You are on page 1of 12

< Discuss This Article!

>
To join an online discussion about this article
with the author and other readers, go to the
ProcessCity Discussion Room for CEP articles
at www.processcity.com/cep.

ChEs

Guide

CHEs

to

Vishwas V. Wadekar,
HTFS, AEA Technology
Hyprotech

Compact Heat Exchangers


Copyright

2000
American Institute
of Chemical Engineers.
All rights reserved.
Copying and
downloading permitted
with restrictions.

Compact heat exchangers


(CHEs) offer high
heat-transfer coefficients
and large surface areas with
a small footprint, making
them a cost-effective
alternative to shell-and-tube
exchangers in many
applications.

variety of heat exchangers can


be employed to heat or cool process streams.
More often than not, though, shell-and-tube exchangers are selected for most chemical process
industries (CPI) applications.
However, this situation is gradually changing, and compact heat exchangers are now gaining increased attention as viable cost-effective
alternatives. Several factors are responsible for
this change:
The advantages of CHEs are becoming increasingly apparent in their original fields of application, such as refrigeration and air conditioning, cryogenics, food processing, etc.
In recent years, new CHEs have been introduced, including some specifically for hightemperature, high-pressure applications in the
CPI.
Software tools for the selection and design
of CHEs are now available from independent
sources.
There is increased awareness about CHEs
through specialist conferences and study
groups.
In many retrofit applications, equipment
with increased throughput yet occupying less
floor space is required, forcing engineers to
look for alternatives to conventional shell-andtube exchangers.
Offshore applications, where incentives are

much greater for weight- and space-saving


equipment, have become test beds for new CHE
applications, highlighting the practicality and
advantages of some of the CHEs.
Of course, compact heat exchangers do have
a number of real (and some perceived) limitations and disadvantages. Generally, though, the
cost and energy saving benefits offered by
CHEs over the conventional shell-and-tube heat
exchanger make it imperative that they be considered as a serious alternative.
This article gives a broad overview of compact heat exchangers. It provides some background on the thermal benefits of CHEs, the
concepts of thermal effectiveness and temperature approach, and the degree of compactness
of an exchanger, and it describes the different
types of CHEs. Finally, it offers guidelines for
selecting an appropriate CHE for a particular
application.

Thermal benefits of CHEs


To understand some of the advantages of
compact heat exchangers, lets start with the
basic question for the overall heat transferred
within a heat exchanger:
Q = UAFtTlm

(1)

Due to their inherently complex, often tortu-

CEP

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

39

Compact Heat Exchangers

Figure 2.
T2,

Thermal effectiveness
vs. number of transfer
units.

in

out

T1,
T2,

out

1.0
Countercurrent
Thermal Effectiveness

T1,

in

Figure 1. Schematic diagram of stream


temperatures in a two-stream exchanger.

0.8
0.6

Crossflow

0.4

Cocurrent

0.2

ous and noncircular flow passage


structure, CHEs tend to have higher
heat-transfer coefficients for both the
hot and the cold streams. This increases the CHEs overall heat-transfer coefficient, U.
Due to the higher area density
(heat-transfer area per unit volume of
the exchanger), the incremental cost
of incorporating a larger heat-transfer
area is generally less for CHEs than
for shell-and-tube exchangers. This
means that the value of the heattransfer area, A, in Eq. 1 is likely to
be higher for CHEs. Some CHEs,
such as plate-fin exchangers, contain
extended surfaces or secondary heattransfer area, which further increases
the total effective heat-transfer area
significantly.
In Eq. 1, Ft is a correction factor
for the log mean temperature difference, Tlm, to account for the departure from pure countercurrent flow.
Thus, if the streams within a heat
exchanger are flowing in a true
countercurrent manner, Ft = 1. Compact heat exchangers can generally
be configured as essentially pure
countercurrent flow devices, with Ft
nearly approaching the value of
unity.
In view of the high values of the
overall heat-transfer coefficient and
the heat-transfer area, coupled with
the value of Ft close to unity, Eq. 1
can be interpreted in two ways. For a
given mean temperature difference,
the heat duty that could be achieved
in a compact heat exchanger will be
higher. Alternatively, for given heat
duty, a smaller mean temperature difference will be required.

