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Multiphase Science and Technology, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp.

207-232, 2001



S. G. Kandlikar
Mechanical Engineering Department, Rochester Institute of Technology,
Rochester, NY 14623, USA

Abstract. Critical Heat Flux, or CHF, is an important condition that

defines the upper limit of safe operation of heat transfer equipment
employing boiling heat transfer in heat flux controlled systems. Although
significant research has been conducted in this field, a clear understanding
of the basic mechanisms leading to the CHF condition is still lacking. The
present article covers the subcooled flow boiling CHF and reviews the
parametric trends and photographic studies reported by earlier
investigators. An in-depth review of the existing models is presented in
light of these studies, and further research needs are identified.


Dissipation of large heat fluxes at relatively small temperature differences is possible in

systems utilizing boiling phenomenon as long as the heated wall remains wetted with the
liquid. With the wetted wall condition at the heated surface, heat is transferred by a
combination of two mechanisms: (i) bubbles are formed at the active nucleation cavities
on the heated surface, and heat is transferred by the nucleate boiling mechanism, and (ii)
heat is transferred from the wall to the liquid film by convection and goes into the bulk
liquid or causes evaporation at the liquid-vapor interface. The large amount of energy
associated with the latent heat transfer (compared to the sensible energy change in the
liquid corresponding to the available temperature potential in the system) in the case of
nucleate boiling, or the efficient heat transfer due to liquid convection at the wall, both
lead to very high heat transfer coefficients in flow boiling systems. Removal or depletion
of liquid from the heated wall therefore leads to a sudden degradation in the heat transfer
The way in which the heated surface arrives at the liquid starved condition in a flow
boiling system determines whether it is termed as Critical Heat Flux or Dryout

condition. The evolution of the terminology itself is quite interesting. From a

mechanistic viewpoint, the following definitions seem to be appropriate and are
therefore recommended:

Critical Heat Flux condition represents the upper limit of heat flux (in heat flux
controlled systems) followed by a drastic rise in wall temperature, or considerable
degradation in heat flux with an increase in wall temperature (in temperature controlled
systems) in the nucleate boiling heat transfer. A vapor blanket covers the heated surface
separating the surface from the liquid.

Dryout condition represents the termination of continuous liquid contact with the wall. It
follows the gradual depletion of liquid due to evaporation and entrainment of the liquid
film. The vapor, from the continuous vapor phase in the bulk flow, covers the heated
surface, and the discrete liquid droplets flowing in the vapor core may make occasional
contact with the heated surface.

1.1 Historical Perspective of Critical Heat Flux

As early as 1888, Lang (1888) recognized through his experiments with high pressure
water that as the wall temperature increased beyond a certain point, it resulted in a
reduction in the heat flux. However, it was Nukiyama (1934) who realized that the
“maximum heat transmission rate” might occur at relatively modest temperature
differences. An excellent summary of the historical developments in this area was
presented by Drew and Mueller (1937).
Another aspect of historical significance is the evolution of the term Critical Heat
Flux. Early investigators used various terminology to describe this condition, e.g.,
maximum or peak heat flux, maximum boiling rate (Drew and Mueller, 1937), and
burnout heat flux. Nukiyama (1934) described it as the critical point on the boiling
curve. The earliest usage of the term Critical Heat Flux is seen by Zuber (1959). Further
investigation is needed to determine if publications in other languages (by investigators
such as Kutateladze and Fritz) used this terminology. Well into 1980s, there was no
consensus on the use of a single term. However, in the mid-1980s, the term critical heat
flux, and its acronym, CHF, became widely accepted.

1.2 Application Areas for CHF Studies

After establishing the terminology, let us examine the relevance and application of CHF
and Dryout in the fields of current interest. The historical applications such as quenching
are still valid. The major impetus for the CHF studies in the recent past was the nuclear
reactor core cooling. The catastrophic nature of the disaster associated with the CHF in a
nuclear reactor, leading to core meltdown, put a high premium on the CHF studies. The
urgency of the problem led to exhaustive experimentation in geometries similar to the
reactor core. The safe operating limits were established through compilation of data from
various experiments – developing the lookup tables. In his exhaustive literature survey
report, Boyd (1983a, b) points out the severe inadequacies in the theoretical modeling of
the CHF phenomena leading to empiricism.

Another major impetus for research in CHF was provided by the refrigeration and
power industry in determining the Dryout point in a refrigeration evaporator and the safe
operating limit in a boiler. The concerns in these cases were largely regarding safety and
economic optimization of the systems.
The focus for CHF and Dryout studies as we enter the new millennium has
somewhat shifted. The issues related to the nuclear industries are still valid. However,
the emphasis has now moved toward gaining the basic understanding of the mechanisms
leading to the CHF condition. Developments in new augmentation techniques have
opened a whole new area where extensive CHF data for specific systems are not
available. For example, in spite of its superior performance in the flow boiling
application, the microfin tubes have not been tested for their upper limits in CHF. Many
new compact heat exchanger geometries are now being employed in flow boiling
applications, but their dryout characteristics have not been established. These and many
more challenges have emerged with the advancement in the heat transfer enhancement
technologies and their microscale applications. A major evolving area is the CHF in
narrow channels employed in fast response evaporators for fuel cell applications. In the
present paper, the current status of our understanding of the CHF in subcooled flow
boiling is reviewed, and recommendations for future work in this area are presented.


