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Proceedings of the 37
th
International & 4
th
National Conference on Fluid Mechanics and Fluid Power
FMFP2010
December 16-18, 2010, IIT Madras, Chennai, India

FMFP2010
CFD SIMULATION OF ROUND AND FLAT TUBE FIN HEAT EXCHANGER
FOR LAMINAR AND TURBULENT FLOW MODELS
Gurjeet Singh Gulshan Sachdeva
National Institute of Technology,
Kurukshetra-136119, Haryana, India
gurjit_414@yahoo.com
National Institute of Technology,
Kurukshetra-136119, Haryana, India
gulshan4you@gmail.com
ABSTRACT
ThermalHydraulic CFD study of round and flat
tube-fin heat exchanger having staggered
arrangement has been carried out to simulate the
fluid flow and heat transfer characteristics for
laminar and turbulent flow models. The problem
has been simulated for different mass flow rates in
the Reynolds number range 330-7200 in order to
determine the Pressure drop and Nusselt number so
as to calculate the main parameters of interest like
Friction Factor and Colburn Factor respectively.
These are further compared with experimental
results available from the literature. The
comparison has been presented in terms of charts
and images. The methodology includes 2-D
computational model of fluid flow region between
two parallel fins through the tube, developed and
meshed with quadrilateral scheme in gambit. The
water at 333K flowing through the copper tubes
while the air is flowing at 278K through the heat
exchanger in the velocity range of 0.3 to 6.2 m/s.
Periodic flow conditions are applied at inlet and
outlet. Laminar and Turbulent (k-epsilon) models
have been chosen to study variation of flow
parameters. In the post processing fluid Flow and
Thermal fields are examined and some conclusion
have been drawn which will be discussed in
subsequent sections.
Keywords: CFD, Flat and round tube-fin heat
exchanger, Reynolds number, Turbulent flow,
Friction factor, Laminar flow
INTRODUCTION
So far many researchers have carried out extensive
work pertaining to plate and tube-fin heat
exchanger. Wang et al., 1996 concluded that fin
spacing has negligible effect on heat transfer
coefficient and both Friction and Colburn Factor
were found to be independent of fin thickness. Jang
et al., 1996 reported that heat transfer practically
remain independent of number of tube rows for
N>4. The Colburn and Friction factor for staggered
tube arrangement are 15 to 27 % and 20 to 30 %
respectively higher that those of inline arrangement.
Jang et al., 1998 made numerical and experimental
measurements of plain fin-and-tube heat exchangers
having round and flat tube-fin configuration. They
found that for same perimeter of the tubes, the heat
transfer coefficient for the flat tube was 35-50%
higher than that for round tube configuration
whereas the pressure drop of the former is 25-30%
of that of latter. Others [1, 2, 3, 5, and 8] also have
performed extensive study pertaining to round and
flat tube-fin heat exchangers.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In the present problem the experimental results of
Colburn and Friction Factors from the Wang et
al.[1996] for round tube have been validated against
the simulated results. Moreover comparative studies
of the above factors have been carried out for the
round and flat tube-fin configuration for Laminar
and Turbulent Flow Model. The Flow and Thermal
Fields have been analyzed. The comparisons have
173
Proceedings of the 37th National & 4th International Conference on Fluid Mechanics and Fluid Power
December 16-18, 2010, IIT Madras, Chennai, India.
FMFP10 - HT - 20
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been plotted on graphs to see the relative variation
of the flow and thermal parameters.
GOVERNING EQUATIONS AND
NUMERICAL SCHEME
The basic governing equations for fluid flow and
heat transfer have been taken from [6] which are
discretised and solved by the finite volume method
using Fluent 6.1. It is solved on a staggered grid
using solvers for laminar and turbulent flow
models. To ensure coupling between velocity and
pressure, the SIMPLE or SIMPLEC algorithm is
used.
Governing equations for Turbulence Modeling
The Turbulent viscosity
t
P is expressed as:
t t
u l P U = (4.1)
Where
( )
2 2 2
2 1
' ' '
3 3
t
u k u v w = = + +
(4.2)
The dissipation of the turbulent kinetic energy is
expressed as:
2/3
k
l
H = or as related to viscosity
'
'
j
t i
k k
u
u
x x
P
H
U
c
c
=
c c
(4.3)
Reynoldss stresses
2
' '
3
j
i
ij i j t ij
j i
U
U
u u k
x x
W U P U G
| | c
c
= = +
|
|
c c
\ .
(4.4)
Turbulent scalar transport is proportional to mean
scalar value gradients and can be expressed as
' '
i t
i
u
x
M
U M
c
= I
c
where
t
I refers to turbulent
(eddy) diffusivity.
The Turbulent Kinetic Energy Equation, as
shown below
( )
' '
' '
' ' ' '
2 ' '
i j
i i i
i i i j
i i j j j
uu
U u u k
Uk u p uu
t x x x x x
U
U U U P
( | | c c c c c c
+ = +
( |
c c c c c c
\ .
(4.5)
The term first on LHS is Transient term, the second
term on LHS is convective transport term while the
first term on RHS is Diffusive Transport Term, the
second term is production term, and the third term
is viscous
Transport ETXDWLRQIRU
( )
1 2
' '
t i
i i j
i i i j
U
U C u u C
t x x x k x k
H
P UH H H H
U H U U H
V
| |
( c c c c c
+ = + |
(
|
c c c c c