40

www.aiche.org/cep/

December 2000

0
0

NTUmax = UA/Cmin

Thermal effectiveness
and temperature approach
These two terms are often used
in connection with heat exchangers.
Because they characterize the thermal performance of an exchanger,
they are especially relevant and frequently used in quantifying the
thermal benefits of compact heat
exchangers.
Thermal effectiveness is a ratio of
the actual heat transferred in the exchanger to the thermodynamic maximum. If a two-stream heat exchanger
is handling streams with equal thermal capacity, mcp (flow rate times
heat capacity) [i.e., (mcp)Stream 1 =
(mcp)Stream 2], then the thermal effectiveness, , is simply given by the
ratio of the actual temperature change
for a stream to the maximum possible
temperature change. For the example
depicted in Figure 1, the temperature
change for Stream 1 is (T1,out T1,in).
If the heat exchanger had an infinite
area, the outlet temperature of Stream
1 would be equal to the inlet temperature of Stream 2. The maximum possible temperature change for Stream
1 is, therefore, (T1,in T2,in). Thus, the
thermal effectiveness will be given by
=

T1,out T1,in
T1,in T2,in

(2)
The temperature approach is the
minimum difference between the

CEP

local stream temperatures in the exchanger. For the unit shown in Figure
1, it remains the same everywhere
throughout the exchanger because the
two stream temperature profiles are
parallel to each other.
Exchangers that contain more
heat-transfer area, provide high overall heat-transfer coefficients, and
have pure countercurrent flow tend to
have a higher thermal effectiveness.
This is illustrated in Figure 2, which
plots thermal effectiveness against
the maximum number of transfer
units (NTUmax).
Cmin is the minimum of
(mcp)Stream 1 and (mcp)Stream 2. Note
that for a given position along the
x-axis, the countercurrent flow arrangement provides the maximum
thermal effectiveness, followed by
crossflow, and then cocurrent flow.
The curves approach different limiting values of thermal effectiveness
asymptotically 0.5 and 1.0 for
cocurrent and countercurrent flow,
respectively, with an intermediate
value for crossflow.
For any given flow arrangement,
the thermal effectiveness rises with
an increase in the overall heat-transfer coefficient and heat-transfer area,
although the rate of increase slows
down asymptotically. It should be
noted that exchangers with higher
thermal effectiveness result in closer
temperature approaches.

Plate heat exchanger


In the broadest sense, this category
includes all heat exchangers that use
plates in their construction. Examples
are the various types of exchangers
containing cross-corrugated channels,
spiral plate heat exchangers, and
some proprietary welded exchangers.

Hydraulic Diameter, mm
60

10

0.1
Human Lungs

Specialty
Plate-Fin
Plate
Shell-and-Tube
100

1,000

10,000

Area Density, m2/m3

Figure 3. Flow channel size and heat-transfer area density for various types of heat exchangers.
As mentioned earlier, compact
heat exchangers offer high overall
heat-transfer coefficients and heattransfer areas. Hence, they can operate at a high thermal effectiveness,
making them especially suitable for
close temperature approach duties.
Again, many CHEs can be configured as nearly ideal countercurrent
flow devices. Thus, they fall on or
very near the high thermal effectiveness curve for countercurrent flow in
Figure 2.
The flow passages of compact
heat exchangers offer another advantage. The flow velocities of the
streams tend to be more uniform
across the flow width thereby minimizing the stagnant or low-velocity
zones within the exchanger. Because
such zones are more susceptible to
fouling, their elimination means that
CHEs have less propensity to foul.
Although compact exchangers are
less likely to foul on this basis, the
possibility of blockage of the small
flow channels by suspended particles
needs to be taken into account for
not-so-clean fluids. In many cases,
this calls for the installation of
strainers before the streams enter the
exchanger.

Degree of compactness
Heat exchangers can be classified in
a variety of ways. One way that is especially relevant to compact heat exchangers is based on two closely related parameters the flow channel size and
the heat-transfer area density. Normally,
the smaller the flow channel size in the
exchanger, the higher the area density.
Figure 3 compares several broad
categories of heat exchangers. Shelland-tube exchangers use plain tubes
that are typically 10 to 30 mm in diameter, which translates to area densities of about 100 m2/m3. Plate-type
exchangers (e.g., plate-and-frame exchangers) generally have 5-mm to 8mm channels and area densities more
than 200 m2/m3. Plate-fin exchangers, the category to which car radiators belong, have channel sizes of
about 2 mm and area densities between 800 and 1,500 m2/m3. Speciality heat exchangers, which include
the printed circuit heat exchanger,
have channels with hydraulic diameters of roughly 1 to 2 mm and area
densities of over 2,000 m2/m3. The
human lung, with flow passages of
0.2 mm equivalent diameter and area
densities of more than 10,000 m2/m3,
is shown for comparison.

CEP

Gasketted plate-and-frame
heat exchanger
This exchanger, referred to as a
plate-and-frame heat exchanger or
simply a plate heat exchanger, consists of a pack of plates held together
in a frame. Figure 4 shows an exploded view of the assembly of a plate
heat exchanger. More details of construction are available from a number
of sources (e.g., Ref. 1).
As shown in Figure 4, the two
streams flow in alternate channels between plates, entering and leaving via
ports in the corners of the plates.
Each plate has a gasket around the
edge and around the ports. The gaskets around the plate edge define the
flow paths and are arranged to make
the two streams flow in alternate plate
passages.
The exchanger can be completely
dismantled for cleaning. This is the
main reason for its widespread use in
the food industry and other clean
applications.
Figure 5 shows a typical chevron
pattern, which forms the cross-corrugated passages in the plate heat exchanger with chevron patterns of the
consecutive plates pointing in opposite directions. The plates are normally made of stainless steel; they are
also available in other higher alloys
and metals (such as titanium) for special duties. Plates can be from 0.2 m
to over 3 m long, with widths typically 20% to 40% of their length. The
plate thickness is usually in the range
of 0.4 to 0.9 mm, and the plate spacing varies between 2.5 and 5 mm, except for special wide-gap plates
sometimes used for viscous or fibrous
materials. The hydraulic diameter for
flow between plates is approximately
twice the plate spacing.

