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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842

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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

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Experimental study on heat transfer characteristics of circulatory flash

Yousen Zhang 1, Jinshi Wang 1, Jiping Liu 1, Daotong Chong 2, Wei Zhang 1, Junjie Yan ⇑
State Key Laboratory of Multiphase Flow in Power Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Flash evaporation with velocity in horizontal direction, called the circulatory flash evaporation, is the
Received 26 August 2012 main mechanism in many industry processes such as multi-stage flash (MSF) desalination. The previous
Received in revised form 17 August 2013 studies are mainly concerned about the characteristics of static flash evaporation or the flow pattern of
Accepted 23 August 2013
the fluid in the single stage of the MSF. Little work has been performed on the heat transfer characteristics
Available online 20 September 2013
of circulatory flash evaporation. In the present paper a circulatory flash evaporation system was built. The
experiments were carried out with flow rates of 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200 L h1, initial water film heights
ranging from 100 to 265 mm and at pressures of 7.4, 12.3, 19.9, 31.2 kPa, respectively. Results indicated
Circulatory flash evaporation
High horizontal velocity
that non-equilibrium fraction (NEF) augmented to a peak value at first and decreased monotonously
NEF when superheat increased. The heat transfer coefficient dropped with the increase in the superheat.
Volumetric heat transfer coefficient The influence of flow rate, pressure in the flash chamber and initial water film height on the variation
of NEF and heat transfer coefficient was also investigated. The NEF decreased with increasing flow rate
and pressure in the flash chamber but increased as the initial water film height rising. However, the vol-
umetric heat transfer coefficient showed an opposite law.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction two exponential decay processes. A non-equilibrium temperature

and non-equilibrium fraction were proposed in this article.
Flash evaporation is a phenomenon of violent pool boiling. Gopalakrishna et al. [11,12] investigated the seawater flash evapo-
When water is channeled into low pressure environment, the li- ration with superheats ranging from 0.5 to 10 K, initial water film
quid bulk becomes superheated and its superheat will transform heights of 165,305 and 467 mm and the solution concentration
into latent heat of flash steam when the liquid temperature is high- from 0% to 3.5%. They proposed a correlation of mass evaporated
er than the saturation temperature corresponding to the environ- on the parameters mentioned above. Saury et al. [13] conducted
ment pressure. Due to the sudden phase change, flash a study on the distilled water flash evaporation with superheats
evaporation phenomenon causes a sudden temperature drop of of 1–35 K, initial water film height of 15 mm and initial water tem-
the liquid. It is widely used in industrial processes such as the cool- perature from 30 to 75 °C. A correlation between the water mass
ing of hot parts of a shuttle by water spraying under low pressure evaporated by flashing and the superheat was then obtained. The
conditions [1,2], the salt disposal [3,4] and seawater desalination duration of the flash evaporation phenomenon was estimated. Be-
[5,6], grape cooling in wine manufacturing process [7] and the sides, studies on the circulatory flash evaporation are performed,
break of the core reactor cooling in nuclear power plants [8]. mainly in MSF process. Mandil and Ghafour [14] proposed a new
Flash evaporation phenomenon received worldwide attention approach to the optimization of multi-stage flash evaporation
recent decades. The static flash evaporation was firstly studied. plants. Fath [15] simulated a 6-stage multi-stage flash evaporation
Miyatake et al. [9,10] carried out an experiment on pure water system. The flash evaporation stage efficiency b was defined to
with superheat ranging from 3 to 5 K and equilibrium temperature evaluate the performance of each flash evaporation stage. They
from 40 to 80 °C. They found that the flash evaporation underwent found that an increase in the superheat and the residence time in
the flash chamber had promoted the evaporation. Jin [16,17] per-
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 29 82665741; fax: +86 29 82675741. formed experimental and simulation work on the singe stage of
E-mail addresses: (Y. Zhang), wangjinshi@mail.xjtu.
multi-stage flash evaporation system at saturated pressure (J. Wang), (J. Liu), 0.023 MPa and 75, 97, 177 mm high water film. Factors such as
(D. Chong), (W. Zhang), bubble size, distribution of the vortex number and water film
(J. Yan). height influencing flash evaporation was analyzed under different
Tel.: +86 29 82665742; fax: +86 29 82675741.
superheats. They found the multiphase flash flow was dependent
Tel.: +86 29 82665359; fax: +86 29 82675741.