Subcooled flow boiling has received considerable attention due to its potential for
sustaining high heat fluxes in nuclear fusion applications. One of the most
comprehensive reviews on this subject was presented by Boyd (1983a and b) in a two-
part survey article addressing the fundamental issues, modeling, and correlations for
CHF in subcooled flow boiling. Boyd (1983a) presents a list of various fusion machines
and the heat flux levels sustained in them at steady state levels. He also provides an
exhaustive table with the details of the experimental studies available in literature. In the
second part, Boyd (1983b) presents a comprehensive table listing available correlations
for predicting CHF. It is clear that the available exhaustive experiments and correlations
were aimed at obtaining the CHF limits under specific operating conditions. A
comprehensive model was not yet developed; the parametric trends were however
identified from the data.
As mentioned in the Introduction section, the vast data available on CHF have been
compiled as look-up tables by various investigators. A relatively recent paper by
Groeneveld et al. (1996) presents the summary of the latest 1995 look-up table
developed jointly by AECL Research (Canada) and IPEE (Obninsk, Russia). It is based
on an extensive database of CHF values in tubes with vertical upflow of steam-water
mixtures. The table is designed to provide CHF values for 8 mm diameter tubes at
discrete values of pressure, mass flux, and dryout qualities covering the ranges 0.1 to 20
MPa, 0 to 8 Mg/m2s, and –0.5 to 1 respectively. Linear interpolation is provided for
intermediate values, with an empirical correction factor for diameters different from 8
mm. The look-up table provides a tool capable of predicting data with an rms error of
7.82 percent for the 22,946 data points.

A comprehensive paper by Nariai and Inasaka (1992) presents a summary of their

own experimental work and presents useful parametric relationships between CHF and
important system variables. A comparison with the available correlations is also
A recent review of CHF fundamentals, models and correlation schemes is presented
by Celata and Mariani (1999). They present a comprehensive summary of investigations
of the CHF condition and reflect our current understanding of this phenomenon. Earlier
review articles by Celata (1992, 1997) provide a good overview of the models describing
the CHF mechanism.
Tong and Tang (1997) present a very comprehensive summary of the available
literature on various aspects of flow boiling crisis. A large number of correlations have
been compiled and presented from the available literature.
In view of the excellent recent surveys already available in literature, the focus of the
present paper is directed toward gaining a fundamental understanding through the
theoretical models and experimental observations. Areas for future research are
identified to gain further insight into the mechanisms leading to CHF.


The nucleate boiling heat flux at a given wall superheat in subcooleed flow boiling
increases with the liquid subcooling. The bubbles generated on the heater surface
condense as they leave the surface and move toward the bulk liquid. As the subcooling
increases, the bubbles experience the increased condensation rate while they are still
attached to the heater surface. This leads to smaller bubble diameters. Further increase in
subcooling leaves the bubble layer attached to the wall. At some point, corresponding to
the CHF condition, the heater surface is covered with a vapor blanket causing a
significant increase in the wall temperature. Researchers obtained information regarding
the mechanisms responsible for this transition by studying the parametric relationships
between CHF and relevant system parameters, and by visually capturing, through high-
speed photographic techniques, the physical structure of the liquid and vapor phases
adjacent to the heater surface.

3.1 Parametric Effects

Bergles (1963) identified five important system variables affecting the CHF in
subcooled flow boiling. They are:

• Pressure
• Mixed mean temperature, or local liquid subcooling
• Velocity (mass flux)
• Length
• Hydraulic Diameter

The effect of these variables on CHF will be discussed first. It will be followed by a
discussion on other variables that are believed to be important in arriving at the CHF

3.1.1 Influence of Pressure

Pressure has a weak influence on the CHF as shown in Fig. 1. Bergles (1963) reported
an increase of only 17 percent for water when the pressure was changed from 0.14 MPa
to 0.6 MPa. Celata (1992) reports no dependence of CHF on pressure, but the data was
plotted for the constant inlet subcooling. The results are in general agreement with the
pool boiling data, where the pressure has a strong effect near the reduced pressure values
of 0 and 1 for cryogenic fluids (for example, see Bewilogua et al., 1975). In the broad
region between these two limits, CHF is almost independent of pressure. For water, the
results presented by Bonilla and Perry (1941) for CHF in saturated pool boiling are
shown in Fig. 2. The slight increase in CHF with pressure at low pressures is very
similar to the trend observed by Bergles.