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

41

Compact Heat Exchangers

Soft Plate

Hard Plate

Figure 5. Typical chevron pattern


on a plate

Figure 4. Exploded view of a plate-and-frame heat exchanger. Courtesy of Alfa Laval Thermal Inc.
Operating pressures up to 20 bar
are standard, and somewhat higher
pressures can be achieved using
heavy-duty frames. The gaskets, employed to seal the flow passages, usually limit the operating temperature
range, with a lower limit of 25C
and an upper limit of 160C to
180C, depending on the specific gasket material.
The main advantage of this type of
exchanger is that it can be opened,
providing complete accessibility to
the heat-transfer surface. This also
gives the flexibility of adding or removing some plates to accommodate
changes in the heat duty.
The main limitation of the plateand-frame heat exchanger is that the
process fluids must be compatible
with the gasket material. The gasketted construction also makes these
units unsuitable for refinery applications where prolonged resistance to
fire may be required. Partially welded
plate-and-frame exchangers (discussed later) allow the user to balance
the advantages of flexibility and accessibility arising from the gasketted
construction against the higher temperature and pressure operation with
a wider range of fluid types offered
by the welded construction. (Fully
welded exchangers can operate at

42

www.aiche.org/cep/

December 2000

even higher temperatures if flexibility


and accessibility are not necessary.)
For single-phase liquid duties involving moderate temperatures and
pressures, plate-and-frame exchangers
can be a cost-effective alternative to the
conventional shell-and-tube exchanger.

Flow passage structure


in plate exchangers
Plate heat exchangers have corrugated plates. The corrugations
provide both support against internal pressures and heat-transfer
enhancement.
The most common type of plate
has crossed corrugations, that is, the
corrugation patterns in adjacent plates
are at an angle to each other, giving a
lattice of support points where they
touch and a complex flow channel
shape between the plates. The corrugations are usually formed as
chevrons. There may be a single
chevron pattern, as in Figure 5, or
multiple rows of chevrons across the
plate width. Other variants have the
chevron pattern running along the
length rather than width of the plate.
In all cases, however, the local flow
geometry has the same cross-corrugated structure.
For the cross-corrugated plates
formed from the chevron pattern,

CEP

chevron angle is an important design


variable. The chevron angle is the
angle of the corrugations with respect
to a horizontal line, designated as in
Figure 5. A plate with a low chevron
angle offers a high heat-transfer coefficient and high pressure drop, whereas a plate with a high chevron angle
has lower heat transfer and lower
pressure drop. The low- and highchevron angle plates can also be referred to as hard and soft plates, respectively, reflecting the resistance
that they present to a flowing fluid.
For single-phase duties, reliable
information is generally available on
the effect of chevron angle on heat
transfer and pressure drop (for example, Ref. 2). Therefore, selecting soft
or hard plates (or a combination) to
match specific pressure drop and
heat-transfer requirements is relatively straightforward.
In addition to the main chevron
pattern, the pattern on the distribution
regions of the plates is also important
and plays a significant role in uniform
distribution of a stream in a given
plate channel (34).

Partially welded
plate heat exchanger
This variant of the plate-and-frame
heat exchanger attempts to combine
some of the advantages of gasketted
and welded construction. This design
is useful when a suitable gasket mate-

Endplate
Gasket
Service

Welded
Seal

Flowplate
Gasket

Welded
Seal

Flowplate Welded
Gasket
Seal

Flowplate
Gasket

Welded
Seal

Head

Process
Endplate
Pair

Flowplate
Pair

Flowplate
Pair

Sealplate
Pair

Figure 6. Partially welded, or welded-pair, plate heat exchanger. Courtesy of APV Heat Exchanger
Product Group.

rial cannot be found because of the


chemical aggressivenes of one of the
fluids.
Pairs of plates are welded together
around the edges to form gasket-free
channels through which the aggressive fluid can flow. Gaskets are used
between the welded pairs for the less
aggressive fluid. Such a heat exchanger is referred to as a weldedpair plate exchanger (Figure 6).
The aggressive fluid, while flowing through the ports, does come in
contact with the circular port gaskets
mounted on the gasketted side of the
plates. Because these gaskets are circular and therefore easy to seal, and
are relatively small, they can be made
from a less flexible but more chemically resistant material, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, or Teflon).
Welded-pair plate exchangers have
the same operating temperature and
pressure limits as the fully gasketted
plate-frame exchangers. Advantages
of accessibility and flexibility also remain the same except for the access
to the welded side of the plates.

