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Applied Mathematical Modelling 31 (2007) 676686 www.elsevier.


Optimal spray patterns for counterow cooling towers with structured packing
S.C. Kranc
College of Engineering, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, United States Received 1 February 2005; accepted 24 November 2005 Available online 19 January 2006

Abstract In counterow cooling towers, non-uniform patterns of ow are the consequence of the application of water from circular spray nozzles set in a square manifold. A detailed computational model for the performance of a tower accounting for this non-uniform water ow in cellular packing has been developed. The radial spray pattern of individual nozzles producing the best possible thermal performance was determined by optimization. It was concluded that for a particular nozzle manifold and packing arrangement, a performance limitation exists due to the inherently non-uniform pattern of water ow. 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cooling towers; Maldistribution; Sprays; Packing

1. Introduction The overall thermal performance of counterow cooling towers has been extensively studied and several design methods [14] are currently available for application. Most of these treatments tacitly assume that the entering water is uniformly applied at the top of the tower to ow downward through packing media, which provides an extended surface for direct contact heat transfer. As shown in Fig. 1, low head spray nozzles are arranged in a piping manifold to disperse hot water at the top of the packing. Because the nozzles are positioned on a rectangular grid but produce a circular pattern of spray on a plane area, it is not possible to apply the water evenly over the top of the ll. This inherent non-uniformity is only partially corrected by lateral migration as the water moves downward within the packing volume. In practice, a nozzle type is selected in the design phase, then the array spacing and operating pressure are adjusted to improve uniformity of water deposition at the top of the ll. Typical commercial nozzles produce a pattern prole (ow per area as a function of radius) that have either an annular characteristic or are densely lled at the center, decreasing toward the outer edges. For nozzles with lled patterns, high uniformity occurs only with large overlap (closely spaced nozzles), but such arrangements are not usually economical or practical.

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S.C. Kranc / Applied Mathematical Modelling 31 (2007) 676686


Nomenclature A a C CU D G h h0 K kn L LW m M n nb np r R T V plan area of study extended surface/volume ll coecient uniformity coecient depth of packing mass ux of air through tower or cell moist air enthalpy saturated enthalpy mass transfer coecient number of layers in a packing block array spacing mass ux of water ll exponent mass ux of water in cell number of samples number of packing blocks grid order number radial coordinate maximum radius of throw temperature volume

Subscripts ae air entering we water entering wl water leaving 0 central cell 14 adjacent cell numbers

Fig. 1. Manifold array of nozzles located above tower packing. Four nozzles dene the study area for this investigation. Upper inset depicts the sampling grid used to determine non-uniformity. Lower inset illustrates the surface representing the pattern of water deposition (vertical axis) created over the area.


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Previous investigations [514] have examined the eect of non-uniform ow in packing and demonstrated that this factor contributes directly to a reduction in the overall thermal performance for cooling towers. While some insight has been developed concerning the characteristics of nozzles that will provide high degrees of uniformity when applying liquids to plane areas [10], the more general problem of nding optimal nozzle patterns for use in conjunction with a packed bed to achieve maximum system performance has received little attention. This paper discusses a method for obtaining optimal performance by determining the best pattern of spray ow onto structured packing media from individual nozzles placed in a particular array conguration. This method involves the adaptation of a relatively simple thermal model to predict tower performance at the scale of individual cells, accounting for locally variable water ow. 1.1. Elementary tower analysis A conventional approach to tower analysis (originally due to Merkel [1]) assumes that the heat transfer process is driven by the dierence between the local moist air enthalpy and the enthalpy of air at local water temperature. For simplicity, the water loss due to evaporation is often ignored and the Lewis number is taken as unity. The heat transferred within the volume of the tower may be expressed as the required number of transfer units (NTUR) Z h2 KaV dh . 1 0 G h1 h T h Simultaneously, within the tower the enthalpy exchange between the moist air and water must balance dT G . dh LW 2