3.1.2 Influence of Subcooling and Mass Flux

The higher level of subcooling in the liquid requires a higher heat flux to initiate and
sustain bubble activity. As the bubbles grow, they contact the subcooled liquid core
causing condensation at the liquid-vapor interface. The departing bubbles condense
rapidly depending on the level of liquid subcooling in the core.


CHF, W/m

Subcooled Flow Boiling,


5,000,000 (Ts - Tb)o = 22.4K

G=3038kg/m s
Bergles (1963) L=15D
Eperimental data D=2.4mm
0 200 400 600 800
Pressure, kPa

Figure 1 Effect of pressure on subcooled flow boiling CHF of water, Bergles (1963).


Bonilla and Perry (1941)

Experimental data
CHF, W/m


Water, Pool Boiling

Horizontal Plate

0 40 80 120
Pressure, kPa

Figure 2 Effect of pressure on CHF in pool boiling of hydrogen, Bonilla and Perry (1941).

Gunther (1951) presented a systematic study on the effect of velocity on CHF for a
flat 12.5 mm wide and 150 mm long heater strip placed in a rectangular section with
flow of water. For this case, their experimental results were correlated by the following

CHF (in Btu / sq. in sec) = 0.0135 (V in ft / sec) 0.5 (∆Tsub in deg F ) (1a)

or, in SI units

q& = 71,987.0 u 0.5 (∆Tsub ) (1b)

where, for eq. (1b), q& -heat flux, W/m2, u- flow velocity, m/s, ∆Tsub - liquid subcooling,
Equations (1a) and (1b) are obviously not valid for the pool boiling case (with flow
velocity u=0). Therefore a departure from the above relationship is expected at low
Bergles (1963) conducted systematic experiments to study the parametric trends in
CHF for subcooled flow boiling in circular tubes. Figure 3 shows CHF as a function of
liquid subcooling. Here the CHF is plotted against the difference between the saturation
enthalpy and the liquid enthalpy at the bulk condition. Different sets of points
correspond to different mass fluxes. Mass flux plays an important role in this plot. At
low mass fluxes, the variation with subcooling is almost linear up to the saturation point.
As the mass flux increases, CHF increases in the saturation region, and stays almost flat
until it meets the linear portion of the curve in the high subcooling region. Figure 4

30,000,000 2
G = 1519 kg/m s

CHF, W/m

Po = 214kPa
L = 15D
D = 2.4mm
-300 -150 0 150 300
Local Excess Enthalpy at CHF, (hs - hb)o, kJ/kg

Figure 3 Effect of subcooling and mass velocity on CHF, Bergles (1963).

CHF, W/m


Sakurai and Shiotsu (1974) Pool Boiling,

Experimental data (Horizontal) Water
Sakurai and Masahiro (1974)
Horizontal and
Experimental data (Vertical) Vertical Plate

50 60 70 80 90 100
Water Temperature, C

Figure 4 Effect of orientation on CHF in pool boiling, experimental data from Sakurai and
Shiotsu (1974), water at 1 atm pressure.

shows a similar plot obtained by Sakurai and Shiotsu (1974) depicting the effect of
subcooling on pool boiling CHF for water at one atmospheric pressure. The two data sets
are for vertical and horizontal orientations. For both data sets, a linear relationship
between CHF and subcooling is seen to be valid in the entire region up to saturation.
Figure 5 shows another plot, also presented by Bergles (1963), representing the effect
of subcooling and mass flux for a smaller diameter tube. Here, the trends are similar to
those seen for the larger diameter tube in Fig. 3, but the effect of subcooling is not seen
until relatively high levels of subcooling are reached.
An increase in mass flux increases the CHF as seen from Figs. 3 and 5. Celata and
Mariani (1999) noted that similar trends are reported by other investigators,
(Weatherhead, 1963; Moon et al., 1996, Chang et al., 1991; Mishima, 1984).

3.1.3 Effect of L, D and L/D ratio

The experimental results for CHF are presented by researchers either for fixed inlet
conditions or for fixed exit conditions. The inlet and outlet conditions are related through
the heat flux, mass flux, tube or channel dimensions and length. Knowing the conditions
at the exit location allows for the formulation of models based on the local conditions,
while the effect of L/D ratio is implicitly accounted for when the inlet fluid condition is
known. The two-phase flow patterns are dependent on the history of flow.
Bergles (1963) studied the effect of the L/D ratio on CHF. Their results are shown in
Figs. 6 and 7. As the L/D ratio increases, the CHF decreases, becoming independent for
L/D>30. The effect of diameter for a fixed outlet fluid temperature and with L/D=25 is
shown in Fig. 7 for two mass fluxes. The CHF increases with decreasing tube diameter
and with increasing mass flux; the effect becomes less significant for tube diameters
above 5 mm.