Completely welded
plate heat exchanger
Recently, a fully welded platepack construction has been introduced in the market. In this arrangement, the plate pack is welded fully

and is completely free of gaskets. The


plate pack is held within a frame in a
conventional manner. Ducts of the
same material as the plates are welded to the plate pack at the port holes
and carry fluids to and from the
flanges attached to the frame and the
plate pack, eliminating the need for a
gasket between the front plate and the
head plate of the frame.
The welded construction allows
the exchanger to operate at temperatures up to 350C and pressures up to
40 bar. However, because it is welded, the plate pack cannot be opened
for cleaning and plates cannot be
added or removed from it.

Brazed plate heat exchanger


This design (Figure 7) has a plate
structure similar to that of the conventional plate-and-frame heat exchanger, but the plate pack is brazed
together using copper as the brazing
material. Plates are made from stainless steel or higher alloys. Brazing
eliminates the need for both a frame
and gaskets.
Brazing also increases the operating temperature and pressure range
considerably. The exchanger can operate from 195C to 200C at pressures up to 30 bar.
Plate lengths are usually 1 m or
less, although larger units with longer

CEP

plates are continually becoming


available. The exchangers overall
size is still relatively small compared
to the large plate-and-frame units.
These exchangers are now widely
used in the refrigeration industry for
single-phase and two-phase duties.
They are probably the cheapest stainless steel exchangers available on the
market today. They should be used
only for relatively clean fluids because of their small passages and inaccessibility of the heat-transfer surface for mechanical cleaning.
More recently, nickel brazed plate
heat exchangers have been introduced
to the market. They are particularly
useful for duties involving ammonia
as a working fluid where copper
brazed heat exchangers cannot be
used.

Plate-and-shell
heat exchanger
An interesting variant of the plate
exchanger is the plate-and-shell heat
exchanger (Figure 8). It consists of a
stack of welded circular cross-corrugated plates fitted into a cylindrical
shell. The stack is formed by welding
the plates alternately around the ports
and around the outer periphery. One
stream flows through the plate pairs
and the other between the alternate
plate gaps.
The plates are made of stainless
steel and higher alloys. Plate diame-

Figure 7. Brazed plate heat exchanger.


Courtesy of Alfa Laval Thermal Inc.

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

43

Compact Heat Exchangers

Figure 8.
Plate-and-shell heat exchanger.

ters range from 200 to 1,000 mm.


Standard designs can accommodate
heat-transfer areas from 0.5 to 500 m2
in a single unit. These units can operate in the temperature range of
200C to 600C and at pressures up
to 40 bar.
It is claimed that plate-and-shell
exchangers can handle duties involving thermal cycling, because the plate
pack is able to expand and contract
within the shell. These exchangers
have been used in single-phase and
two-phase duties in refrigeration and
other industries.

Plate-fin heat exchanger


The conventional brazed aluminum plate-fin heat exchangers are
used extensively in cryogenic applications, such as air separation and
ethylene plants. However, because
they are made from aluminum, they
cannot be used for higher temperature
applications. Their derivatives made
of stainless steel and titanium have
more potential applications in the
CPI.
Brazed aluminum
plate-fin heat exchanger
A typical brazed aluminum exchanger handling multiple streams is
illustrated in Figure 9. It consists of
alternating layers of plates (referred
to as parting sheets) and corrugated
fins. Flow passages are formed between the consecutive parting sheets,
with the sealing provided by the side
bars along the edges. The parting
sheets and fins provide the primary
and secondary surface for heat-transfer, respectively. In addition to pro-

44

www.aiche.org/cep/

December 2000

viding the secondary area for heat


transfer, the brazed fins hold the heat
exchanger together. In most plate-fin
exchangers, the effective length of
the block consists of finning laid parallel to the block axis, to give true
counterflow heat exchange among the
streams.
At the end of the exchanger, pads
of finning are laid at an angle and
serve as distributors. These distribute
the flow coming from the headers and
nozzles into the main heat-transfer
passages or collect the flow coming
from the passages and direct it into
the headers and nozzles. The headers
and nozzles are welded onto the outside of the block.
Within the plate-fin core, each
stream flows in a number of layers,
each of which is divided into numerous parallel, nearly rectangular subchannels by the fins. Fin heights and
fin frequencies determine the size of
these subchannels. Fin heights are
typically between 5 and 9 mm, while
fin frequencies, in the main heattransfer region, are typically 590 to
787 fins/m (15 to 20 fins/in.). The
equivalent hydraulic diameters of
these subchannels are, thus, only a
few millimeters. These small passages result in heat-transfer area densities of about 800 to 1,500 m2/m3.
Such high area density, coupled with
the aluminum construction, means
that for a given heat-transfer area, the
exchangers are smaller and lighter
than any other exchanger type.
The overall size of these exchangers can be up to 1.2 m wide, 1.2 m
deep (the stack height), and 6.2 m
long. They are used for single-phase