A straightforward numerical integration yields the number of transfer units required (NTUR) to attain a specied range for water cooling. The approach of the tower is the dierence between the water temperature leaving the packing and the wet bulb temperature of the incoming air stream. Both the range and approach are measures of performance. Obviously the best performance will be obtained with the lowest leaving water temperature, but practical restrictions to the tower volume limit the closeness of approach. If the tower is to perform at design conditions the number of transfer units required must be balanced by the number of transfer units available (NTUA), a characteristic of the packing which is often calculated from an empirical correlation  m LW . 3 NTUA C G Suppose now that a tower is performing at design conditions, so that the operational point of the tower is determined by the balance between required and available NTU. This relationship makes possible the evaluation of the parameter C and the factor Ka, which is the product of an overall conductance (mass transfer coecient [2]) and the extended area per unit volume of ll. If it is assumed that this same empirical relationship (Eq. (3)) holds on a local, dierential basis for a plan area A of the packing, then  m KaA C LW ; 4 G D G where D, the packing depth, can be computed from the required volume. Eq. (1) can be rewritten as dh KaAh0 T h dz G and Eq. (2) as dT G dh . dz LW dz 6 5

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If the volume required, the leaving air state and the value of C in Eq. (3) have all been previously determined for design operating conditions, the solution to this dierential equation set will provide the thermal performance as a function of spatial depth in the packing directly from the known initial conditions. The related problem of tower performance for o-design conditions can also be solved for other values of entering water ow rate and temperature (at the top of the packing), as well as entering air enthalpy (at the bottom) by reformulation as a boundary value problem, since the properties of the air and water exit streams will be unknown in such cases. 2. Cell model for performance analysis A modication of the formulation for o-design prediction discussed above including cellular ll with nonuniform water ow has been presented [13], and will be adapted to the present analysis. Cellular ll is formed by placing thin sheets of corrugated material side by side in the vertical plane. Corrugations on adjacent sheets run along opposing diagonals, so that as the sheets come into contact, a complex, staggered arrangement of diamond shaped cells is formed, one of which is shown in Fig. 2. When a large number of these corrugated sheets are assembled, a block of ll material consisting of many layers of these cells in the horizontal plane is formed (Figs. 2 and 3). Because this arrangement permits water to migrate along the sheet orientation only, successive blocks are stacked with a 90 rotation to develop migration in both directions as the water moves through the tower. The resulting arrangement of cells within the packing may described as follows. In Fig. 3, three half-cells lie along each side (length L) of the study area. In terms of a grid order number, np, here equal to three, the cell diagonal measurement (for a corrugation pitch of 45) is L/np. The equivalent number of full cells over the square area is 2np [2], and the number of open cell areas (indicated by dots in Fig. 3) is 2np (np + 1). As discussed more fully later, these points will be utilized as a sampling set to gauge non-uniformity of the water ow. The vertical extent of the packing arrangement may be described by a similar set of relationships. If a block of packing media consists of kn layers the depth of a block will be (L/np)(kn 1)/2, with the top and bottom layers consisting of half elements. Each successive layer is staggered by one-half cell (Fig. 3). When stacked with the 90 turn described previously, these half layers will align to form a transitional cell layer. For the model constructed here with nb stacked blocks, the top and bottom open half layers are neglected in the analysis of heat exchange, leaving nb (kn 1) 1 full layers of cells. It is noted that this description of cell arrangement is an idealization, and alternative arrangements could be developed. To construct a detailed, localized model of the heat transfer process within the packing so that the eect of non-uniform water ow could be examined, the spatial model described in the previous section was extended to individual cells within each layer. The assumptions of the Merkel model were taken to apply locally to the










Fig. 2. Single model cell formed from two corrugated sheets (dots show points of contact in this side view). Air enters cell 0 (shaded) from adjacent cells 3 and 4 below to interact with water from adjacent cells 1 and 2 above. Air and water leave cell 0 as shown with properties resulting from interaction.