G = 3024kg/m2s

40,000,000 6062

CHF, W/m


Po = 207kPa
L = 25D
D = 1.2mm
-200 -100 0 100 200 300
Local Excess Enthalpy at CHF, (hs - hb)o, kJ/kg

Figure 5 Effect of subcooling and mass velocity on CHF, additional data from Bergles (1963).


CHF, W/m

Po = 207Mpa
5,000,000 (Ts - Tb)o = 18.3K
G = 3038kg/m2s
D = 2.4mm

0 10 20 30 40

Figure 6 Effect of L/D on subcooled flow boiling CHF, Bergles (1963).

G = 3038 kg/m2 s


No Burnout at System Limit

20,000,000 Burnout with Upstream
CHF, W/m

Compressible Volume
Po = 207kPa
(Ts - Tb)o = 19.4K
10,000,000 L = 25D

0 0.001 0.002 0.003 0.004 0.005 0.006 0.007

Tube Diameter, m

Figure 7 Dependence of subcooled flow boiling CHF on tube diameter and mass flux, Bergles

Boyd (1990) performed extensive experiments to study the effect of L/D ratio on
CHF. He concludes that a single value of L/D cannot be proposed beyond which the
CHF is independent of the ratio. The L/D effect also depends on other flow parameters,
including channel diameter, subcooling, mass velocity, and diameter.
Nariai et al. (1987) and Inasaka and Nariai (1987) conducted experiments to study
the effect of tube diameter, tube length and mass flux on CHF. Figures 8 and 9 show

80,000 D L D L
G = 20000kg/m2 s
mm cm mm cm
1 1 1 5
2 1 2 5
60,000 3 1 3 5
1 3 2 10
2 3 3 10

3 3
CHF, W/m



-0.15 -0.1 -0.05 0 0.05
Exit Quality

Figure 8 Effect of tube diameter on subcooled flow boiling CHF at high mass flux, Inasaka and
Nariai (1987).

60,000 D L D L
G = 7000kg/m s mm cm mm cm
1 1 1 5
2 1 2 5
3 1 3 5
1 3 2 10
40,000 2 3 3 10

3 3
CHF, W/m


-0.15 -0.1 -0.05 0 0.05
Exit Quality

Figure 9 Effect of tube diameter on subcooled flow boiling CHF at low mass flux, Nariai and
Inasaka (1992).

their results for high and low mass fluxes respectively. At the high mass flux shown in
Fig. 8, the CHF increases with a decrease of both the tube diameter and the length. At
low mass fluxes however, both effects disappear for sufficiently high values of L and D.
It was also noted by Nariai et al. that the CHF values are higher in the region where the
L and D effects are significant.
In order to define the region of influence, Inasaka and Nariai (1987) classified the
CHF into high heat flux and low heat flux regions with mass flux as a parameter. Figure
10 shows the two regions separated by a transition zone that depends on the mass flux.
In the high heat flux region, the effects of L and D are significant. This region may be
seen as the entrance region where the flow is still developing.
Beyond the entrance region effect, CHF may be treated as a local phenomenon.
Groeneveld et al. (1995) compared the data from various sources and presented the
diameter effect in a plot. Each point on the plot represents a data set from literature. The
following equation summarizes this effect.

CHF  D in mm 
=  (2)
CHF8mm  8 

The data sets were correlated well with a value of n = –1/2 for tubes below 8 mm
diameter, while n = –1/3 fitted the data better for tubes above 8 mm diameter.

3.1.4 Effect of Channel Orientation

The channel orientation plays a role only when the flow rates are small. Celata and
Mariani (1999) propose a criterion based on the comparison of the buoyancy to inertia
forces. They used a modified Froude number, given by the following equation.

m& cos φ
Fr = (3)
1/ 2
  ρ − ρG 
ρ L  gD L 
  ρ L 

where Fr – Froude number, m& - mass flux, kg/m2s, φ - angle of inclination of the tube
with horizontal, ρ L , ρ G - liquid and vapor density, kg/m3, g – acceleration due to
gravity, m2/s, and D – tube diameter, m.
The effects due to orientation and stratification disappear for the modified Froude
number greater than 5-7. Although high mass fluxes are often employed in the nuclear
applications, the mass fluxes may be quite small in some of the new application areas,
such as electronic cooling. In such applications, the orientation effects may become
significant. In terms of the parametric trends at low mass fluxes, the CHF is highest for
the vertical upflow, lowest for the vertical downflow, and intermediate for the horizontal
case in the subcooled region.
Mirshak and Towell (1961) found that the CHF in vertical upflow increased with
subcooling, while it had very little effect in downflow at low mass velocities. Similar

Figure 10 High and low heat flux regions defined by Nariai and Inasaka (1992).

observations were made by Papell et al. (1966) based on their experimental study with
liquid nitrogen in a 12.5 mm diameter tube. In certain cases at low mass velocities, the
CHF was reduced to a very low value. It clearly demonstrates the role that buoyancy
plays in arriving at the CHF condition. It may also be noted that none of the existing
models on CHF explicitly account for the buoyancy effect in their formulation.