CEP

and two-phase duties involving boiling and condensation. In low-temperature cryogenic applications, they
provide the benefit of a multistream
capability, ensuring that all the cold
streams produced in a process are
used to cool the incoming warm
streams. They can operate at a thermal effectiveness up to 98% and are
able to handle temperature approaches down to less than 2C. In cryogenic duties where economics are
dominated by the cost of energy required to generate the low temperatures, such close temperature approach is of vital importance.
Brazed aluminum exchangers can
be used for streams at pressures up to
100 bar and generally within a temperature range of 269C to 100C;
with appropriate alloys for the headers and nozzles, they can be used at
temperatures up to 200C. However,
the maximum operating temperature
for aluminum alloys decreases rapidly with increasing pressure.
Four basic fin geometries (Figure
10) are used in plate-fin exchangers.
All manufacturers make plain, perforated, and serrated (offset strip) fins.
Some make wavy fins; others prefer
serrated fins with a long serration
length.
The perforations provide a small
enhancement over plain fins for improved single-phase performance.
Perforated fins are often used for
boiling. The perforations help to
equalize flows among the subchannels, mitigating against local blockage or pressure fluctuations arising
from the evaporation process.
Serrated fins significantly increase

Figure 9.
Inlet

both heat transfer and pressure drop


over plain fins. They are used for single-phase gas duties, where the increase
in heat-transfer coefficient is most desirable. Sometimes, they are also used
for boiling duties because they are
thought to aid the onset of boiling.
Plain fins find applications in condensation and single-phase duties,
where lower pressure drop characteristics may be more important. For
serrated fins, the standard length of
the serrations is 3 mm (q in.). A
longer length (12 or 15 mm) results
in a fin whose performance is between that of perforated fins and standard serrated fins.

Brazed aluminum
plate-fin heat
exchanger.

Nozzle
Header

Outlet

Distributor
Fin

Wear
Plate

Heat
Transfer Fin
Spacer
Bar
Parting Sheet

Stainless steel
plate-fin heat exchanger
Plate-fin heat exchangers can be
manufactured of materials other than
aluminum so that they can be operated at higher temperatures and pressures. Stainless steel exchangers have
been used for some time in vehicle
and aerospace applications, mainly
for single-phase duties. These are
typically small exchangers blocks
with sides less than 0.3 m. Some
manufacturers, however, can supply
larger brazed stainless-steel plate-fin
units (up to 0.6 m by 0.6 m by 1.5 m
long) for CPI applications.
Brazed stainless steel exchangers
are geometrically similar to brazed
aluminum plate-fin exchangers, but
they normally have lower fin heights
(less than 5 mm high) because of the
relatively poor thermal conductivity
of stainless steel. They generally employ plain fins, because other fin
types are difficult to manufacture in
stainless steel. Copper is used as the
braze metal for stainless steel exchangers.
The effect of the braze on process
fluids has sometimes been of concern
to potential users. Therefore, some
manufacturers are trying to develop
diffusion bonding techniques for
stainless steel plate-fin exchangers to
avoid problems associated with the
copper braze.

Support
Plate
Cap Sheet

Plain Fins

Serrated (Offset) Fins

Perforated Fins

Wavy (Herringbone) Fins

Figure 10. Plain, serrated, perforated, and wavy fins.

CEP

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

45

Compact Heat Exchangers

Literature Cited
1. Hewitt, G. F., G. L. Shires, and T. R.
Bott, Process Heat Transfer, CRC
Press, London (1994).
2. Heavner, R. L., H. Kumar, and A. S.
Wanniarachchi, Performance of an Industrial Plate Heat Exchanger: Effect of
Chevron Angle, AIChE Symposium Series, Vol 89, AIChE, New York, pp.
262267 (1993).
3. Kumar, H., M. F. Edwards, P. R. Davison, D. O. Jackson, and P. J. Heggs,
The Importance of Corner Header Distributor Designs in Plate Heat Exchangers, Proceedings of the 10th International Heat Transfer Conference,
Brighton, U.K., published by IChemE,
Rugby, U.K., Industrial Session, Paper
1/2-CHE-5, pp. 8186 (1994).
4. Haseler, L. E., V. V. Wadekar, and R.
H. Clarke, Flow Distribution Effects in
a Plate Frame Heat Exchanger, 3rd
U.K. National Heat Transfer Conference,
published by IChemE, Rugby, U.K.,
IChemE Symposium Series 129, Vol. 1,
pp. 361367, (1992).
5. Adderley, C., and J. O. Fowler, The
Use of a Novel Manufacturing Process
for High Performance Titanium PlateFin Heat Exchanger, Chapter 17, Heat
Exchange Engineering, Vol. 2, E. A.
Foumeny and P. J. Heggs, eds., Ellis
Horwood, Chichester, U.K. (1991).
6. Haseler, L. E., and D. Butterworth,
Boiling in Compact Heat Exchangers/Industrial Practice and Problems, Keynote
Paper IV, International Conference on
Convective Flow Boiling, Banff, Canada,
published by Taylor & Francis, Philadelphia, PA, pp. 5770 (1995).
7. Guide to Compact Heat Exchangers,
Prepared for the Energy Efficiency Office by Energy Technology Support Unit
(ETSU), Harwell, U.K. (1994).
8. Oswald, J. I., D. A. Dawson, and L. A.
Clawley, A New Durable Gas Turbine
Recuperator, ASME Gas Turbine Conference, Indianapolis, IN, ASME 99-GT369, ASME, New York (1999).
9. Ramshaw, C., Intensified Heat Transfer: The Way Ahead?, Chapter 15,
Heat Exchange Engineering, Vol. 2, E.
A. Foumeny and P. J. Heggs, eds., Ellis
Horwood, Chichester, U.K. (1991).
10. Ferrato, M., and B. Thonon, A Compact
Ceramic Plate-Fin Heat Exchanger for Gas
Turbine Heat Recovery, in Compact Heat
Exchangers for the Process Industry, R. K.
Shah, ed., Begell House Inc., Wallingford,
U.K. and New York, pp. 195199 (1997).