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Fig. 3. Plan view of study area of ll bounded by four nozzles. This conguration (grid order 3) has 24 open cell sample points (black dots) and the equivalent of 18 full cells. Dotted lines show the staggered arrangement of cells in next layer below. Water and air migrate laterally in one direction only. Conguration illustrated is coarser than that used in computations.

airwater interaction within any particular cell of dierential volume dV. It was further assumed that the air ow rate was constant throughout the ll, in each cell (the same symbol G is used to represent this ow). Referring to Fig. 2, within any cell of the ll (subscript 0) water from adjacent cells (1 and 2) in the layer of cells directly above combines and conservation of mass gives 1 M 0 M 1 M 2 . 7 2 The leaving water ow, M0, divides equally into cells 3 and 4 below. Likewise, the enthalpy of the air stream entering the cell at the base (hae) is 1 hae G h3 h4 G. 2 The mass-averaged water temperature entering at the top of the cell is given by T we M 1T 1 M 2T 2 . 2M 0 9 8

Balancing the change in energy from the water ow into the cell 0 from cells 1 and 2 above with the energy change for the incoming air from the cells 3 and 4 below 1 1 M 1 T 1 M 2 T 2 M 0 T 0 h0 G h3 h4 G. 2 2 1 Ka dV 0 h have ; h0 h4 h3 2 G 10

The heat transfer to the air in an individual cell can be represented in terms of an average driving force h 0 h 11

where h0 is the enthalpy of air stream leaving the 0 cell and owing into cells 1 and 2 above. The local heat exchange is shown schematically in Fig. 4. Here it will be assumed that the dierence between the moist air enthalpy and the enthalpy of air at water temperature is the average of the entering dierence and the leaving dierence (this estimate has been improved from that presented previously [13]) 1 h0 have % h0 T we hae h0 T 0 h0 . 2 12

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Fig. 4. Schematic representation of heat exchange process and ows through an individual cell. Water enters at Twe at the top of the cell while air enters at hae at the bottom. Subsequent interaction results in water leaving at T0 and air at h0.

The values for h0 and T0 can be obtained by simultaneously satisfying Eqs. (10) and (11). For simplicity, the enthalpy of air at water temperature was represented here as a cubic polynomial h0 T 0 a bT 0 cT 2 dT 3 . It was assumed that the same relationship between NTUA and NTUR holds on a local, 0 0 dierential relationship at mass ux M0, for the cell volume dV. Ka C G dV  m M0 . G 13

Thus non-uniform water ow is treated locally as operation at an o-design condition. The solution for overall tower performance, accounting for ll interaction and non-uniformity, can be obtained by specifying the initial deposition of water (at design temperature but variable ow rate) at each open cell at the top of the ll packing and the enthalpy of the air entering at the bottom of the tower as boundary conditions, then satisfying the governing equations at each cell inside the packing. A modied relaxation method [13] was employed for these computations. Initially, a linear distribution of parameters was proposed, then the values of T0 and h0 were satised at each cell in successive steps, via the Newton method. The relaxation process was continued until the relative dierence between the air and water heat transfer was reduced to less than 1%. For an initial pattern of water application, the solution to the problem yielded the non-uniform temperature and ow rate of the water exiting the bottom layer of the packing. The model was tested with a uniform deposition, which yielded design performance. Within each cell, the heat transfer is driven by the average dierential between the enthalpy of saturated air at water temperature and the actual enthalpy of the air stream. It is not possible for the water temperature to drop below the local wet bulb temperature. It was assumed here that within each cell the process of heat exchange comes to equilibrium, subject to the constraint that the lowest possible value for the leaving air enthalpy is a saturated condition (at local water temperature). The possibility of supersaturation of the air ow was not considered. It is also possible that there could be cells where the enthalpy dierential (Eq. (11)) is reversed in regions of very low ow where this condition occurs. Later, water from these regions could come in contact with a hot air stream. Accordingly, it was further assumed that the direct contact process was reversible, permitting the air to cool and the water to heat, against the normally assumed direction of change in such circumstances. Understanding of the heat transfer process at the level of the small cells is not complete and more experimental investigation is probably warranted, especially for cases with widely varying air to water ow ratios. The alternative to a reversible, equilibrium assumption is to assume that reverse interaction is very slow, so that not enough residence time is allowed for this process to attain equilibrium. In this case, no change in