\ .
(4.6)
The first term on LHS indicate accumulation of ,
the second term shows destruction of , whereas
first term on RHS indicate diffusive transport of ,
The second term shows production of , the third
term shows transport of by convection.
COMPUTATIONAL DOMAIN
Computational model for round and flat tube-fin
configuration is shown in fig: 1. gambit 2.1 is used
to create and mesh the computational model. The
flow region is densely meshed around the tubes
with uniform boundary layer meshing and
quadrilateral meshing is used in rest of the flow
region. The entire computational domain is made
up of approximately 64000 cells round tube and
70000 for flat tube-fin heat exchanger model. The
cell number is chosen on the basis of grid
independence testing.
Geometrical Details
The geometrical details of flat and round tube-fin
configurations have been shown in the table 3.1
shown below.
Table 1. Geometrical Dimensions of round and
flat tube-fin heat exchanger model.
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Fig. 1, 2. Computational Domain for round and
flat tube-fin heat exchanger model
Boundary conditions
The computational domain has contains boundary
conditions for Tube surfaces, Dirichlet BC as T =
T
w
, and Fins, Dirichlet BC as T = T
fw
with no slip
condition for both. Inlet, Dirichlet BC as Uniform
velocity u = u
in
, v = w = 0 and
T = 5 C. Outlet, Neuman BC as Zero gradients, u,
v, w, pressure, and temperature. (One-way), Free
stream planes: (top and bottom planes of the
extended surface areas) as slip conditions: (cu/c:)
=0, (cv/c:) 0, w 0, (cT/c:) 0. Side planes:
symmetry planes
(cu/cy)0, v 0, (cw/cy) 0, (cT/cy) 0
Computational Details
CFD code Fluent 6.1 is used for the numerical
solution of NavierStrokes and Energy Equations.
Fluent uses a control volume based technique to
convert the governing equations to algebraic
equations that can be solved numerically. This
involves subdividing the region in which the flow is
to be solved into finite number of control volumes
so that equation can be integrated numerically or a
cell by cell basis to produce discrete algebraic
(finite volume) equations [24, 25]. The
SIMPLE/SIMPLEC Algorithm is used to couple
pressure and velocity. A Power Law up winding
Scheme is used for space discretisation of
momentum, turbulence and energy equation in
simulation. The periodic conditions are imposed at
inlet and outlet of flow domain. At the inlet flow
velocity and temperature are defined by user.
PERFORMANCE PARAMETERS
1) Fanning friction factor (f) 2) Colburn factor (j)
The Fanning friction factor is the ratio of wall shear
stress to the flow kinetic energy. It is related to
pressure drop in tube-and-fin heat exchangers. The
Colburn j-factor is the ratio of convection heat
transfer (per unit duct surface area) to the amount
virtually transferable (per unit of cross-sectional
flow area.
2
2 1 2
1 1
(1 ) 1
2
m
in c in c
p G A
f
p g p A
Q Q Q
V
Q Q
( | | A
= + +
( |
\ .
(6.1)
1/ 3
c
D
Nu
j
Re Pr
=