0017-9310/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842 837


b width of flash chamber (m) Greek symbols

L length of flash chamber (m) DT superheat (K)
H water film height (mm) sL residence time (s)
T temperature (°C)
pf pressure in flash chamber (MPa) Subscripts
r latent heat of vaporization (kJ kg1) in inlet
h heat transfer coefficient (kW m3 K1) out outlet
Q volume flow rate (L h1) f flash chamber
NEF non-equilibrium fraction L length
mev evaporated mass flow rate (kg s 1) ev evaporation
u horizontal velocity (m s1)

on the superheat and the nucleation distribution. Our research tilled water is led into the electrical heater by the circulating
team [18] conducted a comparative work on the heat and mass pump. It is channeled into the flash chamber through the inlet
transfer characteristics of static and circulatory flash evaporation. valve when it is heated to the demanding temperature. Flash evap-
A unified calculating model for these two flash evaporation pat- oration happens as soon as the water gets into the chamber, and
terns was set up as well as a new volumetric heat transfer coeffi- the flash steam is evacuated to the condenser to be liquefied and
cient. Furthermore, study on the steam-carrying effect and the flow rate of the condensed water is measured by mass flowme-
experiments on the aqueous NaCl solution at different pressure ter. Simultaneously data acquisition system starts to work.
and water film height were presented in Zhang et al.’s work The pressures are measured by absolute pressure sensors with
[19,20]. range of 0–0.2 MPa and a precision of 0.25% in full scale. The tem-
The previous studies mainly focused on the static flash evapora- perature in this experiment is gauged by a series of T type thermo-
tion and the flow characteristics in the MSF process. Little work on couples. The distribution of thermocouples in the flash chamber is
the heat transfer performance of circulatory flash evaporation has shown in Fig. 1(b). Thermocouples above the water level are used
been conducted. Because of the effect of the horizontal velocity, the to measure the temperature of flash vapor and the ones below the
heat transfer characteristics between static flash evaporation and level to the flashed water in the flash chamber.
circulatory flash evaporation is different, a circulatory flash evapo- Experiments were conducted with flow rates of 400, 600, 800,
ration system was designed and built up. Furthermore, the effect of 1000, 1200 L h1, water film heights ranging from 100 to
pressures, initial water film heights in flash chamber and flow rates 265 mm and at pressures of 7.4, 12.3, 19.9, 31.2 kPa, respectively.
influencing the flash evaporation was studied in this paper.
2.2. Uncertainty analysis and reproducibility
2. Experimental setup and methods
Ranges of all parameters in this experiment are listed in Table 1.
2.1. Experimental system The uncertainty of the parameters, calculated using the Moffat [21]
method, is also shown in Table 2.
A test rig for circulatory flash evaporation, shown in Fig. 1(a), Fig. 2 illustrates the reproducibility of this experiment. It shows
was designed and constructed. This apparatus contains four circu- the NEF evolution at pressure of 19.9 kPa and the initial water film
latory loops: a basic hydrothermal loop, a flash steam loop and two height of 180 mm with a flow rate of 800 L h1. These two curves
auxiliary condensing loops. The basic hydrothermal loop is com- fit well in the whole superheat scope. Results indicate that this
posed of a circulating pump, an electrical heater, two metal rotam- experiment has excellent reproducibility and the experiment data
eters with a range of 0–1600 L h1 and a precision of 1%, a flash is authentic.
chamber and a heat exchanger. The electrical heater has 20 groups
heating outside the tube. Each group has a power of 3 kW. To get
3. Results and discussion
concise temperature regulation, 3 groups of them are controlled
by a voltage regulator. The flash chamber is a rectangular cavity
3.1. Visualization
with a height of 0.66 m and a cross section of b  L = 0.1  0.1 m.
The front of the flash chamber is covered with glass plate for visu-
As is shown in Fig. 3, it is visualization of flash evaporation at
alization just like the back. Two 25 mm-diameter adjusting valves
different superheats-with pressure of 12.3 kPa, flow rates of
with two thermocouples are arranged at the inlet and outlet of the
800 L h1 and initial water film height of 180 mm. Firstly, bubbles
flash chamber. A liquid level meter with a precision of 0.1 mm is
in the flash chamber are little and have a small size. The size gets
set at the right side of flash chamber to measure the initial water
larger and the number of bubbles is more when the superheat in-
film height. Water in the loop is driven by a circulating pump. A
creases. The water film in the flash chamber is slit by the flash
shell-tube heat exchanger is placed near the outlet of the flash
steam, getting unsteady. The flash vapor layer gets thicker as the
chamber to cool down the water so as to protect the pump from
superheat of water film becomes larger, corresponding to the thin-
cavitation. The flash steam loop consists of a shell-tube heat ex-
ning of the water film layer.
changer and a mass flowmeter with a range of 0–110 kg h1 and
a precision of 0.2%. The two auxiliary loops include centrifugal
pumps, a water tank and a heat exchanger which ensures the flash 3.2. NEF vs. superheat at different conditions
steam completely condensed and less leakage.
The two auxiliary loops and the vacuum pump are run up to NEF at the outlet of the flash chamber is a significant indicator
create a stable pressure at the beginning of each experiment. Dis- to evaluate the completion degree of circulatory flash evaporation.
838 Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842