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water temperature or air enthalpy would occur if the driving force for the reaction were negative. This alternative possibility was explored briey using the cell model, but for the cases investigated did not seem to have signicant consequences. 3. Eect of non-uniform ow In the analysis that follows, a single sector of tower packing was analyzed, consisting of a study area dened by the square with vertices at four nozzles (spaced at manifold dimension L) as shown in Fig. 1. Nozzles are typically overlapped in a manifold array, with an overlap ratio dened as S = R/L in terms of the maximum radius of throw for the nozzle. The spray pattern deposited on a horizontal plane by a particular nozzle can be described by a function of distance (only circularly symmetric nozzles were treated here). Spray from typical nozzles is relatively diuse so that it was reasonable to assume that adjacent patterns simply superpose without interference. Thus, four individual nozzle patterns formed a superposed pattern of water ow at the top of the ll (like the lumpy surface shown in Fig. 1) and the total ow into the study area was equivalent to that for one nozzle. One measure of the degree of non-uniformity of this pattern is the Christiansen coecient [15] (which equals unity for uniform deposition) Pn jM i M ave j CU 1 i ; 14 nM ave where n is the number of sample points and Mave is the average of the sample. In the case of cellular ll, of particular interest here, sample areas are automatically dened by the cell openings at the top layer of the packing (Fig. 3). Although it is not possible to produce a completely uniform pattern on the ll, some improvement to the pattern occurs as the ow migrates through the packing, but since the ow is never uniform at any depth, the local temperature of the water will also vary from that predicted by the simple tower model above. A mass averaged, leaving water temperature can be calculated from the sample consisting of the water exiting the each of the cells at the base of the packing, 1 X T wl mi T wi . 15 LW i Design and testing of tower performance has traditionally operated under the tacit assumption that since perfect uniformity will produce design performance, some degree of non-uniformity at the top of the ll can be tolerated and will result in adequate performance. This reasoning is awed in several aspects. First, little or no attention has been given to the question of developing nozzle proles that will provide the maximum possible degree of uniformity initially. Secondly, focusing on application at the top of the packing ignores completely the fact that tower performance actually realized depends on how the initial pattern of water deposition is transformed by migration in the ll as well as the interaction between local water loading in the cells and the upward owing air. Two computational tasks can be considered. The concern for determining the nozzle prole resulting in the highest uniformity at the top of the packing for a particular array conguration has been previously addressed [10]. Subsequently nding the thermal performance resulting from the direct contact heat exchange interaction of this pattern in the ll is a direct computational problem that can be treated with the model for cell interaction developed above. The second problem is to determine the nozzle yielding overall optimal thermal performance given the inherent non-uniformity caused by nozzles with circular patterns set on square arrays. The direct solution for performance (resulting from any specied pattern) can be recast as an inverse question, to determine the nozzle prole that will result in the best thermal performance. To solve this latter problem, the mass averaged leaving water temperature was minimized by variation of the initial nozzle prole. 4. Example computations A set of example cases was constructed to illustrate these concepts. As dened above, the study volume of ll was bounded by four nozzles in a square manifold and extended vertically through four blocks of cellular