46

www.aiche.org/cep/

December 2000

Diffusion-bonded titanium
plate-fin heat exchanger
Another development in the manufacture of plate-fin heat exchangers
capable of high-pressure, high-temperature operation is the application
of superplastic forming and diffusion
bonding technology (which was originally developed for titanium turbine
blades) (5). The manufacturing technique is illustrated in Figure 11.
Three sheets of titanium are diffusion bonded at selected positions
using a bond inhibitor. These three
sheets are then expanded superplastically in a closed die at elevated temperatures by pressurizing the unbonded regions between the plates. This
forms a single element equivalent to a
single layer of plate-fin geometry,
where the middle sheet forms the
subchannels (i.e., the secondary surface). The subchannels, however, are
trapezoidal rather than rectangular,
and somewhat larger than the subchannels in aluminum plate-fin exchangers. The heat exchanger core is
assembled by diffusion bonding these
elements together.
The typical height of the trapezoidal subchannels is 2 to 5 mm.
They are made as wavy rather than
straight subchannels. Different wavy
frequencies are offered to accommodate a range of pressure drop and
heat-transfer characteristics.
In terms of general heat transfer
and pressure drop performance, these
exchangers are similar to aluminum
plate-fin exchangers, offering the
same advantage of high thermal effectiveness. The use of titanium coupled with the metallurgical benefits of
the manufacturing technology allow
them to operate at temperatures
above 550C and at pressures above
200 bar. The other main advantage of
this type of exchanger is that titanium
which is a highly corrosion-resistant
material, and no other metal is involved as a braze.
All the existing applications of
these exchangers are for single-phase
duties (6).

CEP

Printed-circuit
heat exchanger
The printed-circuit heat exchanger is manufactured by diffusion
bonding technology. The term
printed circuit is used because
semicircular flow passages are
chemically etched onto flat plates,
which resemble printed circuit
boards (Figure 12). The plates are
then stacked and diffusion bonded
together to produce an exchanger capable of operating at pressures up to
1,000 bar and temperatures up to
900C. The exchangers can be manufactured of either stainless steel or
various higher alloys.
The flow passages in a printed-circuit heat exchanger are normally between 0.5 and 2.0 mm deep, and the
cross-section approximates a semicircle. Zigzag, as well as other morecomplicated patterns, can be etched.
Various combinations of crossflow
and counterflow can be employed in
the exchanger as required.
Welded compact
heat exchanger
Plate-and-frame exchangers with

After Bonding

After Superplastic Forming

After Ironing

Figure 11. Steps in manufacturing an


element for a diffusion-bonded titanium
plate-fin exchanger.

a cylindrical shell. This arrangement


can operate at pressures up to 300 bar
and temperatures ranging from
200C to 700C. Because of the
large plate size, the heat-transfer area
of a single unit can be as high as
10,000 m2. A typical application for
this type of exchanger is feed effluent
duty in a catalytic reforming plant.
All welded exchangers are more
expensive than the gasketted plate heat
exchanger. But, the use of large plates
helps reduce the cost differential.
Some of the proprietary exchanger
types and their pressure and temperature limits, along with examples of
their applications, are described in
Ref. 7.

Figure 12. Printed-circuit heat exchanger.


Courtesy of Heatric.

fully welded plate packs were discussed earlier. There are also other
types of proprietary welded designs.
In one, large plates up to 10 m long
and 1.5 m wide are welded together
and the plate pack is contained within

Spiral recuperator
A new recuperator has been developed to withstand thermal cycling
(8). Unlike existing recuperators, it is
made from two continuous sheets of
metal wound into a spiral with a corrugated sheet providing finned channels for the hot gas stream (Figure
13). Air enters the top and flows
down, while the gas enters at the bottom and flows upward.
An unusual feature of the spiral recuperator is that the fins on the gas
side of the matrix are not physically
Figure 13.

