodynamic equilibrium state. Under the low Reynolds
number, the molecule diffusion plays a main role on the mass transfer in the lithium bromide aqueous
solution. Ficks law is used to determine the mass flux mx as follow:
U D wC

( )
m
c c( Pi, Ti) ui 1.5 u hx mx hi , x ci wy y G
(8)
4) At the outlet, the outflow boundary condition is adopted. The exit flow is assumed to be close to
fully developed condition.
wc
0 wT 0
wx
wx
(9)
3. Model validation

The simulation software CFD-FLUENT was used to simulate the heat and mass transfer in the falling
film absorption process. The CFD-FLUENT employs a control-volume-based technique to convert
governing equations into algebraic equations. Pre-processing software Gambit was used to establish
physical model. The fixed rectangular domain was adopted which adapted to the computational domain.
The mash number is 500020 in direction x and y. The velocity distribution of the film at the entrance,
the concentration distribution in interface, mass flux and the physical property of the LiBr aqueous
solution were defined by UDF and their values were obtained by UDS. Second order upwind
discretization scheme was used to discretize the Momentum, Energy and Mass transfer governing

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Lianying Zhang et al. / Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

equations. PRESTO Interpolation was employed to deal with the pressure item. The PISO method was
used to couple the pressure and velocity equations.
The validity of the model was verified by comparing the calculated interfacial temperature and
concentration with the results of Kawae [11] under the same conditions, as shown in Fig. 2. It can be
learned that the present results agree very well with Kawaes.

320
\ PP
.DZDH

WHPSHUDWXUH/K

318
316
314
312
310
308

5.5E-4 1E-3

0.01

0.1

x/m

(a)

(b)
Fig. 2 Comparison the present work with analytical solution of Kawae

The operating conditions are listed in Table 1. The properties of LiBr solution are collected from the Ref.
[12].
Table 1 Operating conditions of absorber parameter
Operating parameter

Number

Inlet temperature Tin/K

319.65

Inlet concentration Cin/wt%

0.6012

Wall temperature Tw/K

308.15

Pressure P/Pa

1000.0

Length of falling film L/m

0. 5

4. Results and discussion


The Reynolds number has significant influence on the flow of the falling film. Due to the surface
tension and gravity, the falling film appears some subtle fluctuation and the waves amplitude increases
with an increase of Reynolds number. In this article, the effects of various Reynolds number on the heat
and mass transfer of the falling film were investigated. The Reynolds number was based on the film
thickness. The operating conditions are shown in Table 2.
Table 2 Operating conditions at different Reynolds number
Re
thickness of film /mm
film flow rate /kgm-1s-1
10.6
20.0
50.0
100.0
150.0

0.2
0.25
0.34
0.42
0.48

0.0142
0.02675
0.06699
0.13375
0.20063

inlet temperature Tin/K


319.65
319.65
319.65
319.65
319.65

wall temperature Twall/K


308.15
308.15
308.15
308.15
308.15

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Lianying Zhang et al. / Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

4.1 Temperature distribution along the falling film


The variations of temperature along the falling film interface is shown in Fig. 3. Due to the wall
cooling and the less absorption along the falling film downward, the interfacial temperature declines
gradually. The large temperature difference between the wall and the interface leads to the interfacial
temperature declines rapidly at the inlet.
The larger Reynolds number, the higher interface temperature, and the insignificant temperature
change. This is because that a larger Reynolds number results in a higher velocity of falling film and then
the more heat is taken into the LiBr solution which causes a reduced decline of the falling film
temperature.
320
318

Re=10.6
Re=20.0
Re=50.0
Re=100.0
Re=150.0

temperature/K

316
314
312
310
308

0.1

0.2

L/m

0.3

0.4

0.5

Fig. 3 Variation of interface temperature along the falling film

4.2 Variation of mass transfer flux


The effects of Reynolds number on the mass transfer flux and average mass transfer flux along the
falling film are shown in Fig. 4 and Fig. 5. The local interfacial mass transfer flux arrives at the maximum
at the inlet, then decrease rapidly along the flow direction and approach to a constant value gradually. The
highest concentration of the LiBr aqueous solution results in the largest mass transfer driving force at the
inlet. With the solution falling downward, the concentration of solution decreases. Then the mass transfer
flux also decreases.
From Fig. 4 we can learn that the larger the Reynolds number of liquid film, the further away from the
inlet to the position of the maximum mass transfer flux, and the slower the heat transfer flux decrease.
Larger the Reynolds number corresponds to smaller the maximum mass transfer flux. It can be found
from Fig. 5 that when the length of the liquid film is 500mm, in the case of Reynolds number 50, the
average mass transfer flux arrives the maximum, that is 2.910-3 kgm-2s-1; while in the case of the
Reynolds number 10.2, the average mass transfer flux arrives the minimum, that is 2.2110-3 kgm-2s-1.
Therefore, when the length of the liquid film is constant, there is an optimized Reynolds number of liquid
film which leads to a maximum average mass transfer flux.