3.1.5 Additional important variables that need to be investigated

The similarity between the CHF in subcooled flow boiling and in pool boiling is quite
remarkable. Specifically, the following observations can be made:

a) The weak influence of pressure on the CHF is identical in flow boiling CHF and pool
boiling CHF (see Figs. 1 and 2).

b) The influence of subcooling on the CHF is very similar in the two cases (see Figs. 3
and 4).

c) Orientation has a definite effect on CHF in pool boiling, a vertical plate has a lower
CHF than a horizontal plate. In flow boiling, the effect is complicated due to flow
direction and the presence of inertia forces which affect the bubble removal. At low

mass fluxes, the vertical upflow has a higher CHF, while the vertical downflow has a
lower CHF compared to the horizontal flow case.

From the above comparison, it can be seen that the essential characteristics of the
pool boiling CHF are retained in the flow boiling CHF as well, especially at low mass
fluxes. With this in mind, the following three important parameters, which have been
long recognized to influence the pool boiling CHF, are recommended for further

1. Effect of Contact Angle

2. Effect of Surface Roughness
3. Effect of Surface Tension

Kandlikar (2000) summarizes these effects on pool boiling CHF. Figure 11 shows
the variation of CHF with contact angle as reported by Dhir and Liaw (1989). As the
contact angle increases, the CHF decreases. In fact, according to Gaertner (1963), it
approaches a dangerously low value for contact angles above 130 degrees. It is therefore
expected that the variation in contact angle will have a significant influence on the flow
boiling CHF as well. Effects of contact angle on CHF in flow boiling have not been
investigated in the literature. This is an area where further research is warranted.
Surface roughness affects CHF in two ways. A very large roughness structure causes
changes in the liquid flow over the heater surface. The apparent effect of such a structure
is similar to an increase in mass flux or the presence of inserts. The presence of large
roughness structures therefore results in an improvement in CHF.
Haramura (1999) presents a detailed discussion on the influence of surface roughness
and surface tension in pool boiling CHF. The influence of surface roughness on nucleate
boiling heat transfer and CHF in pool boiling provides some insight into the CHF
mechanism of subcooled flow boiling. As Ramilison and Lienhard (1987) and Haramura
(1991) report, increasing the surface roughness from a mirror finish to that obtained with
a #80 emery paper resulted in a 25-35% improvement in CHF. However, since the effect
of nucleation site density or the surface structure was not reported in these studies, the
mechanism for this enhancement is not clearly understood.
Effect of surface roughness on CHF for vertical downward annular flow was studied
by Durant and Mirshak (1960). When the roughness induced friction factor was changed
by a factor of 2.9 over a smooth tube of the same dimensions, CHF increased by 100%.
This effect was believed to be due to the increased turbulence caused by the roughness
A number of studies conducted by previous researchers on roughness effect on CHF
indicate the enhancement to be due to the increased turbulence at the wall. Merely
changing the roughness using simple polishing techniques does not change the
nucleation characteristics as was observed by Kandlikar and Spiesman (1997). It is
therefore recommended that a porous structure, or other structured surface, such
as Thermoexcel-E or Gewa-T, be employed in flow boiling to distinguish the surfaces
from the viewpoint of nucleation characteristics. Yilmaz and Westwater (1981) report

Figure 11 Effect of contact angle on CHF in pool boiling, experimental data of Liaw and Dhir
(1986), water on vertical plate, 1 atm pressure.

significant enhancement in CHF for such structured surfaces in pool boiling; these
surfaces may possess potential for CHF enhancement in flow boiling as well.
Avedisian and Koplik (1987) studied the Leidenfrost phenomenon for methanol
droplet falling on a porous hot surface. They obtained dramatic improvements in the
Leidenfrost temperature, up to 620 K, with the porous surface. The improved wetting
characteristics of the surface was responsible for the continuation of nucleate boiling
mechanism at such high wall superheat conditions (saturation temperature of methanol
was 338 K). The Leidenfrost temperatures measured by Avedisian and Koplik for the
plain surface, and surfaces with porosities of 10% and 25% were 443 K, 570 K and 645
K respectively. For the surface with 40% porosity, the Leidenfrost temperature could not
be reached due to the system limitations.