Fig. 1. Circulatory flash evaporation experimental system (a) and thermocouples distribution in flash chamber (b).

Table 1
Range of experimental parameters.

Parameter Range
H/m 0.1–0.3
pf/MPa 0.0074–0.07
Q/L h1 400–1400
DT/K 2–30

Table 2
Uncertainty of circulatory flash system.

Parameter Absolute Minimal measured Uncertainty

uncertainty value
p/MPa 5  104 0.0074 6.75  102
T/°C 0.2 40.2 4.98  103
H/m 0.1 1.0  103 Fig. 2. The reproducibility of this experiment.
1  104
b/m 1  104 0.1 1.0  103
L/m 1  104 0.1 1.0  103
Q/L h1 8.0 400 0.02
mev/kg s1 – – 2.0  103 the water is 1.1 °C higher than the one at the top when the pressure
hc / kW m3 K1 – – in the flash chamber is 70 kPa and 6.7 °C when the pressure is 7 kPa.
8.34  102 Fig. 5((a) and (b)) indicates evolution of NEF vs. superheats at
DT/K – – 4.98  103
NEF – – 8.33  102
different flow rates. For all pressure, NEF firstly increased to a peak
value and then decreased with the increase of superheats. More
and more superheat energy was transformed into the latent heat
of the flash vapor when the superheats became larger. These two
figures also illustrate that NEF elevated as the flow rate increased.
A smaller NEF corresponds to more completed flash evaporation. The increase in the flow rate strengthened the turbulence of the
The outlet temperature was measured in order to obtain the NEF: horizontal flow in the flash chamber. The water film was slit by
the flash vapor so that the effect of hydrostatic head got weak.
T out  T e DT out
NEF ¼ ¼ ð1Þ The water at lower level could evaporate.
T in  T e DT in Evolution of NEF vs. superheats at different pressures is pre-
Fig. 4((a) and (b)) illustrates variation of NEF vs. superheats at dif- sented in Fig. 6((a) and (b)). From the figures we can conclude that
ferent initial water film heights. NEF dropped with the rising of the higher pressure results in less NEF. The higher pressure corre-
the initial water film height under the same condition after the peak sponds to the higher saturate temperature so that the initial tem-
point. Increasing of the initial water film height results in a larger perature of water into the flash chamber at higher pressure is
hydrostatic head which suppressing the flash evaporation. Take larger than the one at lower pressure at the same superheat. While
the height 0.3 m for example, additional pressure (qgH) can reach the viscosity, the latent heat of vaporization and the specific heat
nearly 3 kPa. As a result, the saturation temperature at bottom of capacity decrease with the increase of water temperature. Flash
Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842 839

Fig. 3. Visualization of circulatory flash evaporation phenomenon at different superheats with flow rate of 800 L h1, pressure in flash chamber of 12.3 kPa and water film
level of 180 mm: (a) 0 K; (b) 1.0 K; (c) 2.1 K; (d) 3.1 K; (e) 5.0 K; (f) 6.1 K; (g) 7.0 K; (h) 8.1 K; (i) 9.0 K; (j) 10.2 K; (k) 12.1 K; (l) 14.0 K; (m) 15.2 K; (n) 16.2 K; (o) 17.2 K; (p)
18.1 K; (q) 19.0 K; (r) 20.4 K.