Air In

Air Out

Construction of a
spiral recuperator.
Gas Out

attached to the pressure retaining


sheets. Instead, the high pressure on
the air side maintains the contact between the gas-side fins and the adjacent sheet.
This exchanger is not yet being
manufactured on a commercial scale.
But when it is, it is likely to be costeffective because it can be manufactured by a continuous process.

Nonmetallic exchangers
Compact heat exchangers can also
be fabricated of nonmetallic materials
of construction, such as graphite,
polymer films, and ceramics, for specialized applications.
Graphite is used in making plates
for the conventional plate-and-frame
heat exchanger. With special gaskets
made from carbon fibers, these exchangers are used for highly corrosive fluids such as acid and salt solutions in the mineral processing industry. Graphite is also used as a
material of construction for carbon
block exchangers, where circular
passages are machined in a solid carbon block, typically in a crossflow
arrangement.
A detailed discussion of ceramic
and polymer film heat exchangers is
given by Ramshaw (9). More recently, Ferrato and Thonon (10) have investigated the use of ceramic plate-fin
heat exchangers for high-temperature
applications.
Selection
Choosing an appropriate compact
heat exchanger for a given duty is a
complex process. However, a preliminary selection procedure can be compared to a simple two-stage separation process that applies a coarse filter followed by a fine filter.
In this case, we are separating the
various types of CHEs into suitable
and unsuitable designs using technical criteria as the filters. The
coarse filter makes a preliminary
cut by rejecting the obviously unsuitable types and leaving behind those
that are capable of performing the
specified duty. The fine filter then

Gas In

CEP

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

47

Compact Heat Exchangers

Table 1. A preliminary selection guide to compact heat exchangers.


Plate-andFrame
(Gasketed)

Partially
Welded
Plate-andFrame

Brazed
Plate-Fin

DiffusionBonded
Titanium
Plate-Fin

Brazed
Plate

Plate andShell

Printed
Circuit

Compactness (m2/m3)

Up to 200

Up to 200

Up to 200

8001,500

700800

>2,000

Stream Types

Liquid-Liquid
Gas-Liquid
Two-Phase

Liquid-Liquid
Gas-Liquid
Two-Phase

Liquid-Liquid
Two-phase

Liquids

Liquid-Liquid
Gas-Liquid
Two-Phase

Liquid-Liquid
Gas-Liquid
Two-Phase

Liquid-Liquid
Gas-Liquid
Two-Phase

Materials

Frame:
Carbon Steel
Plates:
Stainless Steel,
Titanium,
Incoloy,
Hastelloy,
Graphite

Frame:
Stainless
Carbon Steel
Steel
Plates:
Stainless Steel,
Incoloy,
Hastelloy,

Stainless
Steel,
Titanium

Aluminum,
Stainless
Steel,
Nickel Alloy

Titanium

S/S,
Nickel,
Titanium
Inconel
Incoloy

Temperature Range (C)

35 to +180

35 to +180

195 to +200

200 to +600

269 to +100

<550

200 to +900

Maximum Pressure (bar)

25

25

30

40

90

200

300400

Cleaning Methods

Mechanical

Chem/Mech*

Chemical

Chem/Mech* Chemical

Chemical

Chemical

Multistream Capability

Not Common

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

*Chemical cleaning on the welded side and mechanical cleaning on the other side.
Source: Adapted from (7).

further narrows the choice based on


heat-transfer area and exchanger cost.

Step 1: The coarse filter


Based on considerations of operating temperature, pressure, and fluid
compatibility, the exchangers that
cannot be used for a given duty can
be rejected. Other factors, such as
mechanical or chemical cleaning of
the heat-transfer surface, multistream
capabilities, and so on, can also be
taken into account.
Table 1 can be used to apply this
coarse filter to the CHEs covered
here. This involves considering the
following:
1. Maximum pressure. Many
CHEs can be employed only up to
moderate pressures, and these will
be ruled out for higher-pressure
services.
2. Temperature range. Different
exchangers have different tempera-

48

www.aiche.org/cep/

December 2000

tures ranges, so some exchanger


types can be ruled out on this basis.
3. Fluid compatibility. Compatibility refers to that between the fluid and
the materials of construction for the
heat exchanger. Gasketted exchangers,
for example, may be excluded if there
is a problem of compatibility between
the fluid and the gasket material.
4. Other issues. This could include
such factors as the consequences of
leakage of one stream into another.
For example, if there is a likelihood
of a violent chemical reaction, a double-wall type heat exchanger should
be considered. Another factor is temperature cross i.e., where the outlet
temperature of the hot stream is higher than the inlet temperature of the
cold stream. If there is a temperature
cross, then only exchangers that can
be configured as countercurrent devices can be used.
As a result of this filtering, one or

CEP

more exchangers could be left as viable. Note that Table 1 is by no


means exhaustive and could be supplemented with relevant data from
manufacturers, especially for the proprietary exchanger types.

