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Heat transfer in the boiling regime

Frank Mucciardi and Guohui Zheng McGill University Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering 3610 University St. Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B2


Numerous metallurgical systems use water cooling to control heat extraction. While water is an excellent medium in many cases, it can, nonetheless, pose problems in high heat flux applications, especially if localized boiling is encountered. Moreover, the result may be catastrophic if the heat transfer is dominated by film boiling. A series of tests were devised to study the transition between nucleate (free) boiling and film boiling in closed systems. While classical studies of boiling are configured to examine a heated solid surface in a body of fluid, the present study used a novel approach whereby the water formed the working fluid of a heat pipe. Nucleate and film boiling were clearly discernible. Moreover, during the course of the study we discovered an interesting strategy for averting film boiling. Heat flux measurements show that heat transfer can be enhanced by an order of magnitude or more with the modification we developed. These results can have important implications in some water cooled systems currently in use. This paper briefly reviews boiling heat transfer theory and then details the experiments that were conducted to illustrate how boiling heat transfer can be enhanced and how film boiling can be avoided.


heat pipe, boiling, flow modification, nucleate boiling, film boiling, water, heat transfer, zinc.

INTRODUCTION Boiling heat transfer has been and continues to be the focus of attention of numerous researchers. Most studies and, in particular, those dealing with industrial processes are centered on the boiling of water. In many of these processes where water is used for cooling, researchers have focused on how to avoid boiling in the units they designed. To fully appreciate why this is so, it is necessary for one to have a basic understanding of the boiling phenomenon. To this end, this paper begins by presenting some background on boiling. It then goes on to describe a device known as a heat pipe, which normally operates in the boiling regime. Experimental data from several experiments are then presented to illustrate how boiling can be controlled and heat extraction optimized. Boiling Heat Transfer Boiling heat transfer occurs when a liquid with a saturation temperature, Tsat , contacts a surface with an interfacial temperature, Tw. The saturation temperature of the liquid is the equilibrium temperature at which the fluid develops a vapor pressure that equals the pressure of the system. Numerical values can be determined from the wellknown pressure-temperature correlation referred to as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Boiling heat transfer data is normally shown plotted as the logarithm of the heat flux to the surface against the logarithm of the temperature difference, Tw-Tsat . This excess temperature differential represents the driving force for boiling. If the wall temperature is less than the saturation temperature, boiling will not occur. However, if the wall temperature exceeds the saturation temperature of the liquid, boiling heat transfer will be dominant. A typical boiling curve is shown in Fig. 1 (1). To fully appreciate the boiling phenomenon, one must be aware of the regimes that comprise the boiling curve. Consider the lower boiling curve shown in Fig. 1 and denoted by the label, natural convection. Up until point B, the excess temperature differential does not lead to the formation of vapor bubbles. Natural convection within the liquid is sufficient to move heat from the wall to the bulk of the liquid. At point B, vapor bubbles begin to nucleate on the surface. As the wall temperature is increased, the rate of bubble nucleation increases as does the heat flux from the surface. This regime, as denoted by the labels B-C, is referred to as the nucleate boiling regime. At point C, the maximum heat flux for nucleate boiling is reached. This is referred to as the critical heat flux (CHF). At the CHF, the wall temperature exceeds the saturation temperature by a fixed amount. If the wall temperature is increased, the heat flux from the wall surface decreases until point D is reached. The reason for the declining heat flux is the formation of a vapor film over the surface area of the wall. This film acts as a heat transfer barrier and prevents the liquid from contacting the wall. This phenomenon occurs as a progressive event in that the greater is the wall temperature, the greater is the coverage of

the wall by the film and the more stable the film becomes. This regime, as delineated by the labels C-D, is referred to as partial film boiling. At point D, coverage of the surface by the film is complete and heat transfer by film boiling becomes dominant. The film boiling regime extends from point D to point E. The reason why heat transfer increases in this region relates to the fact that radiation across the vapor film dominates. Given that radiative heat transfer increases by the fourth power of temperature, the heat flux from the wall increases in the film boiling regime.

