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Three Types of Heat Exchangers

John Tomlinson
GE 3513- Technical Writing
Mississippi State University
June 9, 2014
A heat exchanger is any device that effects/causes the transfer of thermal energy from one
fluid to another. There are three different types of heat exchangers: regenerators, open-type
exchangers, and closed-type exchangers. I gained knowledge on this subject during the 2014
Spring semester, when I took a class on heat transfer. The focus of this paper will be on closedtype heat exchangers, since they are the most commonly used exchangers throughout industry
and for everyday purposes. Within a closed-type heat exchanger, a wall separates hot and cold
fluids with the thermal energy being transferred from the hot fluid to the cold fluid via the wall.
Two modes for heat transfer are considered when dealing with heat exchangers: conduction and
convection. Conduction is the transport of thermal energy (heat) in a medium as a result of a
temperature gradient and random molecular activity. Convection describes heat transfer between
a surface and a fluid moving over the surface. This mode transfers energy by both the bulk fluid
motion and the random motion of fluid molecules. Three closed-type heat exchangers will be
considered throughout this paper: double-pipe, shell-and-tube, and cross flow exchangers.
Double-Pipe Heat Exchanger
Even though they may be the simplest, double-pipe heat exchangers are extremely
efficient. Consisting of a pipe positioned coaxially within another pipe, they are the basic design
for most heat exchangers and use the same three heat transfer operations. By design, one fluid
flows through the inner pipe and another fluid flows in the annular space between the two pipes.
To minimize space, double-pipe heat exchangers are often coiled. The fluids can flow in the
same direction (parallel) or in opposite directions (counter-current). This is illustrated below by
Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Figure 1. Double-Pipe Heat Exchanger, Parallel flow (Spakovszky, 2007)

Figure 2. Double-Pipe Heat Exchanger, Counter-Current Flow (Spakovszky, 2007)

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The desired amount of heat transfer determines the flow direction of both fluids. It also
determines which pipe the hot and cold fluids will flow through. The previous is true for all types
of heat exchangers. Three operations are used to describe how heat is transferred from one fluid
to another within each of these designs. There is convective heat transfer from the fluid to the
inner wall of the tube, then conductive heat transfer through the tube wall, and convective heat
transfer from the outer tube wall to the outside fluid (Spakovszky, 2007). These three operations
will also be considered when examining both shell-and-tube and cross-flow heat exchangers.
Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchanger
A shell-and-tube heat exchanger increases in complexity compared to the double-pipe
exchanger. Instead of a single pipe inside of a larger pipe, a shell-and-tube exchanger consists of
a bungle or group of pipes enclosed within a cylindrical shell, as shown in Figure 3. (Note: the
terms pipe and tube will be used interchangeably throughout this paper. Size is the only
difference between the two terms; tubes are the smaller version of pipe.)

Figure 3. Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchanger, One Shell Pass and One Tube Pass (Ramesh, 2011)
There are two fluids at work within the shell-and-tube exchanger, the shell fluid and the
tube fluid. Again, the fluids can flow parallel or counter-current. Notice in Figure 3 that the fluids
are flowing in opposite directions, therefore counter-current. One fluid flows through the tubes
and the second fluid flows through the space between the tubes and the shell wall. There are
multiple configurations when dealing with fluid flow within a shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
Figure 3 shows an exchanger with one shell pass and one tube pass. There can also be one shell
pass and two tube passes, and two shell passes and four tube passes. Pass refers to the fluid
passing from one side to the other side of the vessel. The multi pass configurations are shown
below in Figure 4.

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Figure 4. (a) Multiple pass heat exchangers; (b) one shell pass and two tube passes; (c) two shell
passes and four tube passes (Ramesh, 2011)
Baffles are placed within the shell to force the fluid to flow across the tubes. They are
also used for structural support. Shell-and-tube exchangers are the most common type of heat
exchangers. There construction allows for disassembly, which helps with cleaning and
maintenance. They are easy to manufacture and are commercially available in a wide range of
sizes. These types of exchangers are often used for refrigeration, power production, chemical
processing, manufacturing, and medical applications (Walters, 2014).
Cross-Flow Heat Exchangers
A cross flow exchanger works under the same principles as both double-pipe and shelland-tube heat exchangers. One main difference between cross-flow exchangers and the other two
designs is the fluid flow directions. The fluids flow perpendicular to one another within this
design. Commonly, one fluid is a gas and the other is a liquid. The fluids could be liquid-liquid
or gas-gas but the heat transfer is higher for liquid-gas flow. There are two different flow
configurations when dealing with cross-flow heat exchangers: un-mixed and mixed. Un-mixed
means the fluid flowing over the tubes does not mix with itself. The mixed configuration allows
the fluid flowing over the tubes to mix randomly with itself. Refer to Figure 5 below for a better

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Figure 5. The Two Configuration of a Cross-Flow Heat Exchanger (Referenced by Cong, 2013)
The unmixed configuration allows for greater heat transfer due to the fins. Even though
fins increase heat transfer, the spaces between each fin are likely to clog up from debris. Clogs
block flow, which decreases heat transfer. This is why professional mechanics encourage the
cleaning of radiators. An automobile radiator is a good example of the unmixed configuration of
a cross-flow heat exchanger. The mixed configuration has fewer problems with clogging but it
also has much lower values with respect to the amount of heat transferred. Depending on the
application, one configuration may be chosen over the other.
Heat exchangers are ever present in both common and industrial life. There may only be
three different types but there are many different forms. Existing in numerous day-to-day
technologies, from refrigerators and car radiators to computers and airplanes, closed-type heat
exchangers prevail as the most common type. Double-pipe, shell-and-tube, and cross-flow are
three of the closed-type heat exchangers, with shell-and-tube being the most common of any
exchanger. Without these devices, many commonly enjoyed amenities would cease to exist.

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Cong, Feito, Flett, Morton, and Romero. Domestic Biomass Heating Systems.(2013).
Retrieved from
Accessed June 12, 2014.
Ramesh. (2011, June 7). Types of Heat Exchangers [Web log comment]. Retrieved from Accessed
June 12, 2014.
Prof. Spakovszky, Z. S. 16.Unified: Thermodynamics and Propulsion. (2007).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from MIT online notes: Accessed June
8, 2014.
Walters, Keisha B. Heat Transfer lecture notes. (2014). Mississippi State University.

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