Step 2: The fine filter


All of the exchangers identified in
Step 1 as capable of performing the
duty need to be investigated further in
Step 2 to narrow down the choice.
This involves approximating the heattransfer area and cost for each exchanger. Based on these two parameters, a final selection can be made.
To determine the heat-transfer
area, Eq. 1 can be rearranged:
A = 1/U (Q/T)

(3)

In principle, the heat-transfer area


can be multiplied by cost per unit
area to obtain the cost of the ex-

Table 2. Typical heat-transfer coefficient (U) and cost factor (C)


data for a shell-and-tube heat exchanger with Q/DT = 5,000 W/K.

Cold-Side Fluid

Parameter*

LowPressure
Gas

HighPressure
Gas

Process
Water

Hot-Side Fluid
LowHighViscosity
Viscosity
Organic
Organic Condensing
Liquid
Liquie
Steam

Condensing
Hydrocarbon

Condensing
Hydrocarbon
With
Inert Gas

Low-Pressure
Gas (1 bar)

U
C

55
2.13

93
1.88

102
1.71

99
1.76

63
2.24

107
1.62

100
1.74

86
1.82

High-Pressure
Gas (20 bar)

U
C

93
1.88

300
1.20

429
0.95

375
1.08

120
1.68

530
0.99

388
1.05

240
1.16

Treated
Cooling Water

105

484

938

720

142

1,607

764

345

1.65

1.08

0.81

1.07

1.41

0.48

1.01

1.17

Low-Viscosity
Organic Liquid
High-Viscosity
Organic Liquid
Boiling
Water

U
C
U
C
U
C

99
1.76
68
2.07
105
1.65

375
1.08
138
1.46
467
1.13

600
0.87
161
1.25
875
0.87

500
1.05
153
1.32
677
0.78

130
1.55
82
1.91
140
1.44

818
0.93
173
1.16
1,432
0.54

524
1.01
155
1.30
722
1.05

286
1.26
336
1.62
336
1.20

Boiling
Organic Liquid

U
C

99
1.76

375
1.08

600
0.87

500
1.05

130
1.55

818
0.93

524
1.01

286
1.26

* Units for U are W/m2K, units for C are $/WK.


Source: Adapted from (1).

changer. However, for some exchangers, especially those containing extended surfaces, it may be difficult to
define the heat-transfer area. For this
reason, Hewitt et al. (1) proposed
cost factors (C) based on Q/T.
Table 2 presents typical data for
the overall heat-transfer coefficient
and the cost factor at Q/T = 5,000
W/K for shell-and-tube exchangers
handling a variety of streams. (Complete tables for shell-and-tube and
plate-and-frame heat exchangers are
given in Ref. 1.) The steps involved
in the application of this fine filter
can be illustrated as follows.
1. Calculate the heat duty, Q, from
a heat balance.
2. Estimate the mean temperature difference, T, between the
streams, using a correction factor
(Ft) if necessary.
3. Calculate the ratio Q/T. Note
that the ratio may be different for dif-

ferent heat exchangers and flow configurations if the value of the correction factor is different.
4. Obtain values of C and U from
tables such as Table 2 (which is
adapted from Ref. 1) and using logarithmic interpolation if necessary.
Logarithmic interpolation should be
used to interpolate for in-between
values of Q/T.
5. Calculate the cost of the heat
exchanger by multiplying C and
Q/T.
6. Calculate the area of the heat
exchanger using Eq. 3.
If there is one heat exchanger or
heat exchanger flow configuration
that is significantly better (by a factor
of 1.5 or so), then this type warrants a
detailed design and cost estimation. If
there are several exchangers with
comparable costs, then all of them
need to be investigated in detail.
It should be noted that extensive

CEP

tables of information giving C values,


as well as software for selection of
heat exchangers, is available from
CEP
commercial sources.
V. V. WADEKAR is Research Manager at HTFS,
AEA Technology Hyprotech, Harwell, U.K.
(Phone: +44-1235-434249;
Fax: +44-1235-831981; E-mail:
vishwas.wadekar@hyprotech.com).
In addition to leading his research team at
Harwell, he chairs the HTFS Industrial
Review Panel on compact heat exchangers.
He has authored or coauthored a number of
technical and research papers in the area of
compact heat exchangers, multiphase flow
heat and mass transfer, and boiling heat
transfer. He has lectured internationally and
presented numerous training courses related
to compact and other exchanger types.
Recently, he has started teaching a short
course on compact heat exchangers at the
AIChE Spring National Meeting. He obtained
his BChemEng and PhD degrees from
Bombay Univ. Dept. of Chemical Technology.
He is a member of the Heat Transfer Society,
U.K., and of AIChE.

December 2000

www.aiche.org/cep/

49