Figure 1 Typical Boiling Curves for Natural and Forced Convection. The set of curves in the upper left hand quadrant of Fig. 1 correspond to the boiling curves for forced convection systems wherein the liquid flows over the wall surface. As the bulk velocity of the liquid is increased, the boiling curve is shifted upward. Thus, increasing velocities allow for greater heat extraction for a given excess temperature, Tw-Tsat . In addition, the forced convection set of curves is for a constant pressure. If the pressure is increased, then T also increases. As a result, one can operate sat in the nucleate boiling regime at higher wall temperatures without experiencing film boiling with higher system pressures. If the operating pressure is lowered, one may experience film boiling for an identical wall temperature. As an illustration of natural convection boiling heat transfer, Fig. 2 presents the boiling curve for water on a horizontal, electrically heated wire (2). Also shown are the corresponding heat transfer coefficients. Boiling is sensitive to configuration and as such these results are only included to illustrate how the regimes of boiling interact with each other.

Water cooling dominates many metallurgical processes. When heat fluxes are relatively large, it is important to prevent film boiling by imposing water velocities and pressures that correspond to nucleate boiling f r the system. Otherwise, if a portion of the o system experiences film boiling, the wall in that region will be subjected to dramatic increases in temperature and may ultimately fail. Classical metallurgical examples where water cooling predominates are the continuous casting of steel, the DC casting of aluminum, and rolling in general. On the other hand the boiling phenomenon can be used as the primary means for transferring heat. A device which uses boiling and, specifically the vaporization and the condensation of a working fluid, to transfer energy from one location to another is referred to as a heat pipe. The next section gives a brief overview of what a heat pipe is.

Figure 2 Boiling Curve for Water on a Heated Wire. Heat Pipe Heat pipes were first developed in the 1940s by Gaugler (3) of GM, however, it was not until the early 1960s when NASA realized their potential that rapid development began with the work of Grover (4). In general terms, a heat pipe is a heat transfer device that utilizes the vaporization and condensation of a working substance contained within to move energy from the evaporator section to the condenser section. It is, in effect, a superconductor of heat energy. Tests have shown that a heat pipe can be as effective in transporting energy as 1,000 times the equivalent quantity of copper under similar heat transfer conditions (i.e. temperature driving force). Typically, most heat pipe applications involve the use of heat pipes in vertical or inclined positions. Thus, for the purpose of illustrating the operation of a heat pipe, it is instructive to consider the simple vertical orientation as illustrated in Fig. 3. The heat pipe consists of a sealed pipe shell, circular or otherwise, containing a working substance. During heat pipe operation, heat is introduced to the pipe from the heat source. At this section of the heat pipe, the working substance evaporates. Thus, the section of the heat pipe exposed to the heat source is termed the evaporator. The vapor flows to the heat sink section of the heat pipe (the condenser) where it condenses on the pipe wall and returns to the evaporator by gravity in liquid form.