The size of the bubbles over a heated surface decreases as the subcooling increases. In
their photographic study, Mattson et al. (1973) show that the bubble population in the
vicinity of the heater surface and the bubble size both decrease as the subcooling
increases. It therefore seems that, at a higher subcooling at least, the bubble crowding or
liquid starvation to the heated surface may not be valid mechanisms leading to CHF

4.1 Photographic Observations

Earlier studies by Gunther (1951) and Mattson et al. (1973) provide useful insights
into the mechanism leading to the departure from nucleate boiling. Although these

studies are over 25-50 years old, they are still one of the best resources available in
developing our understanding of the CHF phenomenon.
Gunther (1951) obtained high speed photographs at 20,000 frames per second and
noted that the bubbles became smaller as the subcooling increased. Eventually, with an
increase in heat flux, a local vapor film was formed on the heater surface leading to the
CHF condition. Mattson et al. focused their study to determine whether the boundary
layer separation was the cause for the transition to the CHF condition. They noted that
“There were no macroscopic flow pattern changes which could be characterized as
abrupt or violent, and there were no oscillations in (a) bubble flow trajectories above the
DNB location, (b) slope of the bubble boundary layer near the DNB location, and (c)
velocity and trajectory of the vapor. None of these changes were observed.” In light of
these observations, it may be concluded that CHF condition is a local phenomenon
initiated by conditions existing in the immediate vicinity of the heater surface.
A number of studies have been conducted to obtain photographic evidence at the
CHF location. Tippets (1962) obtained pictures at a frame rate of 4300 frames per
second in both subcooled and low quality regions. He observed vapor streams coming
from the edges of a heater ribbon close to the CHF location. Hosler (1965), Kirby et al.
(1965), and Tong et al. (1966) conducted photographic studies near the CHF condition.
Hosler observed vapor patches developing on the heater surface just prior to CHF, Kirby
et al. observed that at high subcoolings and high heat fluxes, bubbles coalesced and slid
along the heater surface. However, they also confirm Gunther’s (1951) observation that
there were no noticeable changes in the flow pattern at the CHF location. Tong (1972)
measured temperature along the length of the heated surface in the flow direction and
noted temperature fluctuations in the wall near the CHF location.
The photographic studies carried out by Chandra and Avedisian (1991, 1992) on a
droplet impinging on a hot surface reveal interesting information regarding the initiation
of the CHF condition. Although the liquid droplet is spreading on the heater surface, the
rapid evaporation at the edges causes the edges to curl back with a significant increase in
the contact angle. This effect increases with increasing wall temperatures. The absence
of any vapor plumes near the CHF suggests that this phenomenon is highly localized at
the solid-liquid-vapor contact line and is dictated by the movement of the contact line
and the spreading of a vapor film as postulated by Kandlikar (2000).

4.2 Theoretical Models

Celata (1999) summarizes the previous models in the following five categories.

1. Boundary Layer Ejection Model

2. Critical Enthalpy in the Bubble Layer Model
3. Liquid Flow Blockage Model
4. Vapor Removal Limit and Near-wall Bubble Crowding Model, and
5. Liquid Sublayer Dryout Model

Boundary Layer Ejection Model. This model was originally proposed by

Kutatleadze and Leont’ev (1966). The boiling mechanism is compared with the injection
of a gas stream into the liquid flow through a permeable plate. The ejection of bubbles
into the mainstream is postulated to be the cause of the boundary layer separation at the
heater surface. However, the photographic study conducted by Mattson et al. (1973)
does not show any abrupt changes in the macroscopic structure of the flow near the CHF
location. The high velocity vapor ejection from the heater surface into the flow was also
not observed.
Critical Enthalpy In The Bubble Layer Model. This model was proposed by Tong et
al. (1966). They assume that a layer of small bubbles flowing adjacent to the heater
surface traps the liquid between the bubble layer and the heated surface. This bubble
layer separates the trapped superheated liquid layer from the mainstream. They
postulated that the CHF condition is reached when this superheated liquid layer attains a
certain limiting enthalpy. This model does not provide a clear explanation of the CHF
phenomenon other than stating the existence of a critical liquid enthalpy in the
superheated liquid layer. Fiori and Bergles (1970) suggest that, based on their
observations, the CHF condition results from a periodic wall temperature rise followed
by a disruption of the liquid film caused by nucleate boiling. Kirby et al. (1965)
observed such wall temperature behavior near the CHF location; however, the actual
CHF mechanism is not clearly described by this model.
Liquid Flow Blockage Model. Bergel’son (1980) proposed this model based on the
assumption that the flow of the liquid toward the heated surface is blocked by the
outflow of vapor from the heater surface. This behavior may be feasible under very low
mass flux conditions where the liquid and vapor flow structure is similar to that in the
case of pool boiling. However, the vapor flow away from the wall is not seen to be a
limiting factor in subcooled flow boiling. Due to the inadequate evidence supporting this
mechanism, this model is not being pursued by other researchers.
Vapor Removal Limit And Near-Wall Bubble Crowding Model. This model is based
on the limit of the turbulent interchange between the bubbly layer and the bulk of the
liquid, and the crowding of the bubbles preventing the liquid access to the heated wall
(Hebel et al., 1981).
Weisman and Pei (1983) consider the existence of a bubbly layer adjacent to the wall
at subcooled or low quality conditions. Although their model assumes the existence of a
bubbly layer, the enthalpy transport from this bubbly layer to the bulk flow is considered
as the limiting factor leading to the CHF condition. They consider the CHF to be a local
phenomenon. The liquid region in the immediate vicinity of the heater fills with bubbles
building a bubbly layer. In this region, the turbulent eddy size is insufficient to transport
the bubbles away from the heater surface. At the CHF location, this layer is assumed to
be at its maximum thickness. It is postulated that the CHF condition occurs when the
volume fraction of vapor in the bubbly layer just exceeds the critical volume fraction at
which an array of ellipsoidal bubbles can be maintained without significant contact
between the bubbles. Weisman and Pei used the homogeneous flow model in the bubbly
layer. The resulting model has three adjustable empirical constants that are evaluated
from the experimental data. This model includes the two-phase considerations that are
readily extendable to the saturated flow conditions as well.

