Performance enhancements in heat exchanger design and manufacturing have been achieved over the past several decades through a combination of improved thermal-hydraulic modeling and experimentation tools, enhancements in material formulations and associated property characterizations, and new manufacturing methods. Most recently, Additive Manufacturing (AM) methods have matured sufficiently that they are now being considered as realizable heat exchanger fabrication methods. More complex, compact, and efficient designs can be achieved with AM methods that could not be easily obtained through more traditional manufacturing techniques.

This study expands upon a previous work [1] in which an optimized twisted tube shell and tube stainless steel heat exchanger was designed, analyzed, and fabricated with a Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DLMS) AM method. In that study, the twisted tube heat exchanger performance was a considerable improvement over that of a traditional straight tube shell and tube heat exchanger. In the present study, the AM twisted tube heat exchanger was subjected to thermal-hydraulic tests to measure its performance and to identify any necessary refinements to the previous CFD model.

For the conditions used in this study, the experimental data will show how the previous CFD model over-predicted the twisted tube heat exchanger’s heat transfer rate of 2,297 W and under predicted its overall heat transfer coefficient of 1,008 W/m2/K. Interrogation of the CFD model found that this discrepancy was due to the utilization of a k-ε turbulence model. Once this turbulence characterization was replaced with a more suitable shear transport model, the numerical predictions and experimental measurements of total heat transfer rate and overall heat transfer coefficient were in very close (∼10%) agreement. When combined with the previous study, this current work reveals how a complex, twisted tube shell and tube heat exchanger can be designed with existing CFD modeling tools and efficiently manufactured with current AM technologies to significantly improve its performance over a more traditionally manufactured straight tube version of the heat exchanger.

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