Numerous papers and patents have been issued since heat pipes gained prominence in the early 1960s. In addition, a number of textbooks have also been written on the subject. The reader is referred to references (5-7) for a detailed account of heat pipe principles. Two aspects of heat pipes are worth mentioning at this point because they are fundamental to the successful operation of a heat pipe. Figure 3 Classical, Vertical Heat Pipe. The first aspect of the heat pipe as depicted in Fig. 3 is that it only contains molecules of the working substance fluid. Non-condensable gases are excluded with vacuum pumping systems. Thus, at low temperatures the heat pipe is at a vacuum, which approximates the partial pressure of the fluid at that temperature. The other aspect of importance is the nature of the inner surfaces of the evaporator and condenser. It is essential that the liquid in the pipe coat all surfaces uniformly. To this end, the surfaces are fitted with a wick comprising several wraps of fine screen (e.g. 100 mesh) to capitalize on the capillary forces of the wick. Boiling in a Water-Based Heat Pipe An extensive study of boiling in a heat pipe has been carried out. Because of space limitations, only a few selected results will be presented. As a heat pipe is a closed system, the present authors have not found any studies that have reported on the modification of the boiling phenomenon in a heat pipe. This paper is the first to describe attempts to enhance the boiling or burnout limit (i.e. maximum heat flux) of a heat pipe a parameter that permeates the heat pipe literature. There is little agreement about the magnitude of the boiling limit in a heat pipe. So many parameters (e.g. configuration, wick, charge) have an influence that one must ultimately carry out experimental work to determine the boiling limit for ones particular system. What can be said however is that the classical boiling curve for water as shown in Fig. 2 greatly overstates the critical heat flux for a conventional heat pipe. In fact, one would be safe to assume that the critical heat flux for a heat pipe is about one o rder of magnitude less (8,9). Thus, for water one may expect that the critical heat flux is several hundred kWs/m2 as opposed to several thousand kWs/m2 . However, the work we are about to present dramatically changes this scenario. We have developed a new heat pipe which is characterized by greatly increased critical heat fluxes. Subsequent sections

describe this unit and compare some results we have obtained to those of a conventional heat pipe.

EXPERIMENTAL To achieve both uniform and large heat fluxes we decided to use a bath of molten zinc. Thus, two heat pipes of identical size were constructed. A schematic of the conventional heat pipe is shown in Fig. 4. The evaporator portion of the heat pipe was made by drilling a hole 18 mm in diameter in a s olid 304 stainless steel (SS) bar of 46 mm diameter. The bottom of the bar was left with a 29 mm thickness of stainless. A condenser, including an air cooled jacket, was welded onto the opening of the bar. The inside of the pipe was fitted with 3 wraps of 100 mesh SS wick. The heat pipe was made with a thermocouple well extending to within 2 cm of the bottom of the evaporator chamber. The pipe was charged with 150 g of distilled water and evacuated. The new heat pipe was identical with the exception that the inside of the evaporator was fitted with a twisted tape element, which made a complete turn over a length of 5.4 cm. The thermocouple well was shortened and extended up to the top of the twisted tape. A photograph of the twisted tape element is shown in Fig. 5.

Figure 4 Conventional Heat Pipe for Testing in Zinc.

Figure 5 Twisted Tape Flow Modifier.

The tests were conducted by immersing varying lengths of the leading end of the evaporator into the molten zinc. For each immersion tested, the temperatures of the heat pipe, zinc melt and outlet cooling air were recorded as a function of time. Also recorded was the flow rate of cooling air. The inlet temperature of the cooling air was relatively constant and only noted each day. Several deviations of the above procedure were also used. These will be described as the results are presented. All the immersion trials were conducted in a melt of about 25 kg of commercial purity zinc with a melting point of about 420o C. The melt was contained in an alumina crucible of 15 cm internal diameter. Unless otherwise noted, the cooling air flow rate was about 15.3 Nl/s.

RESULTS A sampling of the results will now be presented to illustrate how the new heat pipe with the internal flow modifier compared with the conventional heat pipe. The tests are divided into 4 categories: a) immersion, b) cooling, c) heating, and d) removal from the melt. Each of these categories is used to illustrate the effect of internal flow modification on heat pipe performance.

Figure 6 Staged Immersion of Conventional Heat Pipe in Zinc.

Immersion Into Molten Zinc The conventional heat pipe with no flow modifier was immersed in molten zinc in 4 stages. Initially, 2 cm were immersed. This was then increased to 3 cm and then to 4.5 cm and finally to 6 cm. The results of this test are shown in Fig. 6. One can see from these results that after the initial immersion of 2 cm, the gains in heat extraction as more of the pipe was inserted were modest. The bath temperature changed little following the 2 cm immersion.