(6.2)
VALIDATION OF RESULTS FOR FRICTION
AND COLBURN FACTOR WITH
LITRATURE
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
F
R
I
C
T
I
O
N

F
A
C
T
O
R
FRICTION FACTOR (f) FOR
LAMINAR FLOWMODEL
FRICTION FACTOR (f) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL
FRICTION FACTOR (f)
FROM LITRATURE
Fig.3. Variation of friction factor with Reynolds
number
Here we find in case of laminar flow model for
round tube simulations the laminar flow region
extends up to Re = 1300, but in order to clearly
demarcate the different flow regimes, the turbulent
flow model is used, which indicate that the
transition zone exist between Re = 1300 to 2900,
further this is also noticeable that turbulence region
exist beyond Re = 2900.
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0
0.005
0.01
0.015
0.02
0.025
0.03
0.035
0.04
0.045
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
C
O
L
B
U
R
N
F
A
C
T
O
R
COLBURN FACTOR(j) FOR
LAMINAR FLOWMODEL
COLBURN FACTOR(j) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL
COLBURN FACTOR(j) FROM
LITRATURE
Fig. 4. Variation of Colburn factor with
Reynolds number
The results for laminar region are better simulated
by LFM while results for turbulent and transition
region better simulated by TFM. The variation of
Colburn Factor for each of model follows the same
trend as that of experimental however TFM gives a
better picture of heat transfer in turbulent regime
whereas the LFM gives better results of heat
transfer for laminar flow regime in each of the tube-
fin configuration.
COMPARISON OF FRICTION FACTOR FOR
ROUND TUBE AND FLAT TUBE FOR LFM
AND TFM
0
0.01
0.02
0.03
0.04
0.05
0.06
0.07
0.08
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
F
R
I
C
T
I
O
N

F
A
C
T
O
R
FRICTION FACTOR ( f )
FOR LAMINAR FLOW
MODEL FOR FLAT TUBE.
FRICTION FACTOR (f) FOR
LAMINAR FLOWMODEL
FOR ROUND TUBE
Fig.5. Comparative plot of friction factor for
laminar flow model for round and flat tube-fin
configurations
The results of friction factor for round tube
configuration is always higher throughout the range
of Reynolds number in comparison with flat tube
configuration which clearly indicate that the
frictional losses are comparatively higher in round
tube. This is also observable that flow direction
continuously changes across the heat exchanger.
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0.12
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
F
R
I
C
T
I
O
N
F
A
C
T
O
R
FRICTION FACTOR (F) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL
FOR FLAT TUBE
FRICTION FACTOR (f) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL
FOR ROUND TUBE
Fig.6. Comparative plot of friction factor for
Turbulent flow model for round and flat tube-fin
configurations
The obstruction to the smooth flow of air is higher
in round tube than that of flat tube fin configuration.
Moreover the continuous convergent divergent
movement of the air flow between the parallel
plates across the tubes is also held responsible for
pressure loss contributions. The fin spacing for the
present case is very low which shows the higher
pressure drop for each of tube-fin configurations.
COMPARISON OF COLBURN FACTOR FOR
ROUND TUBE AND FLAT TUBE FOR LFM
AND TFM
0
0.005
0.01
0.015
0.02
0.025
0.03
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
C
O
L
B
U
R
N
F
A
C
T
O
R
COLBURN FACTOR.(J) FOR
LAMINAR FLOWMODEL FOR
FLAT TUBE
COLBURN FACTOR(j) FOR
LAMINAR FLOWMODEL FOR
ROUNDTUBE
Fig.7.Comparative plot of variation of colburn
factor between round and flat tube-fin
configurations
The Colburn factor for laminar flow model for flat
tube is 25% to 35% higher in laminar flow regime
whereas for rest of flow regimes it nearly exhibits
same results as that of experimental for entire range
of Reynolds number though the variation is limited
between the 6% to 10.
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0
0.005
0.01
0.015
0.02
0.025
0.03
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000
REYNOLDS NUMBER
C
O
L
B
U
R
N