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packing stacked in alternating directions. At the sides of the packing blocks, a symmetrical boundary condition was imposed since the study area was identical to adjacent regions. The ll geometry (grid order 20) was arranged with 800 cells per layer and nine layers forming each block. Overlap factors of 0.5, 0.6 and 0.8 were considered. This conguration represented a relatively coarse ll construction but even at this scale a computationally demanding problem resulted. Nozzle proles were represented by a point function of eight values of mass ow rate per unit area versus radial distance from the nozzle. Linear interpolation was used to calculate local deposition at each cell opening. The radial spacing for these functions was set according to the scheme shown in Table 1. Four types of nozzle proles were investigated; those producing optimal uniformity at the top of the ll, those producing maximum thermal performance and two generic nozzle models, one having a lled conical prole and the other an annular prole (Fig. 5). These latter two proles were chosen to represent non-optimal nozzles typically employed in practice. All nozzles were adjusted to produce the same ow rate. Parameters adopted for the examples examined are summarized in Table 2.

Table 1 Nozzle prole function spacing (r/L) for each overlap tested S 0.5 0.6 0.8 Radial spacing r/L 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.04 0.05 0.07 0.08 0.10 0.13 0.17 0.20 0.27 0.25 0.30 0.40 0.33 0.40 0.53 0.42 0.50 0.67 0.50 0.60 0.80



3.0 2.0



1.0 0.0 0.0




Fig. 5. Flow/area (normalized to the average for study area) as a function of non-dimensional radius for various nozzles examined at a spacing ratio of 0.6.

Table 2 Specications for example set (design conditions) Entering air enthalpy Wet bulb temperature Entering water temperature Leaving water temperature Water ow rate Air ow rate L m C Packing height Grid order Number of ll blocks Layers per block 89.8 kJ/kg 23.9 C 49.9 C 26.7 C 3.18 kg/m3 3.18 kg/m3 0.91 m 0.8 3.704 0.73 m 20 4 9


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To minimize the mass averaged leaving water temperature (Eq. (15)) for the specied initial conditions, a constrained optimization program was constructed (utilizing MATLABTM), leaving as free parameters the values of the point function specifying the radial prole of the nozzle. The prole was constrained to yield the specied ow when integrated over the circular pattern having a maximum eective radius of R. A similar program was utilized to nd the nozzle prole for optimal uniformity at the top of the packing as dened by Eq. (14). Thermal performance for optimal uniformity nozzles and for the comparison testing done with conical and annular prole nozzles was evaluated directly, using the cellular model for computations. 5. Results A comparison of nozzle proles examined (for S = 0.6) is shown in Fig. 5. Thermal performance for all nozzle proles and the uniformity at the top of the packing was assessed, and these quantities are presented in Figs. 6 and 7, as functions of overlap. Both performance and uniformity were reduced as overlap was decreased. It should be noted that while the results have been non-dimensionalized, the ndings are specic to the ll conguration chosen and also the tower operating conditions. These results may be interpreted as follows. By application of optimization techniques, the radial spray prole yielding the best possible thermal performance was determined. Thus, assuming that the tower packing was originally tested and evaluated with a perfectly uniform ow, a limitation on overall tower performance has been established (for specied overlap) for circular nozzles set in a square array. In other words, no nozzles could be employed that would perform better than those determined here, as indicated by limit line in Fig. 6. Similarly, the nozzle prole creating the best possible uniformity of pattern at the top of the ll was determined and the thermal performance of this nozzle was evaluated (Fig. 7). For the specic examples chosen the overall thermal performance was only slightly reduced for the high uniformity nozzle, indicating that for a particular overlap factor, uniformity may be an adequate diagnostic when selecting a nozzle and array combination. Evaluation of two generic nozzles, one having a conical pattern and one an annular pattern (selected arbitrarily), can help to illustrate these conclusions (cf. Figs. 6 and 7). For these generic nozzles, both thermal performance and uniformity are considerably reduced from the limiting values for a particular spacing ratio. The results for these computations revealed that for the conditions specied, the nozzle exhibiting the best thermal performance performed only slightly better than the nozzle with optimal uniformity. The high uniformity nozzle had a substantially dierent prole than the high thermal performance nozzle, which is oscillatory in nature (Fig. 5). It might be argued that the maximum uniformity nozzle is merely a smoothed average of the irregular radial prole for best performance. Closer inspection of the results indicates that this is not the case