Figure 7 Staged Immersion of Modified Heat Pipe in Zinc.

Figure 8 Modified Heat Pipe With Frozen Zinc Accretion.

Contrast these results to those obtained under similar conditions with the heat pipe that was fitted with an internal flow modifier as shown in Fig. 7. One can see that the heat pipe extracted substantially more heat. In fact, the rate of heat extraction was sufficient to cause the melt to cool an appreciable amount. Because of the declining melt temperature, the rate of heat extraction, as computed from the cooling air outlet temperature, did not increase in proportion to the length immersed. A photograph of the heat pipe after removal from the melt is shown in Fig. 8. A layer of zinc had frozen on the pipe because of the low superheat of the melt at the end of the test. Also apparent is the smooth contour of the zinc layer, which indicates that heat extraction was uniform.

It is to be noted that the outlet temperature of the cooling air is directly proportional to the rate of heat extraction. Clearly, the flow modifier had a profound effect on the rate of heat extraction and thus on the heat flux the water was able to absorb. Even though only one set of results for each pipe is presented, the tests were

repeated on numerous occasions with similar results. The difference between the heat extraction capabilities of the 2 pipes was ascribed to the fact that the mode of boiling in the 2 pipes differed. Whereas the conventional pipe was operating in the film boiling regime, the new pipe with a flow modifier was operating in the nucleate boiling regime. Freezing in Zinc Given the different modes of boiling in the 2 pipes, it was postulated that if the pipes were allowed to freeze in the zinc after the power to the furnace was switched off, it would be possible to determine if film boiling was a factor. Thus, the conventional heat pipe immersed to a depth of 4 cm was allowed to freeze in the zinc as the temperatures were recorded. The results are shown in Fig. 9.

Figure 9 Freezing of Conventional Heat Pipe (4 cm) in Zinc.

Figure 10 - Freezing of Conventional Heat Pipe (5 cm) in Zinc.

Figure 11 Freezing of Modified Heat Pipe (3 cm) in Zinc.

Figure 12 Cooling of Conventional Heat Pipe in Air.

An examination of the curves shows that when the zinc had cooled down to about 300o C, the heat pipe and cooling air outlet temperatures both increased sharply. This indicates that film boiling was prevalent prior to this point. When the film became

unstable and collapsed, the heat flux into the pipe showed a sudden increase as reflected by the curves. In addition, the cooling rate of the frozen zinc also showed a sudden increase. A repeat of this test with an immersion depth of 5 cm produced the results shown in Fig. 10. Once again the presence of film boiling is discernible. At a zinc temperature of about 250o C, the heat pipe and cooling air temperatures showed dramatic increases. This indicates the collapse of the film and the resumption of nucleate boiling. A similar test was carried out with the heat pipe fitted with the flow modifier. In this case, the pipe was immersed 3 cm into the melt. The results are shown in Fig. 11. For this case it was clear that there was no film boiling. The heat pipe and outlet air temperatures followed the same trend as the zinc temperature. Once again the results show that the flow modifier was successful in eliminating film boiling. It is not necessary to solidify the pipe in the zinc to determine if film boiling is dominant. One can simply remove the pipe from the zinc and allow the pipe to cool in the air. This was done for the conventional pipe and the results are shown in Fig. 12. Prior to removing the pipe, the readings were stable. When the pipe was raised from the melt, a decline in both the heat pipe and cooling air temperatures was noted. However, at some point both temperatures began to increase until a maximum was reached. This increase is similar to that shown in Figs. 9 and 10. Thus, this pipe had been operating in the film boiling regime. Similar tests with the flow modified heat pipe do not exhibit this reversal in the cooling curves. Heating in Zinc Given that film boiling is discernible during the cooling of the zinc, the reverse should be true. T hus, if the heat pipe is allowed to solidify in the zinc and cool, one can then study the reheating of the system when the furnace is switched back on. The results from 2 immersion depths (4 and 5 cm) are reported in this paper. All tests were carried out with a cooling air flow rate of 15.3 Nl/s. The results for a 4 cm immersion of the conventional heat pipe are shown in Fig. 13. One can see from these results that as the zinc approached 400o C, the heat pipe and cooling air temperatures showed sudden drops. These were caused by the onset of film boiling. Contrast this with the results for the heat pipe containing the flow modifier as shown in Fig. 14. In this case there is only nucleate boiling. One can see that as the zinc melted and the interfacial resistance was reduced, the rate of heat extraction, as denoted by the cooling air temperature curve, increased to a new level (i.e. an increase of about 50%). A comparison of the 2 pipes for an immersion of 4 cm is shown in Fig. 15. One can see that up to a zinc temperature of about 320o C, the 2 pipes were essentially