F
A
C
T
O
R
COLBURN FACTOR(J) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL FOR
FLAT TUBE
COLBURN FACTOR(j) FOR
TURBULENT FLOWMODEL FOR
ROUND TUBE
Fig.8. Comparative Plot of variation of colburn
factor between round and flat tube-fin
configurations
The variation of Colburn factor for TFM for flat
tube lies in the range between 25% to 31% for
laminar flow regime whereas for turbulent and
transition flow regimes this variation is limited
between 13% to 23% which corresponds to
literature values.
FLOW CHARACTERISTICS
The flow characteristics for laminar and turbulent
flow models for round and flat tube-fin
configurations have been shown in following
figures (9,10,11,12,13,14).
Fig.9. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)
Flow enters the heat exchanger region almost at the
velocity equal to that of inlet. The flow bifurcates in
magnitude while passing over the tube rows and
gradually gains the velocity when it passes through
the area between the two tubes.
Fig.10. v = 0.3 m/s (TFM)

Fig.11. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
At low velocity when the flow passes over the tube
rows the flow separation takes place. Thus the flow
in downstream region after the each tube gets
converted into the wake and recirculation zone
whereas on the upstream side of the tube rows the
horse shoe vortex generation takes place [20]. Then
flow makes smooth transition through the minimum
flow area at higher velocity. The comparison of
flow for two velocities shows that no flow
stagnation regions are observed in front of first and
second tube whereas in case of flow at high velocity
the stagnation region is observed only in front of
the second tube. In relative comparison of velocities
for the flat tube-fin configuration it is clearly visible
that for laminar flow model flow stagnation zones
are being observed in front of each tube row at low
velocity whereas these zones are entirely missing at
high velocity.
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Fig.12. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)
Fig.13. v = 0.3 m/s (TFM)
Fig.14. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
The rear of each tube row experiences a wake zone
which is having very poor strength thus due to
above reasons the frictional losses are little on
higher side for low velocity whereas comparatively
negligible at high velocity. Flow transition through
the flow region is entirely smooth since flat tube
does not offer much resistance to flow though the
flow velocity is little increased in the region
between the two tubes.
FLOWTEMPERATURE DISTRIBUTION
The flow temperatures for round and flat tube-fin
configurations for laminar and turbulent flow model
have been shown in following figures (15, 16, 17,
18, 19, and 20).
Fig.15. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)

Fig.16. v = 0.3 m/s (TFM)
In case of laminar flow model the hydrodynamic
study states that heat transfer is higher at leading
edge of the fin due to thin boundary layer and also
in front of the tube region where horse vortex
region is present. The portion in front of the tube
participates more into heat transfer than that of back
[20]. The horse-shoe vortices produced in the
staggered arrangement appears directly in front of
the tubes [16].
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Fig.17. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
In the wake region the heat transfer is better than
that of other areas since the flow recirculation are
present there for longer duration of the time. Hence
the heat transfer is observed to be better at low
velocity.
Fig.18. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)
A high temperature zone exists after each tube row
which clearly simulates that heat transfer is far
better in laminar flow regime. It can also be
concluded that the heat transfer in flat tube is more
than that of round tube as the flow remains more in
contact with flat tube surface.
Fig.19. v = 0.3 m/s (TFM)
Fig.20. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
As it is being seen in figure 18, 19, 20 that flow
temperature around the first and second row tubes
are higher at low velocity compared to higher
velocity for turbulent flow model.
9.1 Flow velocity and Temperature Plots for
Laminar (LMF) and Turbulent flow model
(TFM)
The comparative plots of flow velocity and
temperature distribution for round and flat tube-fin
configurations have been shown in following
figures (21,22,23,24,25and 26).
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Fig.21. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)

Fig.22. v = 0.3m/s (TFM)