(a) (b)

Fig. 4. Evolution of NEF vs. superheats at different water film heights: (a) Q = 800 L h1, Pf = 19.9 kPa; (b) Q = 800 L h1, Pf = 31.2 kPa.

evaporation is more intended to occur at higher water gradually drops down. This result can be explained as follows. As
temperature. is shown in Fig. 3, when superheat is small, corresponding to qui-
All the NEF curves showed that there exists a peak value. As escent water film, hot water quickly leaves the flash chamber be-
superheat increases, NEF quickly rises to a peak value and then fore the superheat is completely transformed into the latent heat
840 Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842

(a) (b)

Fig. 5. Evolution of NEF vs. superheats at different flow rates: (a) Pf = 12.3 kPa, H = 200 mm; (b) Pf = 19.9 kPa, H = 160 mm.

(a) (b)

Fig. 6. Evolution of NEF vs. superheats at different pressures: (a) Q = 800 L h1, H = 180 mm; (b) Q = 800 L h1, H = 160 mm.

(a) (b)

Fig. 7. Evolution of hc vs. superheats at different water film heights: (a) Q = 800 L h1, Pf = 19.9 kPa; (b) Q = 800 L h1, Pf = 31.2 kPa.

of flash vapor. As superheat is large, corresponding to turbulent coefficient should be introduced to evaluate the heat transfer
water film, Existing of vortexes which prolong the residence time characteristics. A volumetric heat transfer coefficient [18], defined
of the hot water in the flash chamber so that flash boiling is by Eq. (2), was adopted in our investigation.
further enhanced. More superheat of hot water was transformed rmev
into the latent heat of flash vapor. The bigger superheat leads hc ¼ ð2Þ
2DT in bLH
to a smaller NEF. Both extreme states imply that at least a peak
value exists. The mechanism behind will be investigated in the All the graphs below show that the heat transfer coefficient drops
future. monotonously from a high value and no dramatic change is found
when the superheat gets larger.
3.3. The variation of volumetric heat transfer coefficient (hc) Variation of hc vs. superheats at different water film heights is
presented in Fig. 7((a) and (b)). The heat transfer coefficient in-
creased when the water film height decreased. This is due to the
3.3.1. The variation of hc vs. superheats high water level which suppresses the boiling of the water at bot-
As is shown in Fig. 3, the water level is unobvious and unstable tom of the flash chamber as it is explained in the NEF vs. super-
when the superheat increases. A reasonable heat transfer heats at different heights.
Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842 841

(a) (b)

Fig. 8. Evolution of hc vs. superheats at different pressures: (a) Q = 400 L h1, H = 180 mm; (b) Q = 800 L h1, H = 180 mm.

(a) (b)

Fig. 9. Evolution of hc vs. superheats at different flow rates: (a) Pf = 12.3 kPa, H = 180 mm; (b) Pf = 31.2 kPa, H = 190 mm.

Graphs in Fig. 8((a) and (b)) illustrate variation of hc at different

pressures. There was no obvious change when the pressure altered. (a)
It indicated that the pressure was insensitive to the heat transfer
coefficient. As is explained in the NEF evaluation vs. pressure, the
pressure alteration just changed the latent heat of vaporization
and the specific heat capacity very slightly in the experiment
scope. Both factors above affected the volumetric heat transfer
coefficient faintly.
Fig. 9((a) and (b)) shows alteration of volumetric heat transfer
coefficient at different flow rates. It could be seen that the heat
transfer coefficient increased when the flow rates increased. The
horizontal water film velocity became larger when the flow rates
increased. The water turbulence became more and more violent
in such a narrow 100 mm-length flash chamber. This is consistent
with the law of NEF variation.
3.3.2. The variation of hc vs. residence time
The residence time of the flash evaporation in Yan et al.’s study
[18] is adopted in our investigation. The expression of this time is
presented in Eq. (3)

sL ¼ ð3Þ
Fig. 10(a) shows that the heat transfer coefficient decreased when
the residence time increased. This can be explained as follows.
The short residence time matched up to the large flow rate. So var-
iation of the heat transfer coefficient with the residence time was
similar to the influence of flow rate on it. The residence time scope
in the former study (area I) and this paper (area II) are presented in
Fig. 10(b). Experiments were carried out at pressure of 7.4 kPa, with Fig. 10. Variation of hc vs. residence time: (a) experimental results; (b) comparison
water film height of 150 mm and superheats of 5, 10 K. The result of theoretical and experimental results.
842 Y. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 67 (2013) 836–842

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the

National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Number
50976089/51125027) and the National Basic Research Program of
China (973 Program, Grant Number 2009CB219803).