identical in heat extraction capability. However, as the zinc melted, the abilities of the 2 pipes to extract heat diverged dramatically.

Figure 13 Heating of Conventional Heat Pipe (4 cm) in Zinc.

Figure 14 Heating of Modified Heat Pipe (4 cm) in Zinc.

Similar tests for immersions of 5 cm were also performed. The results for the conventional pipe are shown in Fig. 16. The effect of film boiling is clear. Moreover, one can see that even as the zinc melt temperature approached 500o C (i.e. 80o C of superheat), the heat pipe was only at about 65o C. The heat extraction at this point was equivalent to that when the zinc was solid and at only about 250o C. With the heat pipe containing the flow modifier, the results shown in Fig. 17 were obtained. Clearly, there was no film boiling in this case. In fact, heat extraction was so intense that as the interfacial resistance between the frozen zinc and the outer heat pipe wall disappeared, it was not possible to supply enough heat to the melt to sustain an increasing melt temperature.

Figure 16 Heating of Conventional Heat Pipe (5 cm) in Zinc.

Figure 17 Heating of Modified Heat Pipe (5 cm) in Zinc. The results from these 2 tests are summarized in Fig. 18. At low zinc temperatures (~250o C) one can see the onset of partial film boiling as the 2 curves start diverging. However, as the zinc/pipe interfacial resistance is eliminated when the zinc melts, the divergence is dramatic. The beneficial effect of the flow modifier in enhancing the boiling limit of the heat pipe is obvious.

Figure 15 Comparison of Heat Extraction for Both Heat Pipes (4 cm).

Figure 18 Comparison of Heat Extraction for Both Heat Pipes (5 cm).

DISCUSSION OF RESULTS The effect of flow modification in a heat pipe was shown by the results of Fig. 7. As more of the heat pipe was inserted, the rate of heat extraction increased. Also notable is the fact that because the melt temperature was decreasing during this period, the rate of heat extraction did not increase in proportion to the increase in area. This was expected as the temperature driving force for convection with the zinc was decreasing. Moreover, as the melt temperature decreased, a layer of zinc froze on the pipe. This created an interfacial resistance, which also caused the rate of heat extraction to slow down. The equivalent results for the un-modified heat pipe are presented in Fig. 6. One can see that when the immersion was increased from 3 cm to 4.5 cm, the total heat extraction actually decreased. This was due to the production of a thicker, more stable vapor film. The experiments dealing with the freezing of the heat pipes in the zinc (Figs. 911) are revealing and clearly illustrate whether a vapor film is present in a heat pipe unit. The greater the immersed length of pipe the greater is the temperature spike when the film collapses as can be seen from Figs. 9 and 10. With the modified heat pipe this temperature spike does not occur as seen from Fig. 11. This confirms that the heat pipe with flow modification did not experience film boiling. Similar phenomena were observed when the heat pipes were first frozen in the zinc and then reheated. Figs. 13 and 16 show the results for the conventional heat pipe