Fig.23. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
The variation for round and flat tube is shown by
red and black line respectively. These variation are
observed along the length of heat exchanger at a
section Y= 0.00836m. Cyclic variation is observed
in flow velocity in each of flow model for round
tube whereas the variation comparatively steady for
flat tube. However the turbulent model gives better
picture of variation of flow velocity for each of the
configuration.
Fig.24. v = 0.3m/s (LFM)
Fig.25. v = 0.3m/s (TFM)
Fig.26. v = 6.2 m/s (TFM)
Temperature variation for low velocity
laminar flow model is cyclic for round tube but this
variation is comparatively steady rise for flat tube.
At high velocity the temperature variation is
constant over first tube row then it suddenly raises
thereafter it adopts a steady constant profile.
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10. CONCLUSION
- From the experimental values given in the
literature, the laminar flow region for this
particular geometry of heat exchanger
switched to transitional at around Reynolds
number 1300, and continues up to Re =
2900 for each of the configurations.
- For turbulent flow model the friction factor
for flat tube is 13% to 17% higher than that
of round tube between Re = 330-1300
whereas between Re = 2900-7200 the
friction factor for round tube is 40% to 45%
higher than that of flat tube.
- Colburn factor for laminar flow model for
flat tube is 25% to 35% higher between
- Re = 330-1300 whereas between Re = 2900-
7200 it nearly exhibits same results though
the variation is limited between the 6% to
10%
- The variation of Colburn factor for turbulent
flow model for flat tube is 25% to 31%
higher between Re = 330-1300 whereas
between Re = 1300-7200, this variation is
limited between 13% to 23% which
corresponds to literature values.
- In case of laminar flow model between Re =
330-1300 a small back flow region as well
as recirculation zone is observed after each
row of tubes whereas in case of Re>2900
these region gets narrowed down though
intensity of these regions may increase.
- The variation of friction and Colburn factor
for the round tube fin configurations during
the laminar flow regime is better simulated
by laminar flow model and for the transition
and turbulent flow regime; the variation is
better depicted by turbulent flow model.
- The frictional losses due to formation of
recirculation zones and wake formations
after each of the tube rows in round tube is
observed to be higher in intensity than that
of flat tubes.
- The heat transfer in leading part of the round
tube is higher due to developing boundary
layer phenomena and also the heat transfer
is higher in forward part of tube due to
formation of horse shoe vortex system [20].
- Since the flow becomes turbulent for Re >
3000 therefore the laminar model stands
invalid for Re> 3000. Hence laminar model
suits to simulations for laminar flow regime.
To carry out simulations for turbulent and
transition regime the turbulent flow model
perfectly suits to present problem.
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Numerical Analysis of ThermalHydraulic
Characteristics of Elliptical Finned Tube
Heat Exchangers, Heat Transfer
Engineering 19, 55-67
2. Jang et al., 1996. Numerical and
experimental Studies of three-dimensional
plate-fin and tube heat exchangers,
International Journal of Heat and Mass
Transfer, 39(14), 3057-3066
3. Wang et al., 1997. "Heat Transfer and
Friction Characteristics of Typical Wavy
Fin-and-tube Heat Exchangers,"
Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science,
14(2), 174-186
4. Wang et al., 1998. "Experimental Study of
Heat Transfer and Friction Characteristics
of Typical Louver Fin-and-Tube Heat
Exchangers," International Journal of Heat
and Mass Transfer, 41(4-5), 817-822
5. Wang et al., 1997. Heat Transfer and
Friction Characteristics of typical Wavy
Fin-and-Tube Heat Exchangers,"
Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science,
14(2), 174-186
6. Wang et al., 1996. "Sensible Heat and
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Tube Heat Exchangers Having Plane Fins,"
International Journal of Refrigeration, 4,
223-230
7. Rathod et al., 2006 Performance
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exchanger with different fin surfaces,
Applied Thermal Engineering, 27, 2131-
2137
8. Versteeg H.K., Malalasekera W., 1998.
An Introduction to Computational Fluid
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Second edition, Pearson Education Limited,
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