1.00 0.4








Fig. 6. Leaving water temperature ratio as a function of spacing (26.7 C design leaving water temperature), for optimal nozzle proles. Performance of nozzles with conical and annular patterns added for comparison. A limit line added represents best possible performance for the array and ll conguration examined.

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-0.5 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0


Fig. 7. Uniformity (Eq. (14)) at top of packing as a function of spacing ratio for nozzles examined. A limit line added represents best possible uniformity for the array and ll conguration examined.

however, since the manner in which the pattern of water deposition is altered through the ll by migration is also dierent for each type of nozzle. It was found that the pattern developed at the top of the ll by the high thermal performance nozzle is initially more non-uniform, but eventually improves in quality to become more uniform near the bottom of the ll compared to the nozzle forming an initial pattern of high uniformity. For example CU for the performance pattern changed from 0.583 at the packing top to 0.861 at the base for an overlap of 0.6, actually slightly surpassing the high uniformity nozzle, which changed from 0.809 to 0.858. Although even small approach temperature dierentials at the base of the ll are important, these results indicate that widely dierent nozzle characteristics could produce satisfactory results. Thus an examination of uniformity of deposition may not be the only suitable test for performance and a more extensive evaluation including interaction in the ll may be justied. On the other hand, a strong correlation between performance and uniformity can be developed for arbitrary nozzles [13]. Finally, changes in cell conguration within the packing add another dimension to the overall problem only briey investigated here. It is a misconception that a smaller scale ll conguration (more cells contained in the packing volume) promotes better adjustments to the uniformity of the ow. In fact, just the opposite is true since the lateral migration is more restricted. A cell arrangement set on a grid of order 36 rather than 20 was considered for an overlap factor of 0.6. Again four blocks of ll were used but the number of layers per block was increased to 15. This conguration resulted in a very demanding computational problem. It was found that thermal performance for an optimal nozzle and an optimal uniformity nozzle were reduced by about one-half of one percent from the results for the smaller conguration examined previously. As cell size decreases, the limiting case is that of a persistent pattern wherein the initial deposition at the top of the packing is unaltered by lateral migration as the water moves downward through the ll. 6. Conclusions The application of water by nozzles developing circular spray patterns results in a non-uniform ow through the tower packing, thus limiting performance. A method for determining nozzle deposition proles resulting in optimal performance for a specic packing conguration was developed and demonstrated. The following conclusions were reached: (1) Nozzles developing high eciency in thermal performance do not necessarily apply liquid with high uniformity over the top layer of the packing. Thus, simply measuring the degree of non-uniformity of deposition patterns at the top of the packing may not be a comprehensive diagnostic for overall system performance that is ultimately dependent on subsequent interactions in the packing.


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(2) In the cases examined here, nozzles producing high uniformity had nearly comparable performance with those producing the best thermal performance. (3) Since both thermal performance and uniformity have been optimized, it is concluded that the performance exhibited by these nozzles represents a maximum attainable performance for circular pattern nozzles in a square array. Using the model developed here, the (non-ideal) patterns produced by nozzles with arbitrary proles could be evaluated for thermal performance. This application could easily be extended to cases involving nozzle interference due to pattern overlap since it is only the pattern striking the ll at the top that determines performance. Such a process could be used to determine the suitability of a particular nozzle in the planning stage for new tower construction. Similarly, the methods presented here could be used to indicate the direction to better nozzle designs. Other applications for the model might be to examine the eect of water loss at ll boundaries and the inuence of local fouling in the packing media. References
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