for 4 and 5 cm immersions. As the zinc was heated, heat extraction proceeded smoothly until the zinc temperature range of 250-300o C. The onset of film boiling was then noted as a slowing in the heating up of the heat pipe and the outlet air. Film boiling, however, intensified dramatically when the zinc was around the melting temperature. This is explained by the fact that the interfacial resistance at the zinc/pipe interface decreased at this point. As a result, the heat flux to the pipe increased sufficiently to promote a stable vapor film, which in turn caused the net heat flux to the pipe to decrease substantially. The peak heat flux for the 5 cm immersion depicted in Fig. 18 was computed to be 370.2 kW/m2 . With the onset of film boiling, the heat flux dropped to about this value and it did so in 2 stages. Contrast these results to those shown in Figs 14 and 17, which were carried out under similar conditions. One will note from these results that there is no evidence of film boiling. The heat pipe and cooling air temperature curves track the zinc temperature in a smooth manner with no abrupt changes. The maximum heat flux for the 5 cm immersion was 519.1 kW/m2 . This heat flux would have continued to increase with increasing melt temperature, however, the test was terminated because the zinc temperature could not be increased further. Other tests not reported here have shown that heat fluxes in excess of 1 MW/m2 are attainable. The results from Figs. 13 and 14 for an immersion of 4 cm are summarized in Fig. 15. They are shown as the rate of heat extraction plotted as a function of the temperature of the zinc. One can see that up to a temperature of about 300o C there is no noticeable difference between the 2 pipes. A divergence occurs at this point and persists until the melting of the zinc. As the zinc melts, the un-modified pipe shows a rapid drop in heat extraction. However, the flow modified pipe shows the opposite effect. The melting of the zinc causes an increase in the rate of heat extraction. Similar results for a 5 cm immersion are presented in Fig. 18. Once again one can see the drop in heat extraction for the conventional heat pipe as the zinc melts. On the other hand, heat extraction increases dramatically for the modified heat pipe as the zinc melts. The rapid increase in heat extraction for the modified pipe illustrates how much of an interfacial resistance exists at the solid zinc/pipe interface. As the zinc is melted, this resistance is eliminated (or dramatically reduced) with the result that heat extraction increases greatly. Thus, it is evident that one can easily study interfacial resistances with this technique, which includes using a modified heat pipe. If one measures the slopes of the flow modified heat pipe results shown in Fig. 15, one finds that the rate of heat extraction is on average about 1.6 times that before the elimination of the resistance. In the case shown in Fig. 18, the slope after melting of the zinc is about 3.7 times that before melting. Clearly, these r esults show that the size of the resistance is appreciable and variable.

CONCLUSIONS Film boiling in closed, water-cooled systems can greatly limit the rate of heat extraction. The critical heat flux (CHF) values for open systems are substantially larger than the CHFs for closed confined systems. Thus, one must be cautious when defining the boiling limit (i.e. CHF) for a conventional heat pipe. If a heat pipe system attains the critical heat flux while in transient mode (i.e. still heating up), the heat flux will start declining and the wall temperature will accelerate to higher values. This will continue until steady state is attained. Under such a condition, the heat pipe wall will run hot while the interior of the heat pipe will run cold and the rate of heat extraction will be relatively low. The flow modified heat pipe, incorporating a twisted tape insert, overcomes the above deficiencies by stripping the vapor film from the walls of the heat pipe. In this way, the heat pipe can be viewed as operating in the forced convection domain. As a result, this pipe can be operated at heat fluxes that can be up to an order of magnitude greater than those typically associated with a water-based, conventional heat pipe. Comparative tests in the laboratory have confirmed these findings. Flow modification in heat pipes has been shown to be viable and of practical importance. Heat pipe systems that are susceptible to film boiling can be readily modified to allow for the extraction of heat fluxes that are much greater than those attainable with conventional heat pipes. Moreover, flow modification in a heat pipe can provide an extra degree of security with respect to the integrity of the heat pipe when operated in harsh environments.

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