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0.0030

0.008

Re=10.6
Re=20.0
Re=50.0
Re=100.0
Re=150.0

0.004

0.002

 
average mass transfer rate/NJP V

0.006



mass transfer flux/kgP gV



0.0029
0.0028
0.0027
0.0026
0.0025
0.0024
0.0023

0.0022
0.00215

0.000
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

20

40

60

80

L/m

100

120

140

Re

Fig .4 Variation of mass transfer flux along the falling film Fig. 5 Variation of average mass transfer flux along the falling film

4.3 Local heat transfer and local mass transfer coefficients


The effect of the Reynolds number on the local heat transfer coefficient is shown in Fig. 6. Neglecting
the entrance thermal effect (there is a higher heat transfer coefficient at the entrance than that of the full
development because the thermal boundary layer at the entrance is thinner), the increase of Reynolds
number results in the decrease of local heat transfer coefficient. The smaller Reynolds number indicates
the smaller velocity of the falling film and the thinner liquid film, which results in the smaller heat
resistance. So that the local heat transfer coefficient is higher with the smaller Reynolds number.
The variation of local mass transfer coefficient along the falling film under different Reynolds number
is shown in Fig. 7. Local mass transfer coefficient reduces along the falling film. With the increase of the
Reynolds number of the falling film, the interfacial mass transfer coefficient increases. Because the larger
Reynolds number conduce to the shorter time for LiBr aqueous solution absorbing the steam, which
makes less water vapor being absorbed into the LiBr aqueous solution. Therefore, the subsequent water
vapor is easier to be absorbed.
30

u103

20

R e=10.6
R e=20.0
R e=50.0
R e=100.0
R e=150.0

25
-1

18
14
12
10

Re=10.6
Re=20.0
Re=50.0
Re=100.0
Re=150.0

8
6
4
2

0.10

20
-1

16

0.1m-0.2m
local mass transfer coefficient/ms

local mass transfer coefficient/ms

-2

local heat transfer coefficient/kWm K

-1

22

15
10

0.08

0.06

0.04

0.02

0.10

0.12

0.14

0.16

0.18

0.20

L/m

0
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

L/m

Fig. 6 Variation of local heat transfer coefficient along the falling film

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

L/m

Fig.7 Variation of local mass transfer coefficient along the


falling film

5. Conclusions
The simulation of the falling film absorption process of the coolant LiBr/H2O solution was numerically
investigated by software CFD-FLUENT. The more practical boundary condition in the falling film was
considered. At the different Reynolds number, the interface temperature, mass transfer flux, the local heat
and mass transfer coefficient were investigated. The obtained results can be summarized as follows:
(1) For the different Reynolds number, the mass transfer flux at the interface increases rapidly to the

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Lianying Zhang et al. / Energy Procedia 75 (2015) 3119 3126

maximum at the inlet and then decrease to an approximate constant. The larger the Reynolds number, the
slower decrease of the mass transfer flux after reaching their maximum. At the laminar flow, there is an
optimized Reynolds number of liquid film which leads to an averaged maximum mass flux at a fixed
length of the film.
(2) An increase of the Reynolds number of falling film leads to an increase of local mass transfer
coefficient. On the contrary, an increase of the Reynolds number of falling film conduces to a decrease of
interfacial local heat transfer coefficient.
(3) The larger the Reynolds number of liquid film, the further away from the inlet to the position of the
maximum mass transfer flux. The larger the Reynolds number corresponds to the smaller maximum mass
transfer flux.
Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful for financial supports by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central
Universities (XJJ2012106), and Science and Technology Project of Shaanxi Province (2012K10-16).
References
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[4] Grossman G. Analysis of interdiffusion in film absorption [J]. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 1987, 30 (1):
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[5] A.T. Conlisk. Analytical solutions for the heat and mass transfer in a falling film absorber. Chemical Engineering Science.
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Biography
Dr. Jin Liwen obtained his Ph.D. from Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and
then worked at National University of Singapore. He is currently a professor working at
Xian Jiaotong University, China. His research interests include building energy analysis,
solar heat storage and heat transfer in microchannels.