Liquid Sublayer Dryout Model. Katto and Yokoya (1968) proposed a preliminary
model describing the macrolayer dryout as the mechanism leading to CHF in pool
boiling. Later, Haramura and Katto (1983) completed the model development by
introducing the mechanism for macrolayer formation in both pool and flow boiling.
Further description of the pool boiling CHF model is given by Haramura (1999). Figure
12 shows a schematic of the macrolayer model. According to this model, as a result of
the Helmholtz instability, the columnar structure of vapor stems collapses with a vapor
film blanketing a thin liquid film on the heater surface. Numerous vapor stems emerge
on the heater surface thorough this liquid film. Under flow conditions, both the liquid
sublayer and the vapor film move in the flow direction. Entrainment and deposition
phenomena are ignored because they are presumed to be scarce. Under these conditions,
liquid is fed into the film from the upstream end, while it depletes along the flow
direction due to evaporation. CHF condition is reached when the heat supplied by the
heater surface provides the necessary latent heat required to completely evaporate the
liquid entering the film. Katto (1990a, b) provided a detailed description of the model
based on the macrolayer evaporation. Their model uses several empirical constants in
determining the liquid film thickness, the liquid film flow rate, and temperature of the
liquid entering into the sublayer.
Lee and Mudawar (1988) considered the effect of velocity in the subcooled flow in
terms of stretching the large bubble in Haramura and Katto (1983) model to a vapor
blanket of length equal to the critical Helmholtz wavelength, as shown in Fig. 13. The
vapor blanket separates the bulk flow from a thin sublayer trapped between the vapor
blanket and the heated surface. The bubble moves at a velocity ub while the sublayer
moves at a velocity of um. The sublayer is depleted if the rate of evaporation from the
sublayer exceeds the rate at which the sublayer is replenished due to the difference in
velocities of the sublayer and the vapor blanket. The sublayer mass velocity, its
thickness, and the vapor blanket length were calculated by considering the buoyancy and
drag forces acting on the vapor blanket. Their modeling resulted in a correlation scheme
with three empirical constants, which were determined from a large set of experimental
Celata et al. (1994) eliminated the empirical constants in the Katto, and Lee and
Mudawar models by using the homogeneous flow model and by introducing appropriate
correlations from available literature to calculate the sublayer thickness, flow rate,
enthalpies, and vapor blanket length. However, the basic features of the model are
similar to those proposed by Lee and Mudawar (1988).

Figure 12 Macrolayer dryout model schematic proposed by Haramura and Katto (1983).

Figure 13 Schematic representation of the onset of the subclayer dryout leading to CHF in
subcooled flow boiling, Lee and Mudawar (1988).

4.3 Comparison of Correlations

Inasaka and Nariai (1996) compared the correlations by Gunther (1951 ), Knoebel et al.
(1993), modified Tong (1975) correlation, Weisman and Pei (1983), Celata et al. (1994),
and Katto (1991). The Celata correlation provided the best predictions, while the Tong,
and Weisman and Pei correlations yielded reasonably good agreement with the data.
From a predictive standpoint, the Celata correlation is perhaps the best among the
available correlations.

Due to the lack of a reliable mechanistic model, it is necessary to rely on the

experimental CHF data specific to a system being considered. Tong and Tang (1997)
provide a good collection of available correlations from various sources for specific flow
and fluid conditions.

4.4 Comments on current models for describing CHF mechanism in subcooled

flow boiling

The photographic studies conducted by Gunther (1951), Mattson et al. (1973) and others
as described earlier are perhaps the best direct evidence of the conditions existing at the
heated wall near the CHF condition. The discrete nature of bubbles seen in Gunther’s
photographs just prior to CHF confirm that CHF is a local phenomenon and the
conditions existing adjacent to the heater surface are most critical. The absence of any
severe changes in the flow following CHF, as evidenced by Mattson et al.’s
photographs, confirms the existence of a thin vapor film covering the heater surface. The
temperature excursion experienced by the heater surface cannot be overlooked in
describing the CHF phenomenon.
Although the macrolayer evaporation models utilizing either empirical constants
(Katto, 1990a, 1990b, 1992, or Lee and Mudawar, 1988) or empirical correlations
(Celata et al., 1994) provide satisfactory modeling capabilities, it is far from clear how
the CHF is actually initiated. The phenomenon is highly localized and occurs very
rapidly. Photographing the heater surface is complicated by the presence of nucleating
bubbles, the two-phase flow, and the rapidly moving interface.
The current state of available information therefore indicates that the CHF
mechanism is still not completely understood. A better model description will be arrived
at after gaining further insight into the leading causes of the vapor blanketing of a heater


Detailed surveys of the augmentation techniques and devices are provided by Boyd
(1985) and Celata (1999). The augmentation techniques can be classified as:

Passive techniques
• Twisted tapes and swirl flow devices
• Helically coiled tubes
• Surface roughness
• Extended surfaces

Active techniques
• Vibrations

• Electric field effect

• Gas injection

Only the first three passive techniques will be considered in this review.

5.1 Twisted Tapes inserts and Swirl Flow Devies

Twisted tapes have been studied by Gambill and Greene (1958), Gambill et al. (1961),
Nariai et al. (1991), Cardella et al. (1992), Doeffer et al. (1996), Doeffer and Groeneveld
et al. (1999), and Doeffer et al. (2000). These studies show that, for almost all cases,
CHF increases with twisted tape inserts. The enhancement is higher as the spacing
becomes shorter, or in the case of helically corrugated tubes, as the obstruction area
increases. The enhancement increases with the twist ratio, reaching a threefold value
over a plain tube for the largest twist ratio and largest mass flux tested. Similar
enhancements were observed for helically coiled tubes by Jensen and Bergles (1981),
and Berthoud and Jayanti (1990).
Sturgis and Mudawar (1999) conducted a study to understand the mechanism of CHF
enhancement under the influence of acceleration caused by the curvature. Curved and
straight channels, 5x2.5 mm in cross-section, and curved with a 32.3 mm radius, were
tested. The outer wall of the curved channel, 5 mm wide, was heated with a curved
heater. Sturgis and Mudawar found that the vapor removal process was affected by the
presence of the induced buoyancy. Large vapor bubbles were torn away from the heater
surface in the curved channel. The effect was seen through the changes in the wetting
front of the liquid rewetting the heater surface, immediately following the passage of a
large vapor bubble. For all tests conducted with the curved channel, an enhancement in
CHF over straight channel was noted. The following mechanisms were proposed as
being responsible for the enhancement.

• Better vapor removal by pinching the bubbles off from the heated outer wall,
• Buoyancy force providing better rewetting characteristics, and
• Increase in the subcooling due to increased pressure at the outer wall of the curved

Figure 14 shows the three mechanisms suggested by Sturgis and Mudawar. They
obtained clear pictures of the side view of the flow channel supporting the above
Twisted tape inserts and swirl flow devices are the leading techniques for enhancing
the CHF in flow boiling systems. The buoyancy force provided by the centrifugal
acceleration is seen as the key factor responsible for the enhancement.

5.2 Suggestions for Future Research on Subcooled Flow Boiling CHF

The current efforts by researchers on modeling CHF in subcooled flow boiling have
been largely focused on the flow in plain tubes. As the new technologies emerge, the

(a) (b) (c)

Figure 14 Heat transfer mechanism suggested by Sturgis and Mudawar (1999) showing (a) the
inward motion of the bubble due to buoyancy forces, (b) increased pressure on liquid-vapor
interface at wetting fronts, and (c) increased subcooling at the wall.

system configuration could change to miniaturized passages. The bubble behavior in

small passages, such as microchannels is not well understood.
Another area that merits further study is the effect of contact angle, surface tension,
and surface characteristics. All these parameters are known to influence the CHF in pool
boiling. There are no systematic studies available in literature that describe the effects of
these parameters on subcooled flow boiling CHF.
The augmentation of CHF is an important area in improving the high-flux device
capabilities. The following two types of surfaces have been used extensively in the
pool/flow boiling enhancement, but relatively little attention has been given to them
from the CHF standpoint.

• Microfin surfaces
• Structured (Gewa-T and Thermoexcel-E type) and porous surfaces

Since nucleate boiling is the underlying mechanism leading to the CHF condition,
significant enhancements are expected with porous and microfin surfaces in flow boiling
application as well. Experiments are needed to confirm this so that the current CHF limit
in many high-flux systems could be extended considerably.


D tube diameter, m
Fr Froude number
g acceleration due to gravity, m2/s
m& mass flux, kg/m2s

q& heat flux, W/m2

u flow velocity, m/s
∆Tsub liquid subcooling, K
φ angle of inclination of the tube with horizontal
ρ L , ρG liquid and vapor density, kg/m3


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