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ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING

Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596


Published online 17 November 2016 in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/apj.2056

Research article
Evaluation of recuperative tube-in-tube heat exchanger
operating in cryogenic refrigeration process: simulation-
based transient study
Ali Saberimoghaddam* and Mohammad Mahdi Bahri Rasht Abadi
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Malek Ashtar University of Technology (MUT),
Lavizan158751774Tehran, Iran

Received 25 May 2016; Revised 20 August 2016; Accepted 28 October 2016

ABSTRACT: Heat exchangers are the critical components of refrigeration and liquefaction processes. In the current paper,
thermal behavior of Joule-Thomson refrigeration system, including counter current helically coiled tube-in-tube heat exchanger
and expansion valve, is studied in unsteady state conditions. According to obtained results, heat inleak let to longer cooldown
time and lower liquefaction efciency. Moreover, there was a critical length for a tube-in-tube heat exchanger operating in
the Joule-Thomson cooling system. A heat exchanger with a length shorter than the critical length could not liquefy the
high-pressure gas. This critical length was named as cooldown length (LCD) here. Increasing the heat exchanger length
up to LCD led to increase in cooldown time, while increasing the length higher than LCD had no considerable effect on cooldown
time. The simulations indicated that longitudinal heat conduction did not have considerable effect on the performance of heat
exchanger in unsteady state conditions. 2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

KEYWORDS: cryogenic; heat exchanger; Joule-Thomson; transient behavior

INTRODUCTION heat leakage as the main challenges of cryogenic heat


exchangers. Aminuddin and Zubair[2] studied the
Heat exchangers are the critical components of various losses in a cryogenic counter current heat
refrigeration and liquefaction processes. Appropriate exchanger numerically. They discussed the effect of
design of cryogenic heat exchangers (heat exchangers longitudinal heat conduction loss as a parasitic heat loss
operating at low temperatures) inuences on the gas by conduction from heat exchanger cold end to the
liquefaction processes considerably. Due to high adjacent components, but they did not perform any
efciency needed for heat exchangers operating at low experimental tests. Krishna et al.[6] studied the effect
temperatures, even small losses should be considered of longitudinal heat conduction in the separating walls
in the design step.[1] A gas liqueer[2] produces no on the performance of 3-uid cryogenic heat exchanger
liquid in cryogenic processes if its effectiveness falls with 3 thermal communications. They illustrated that
below 85%. The performance of cryogenic heat the thermal performance of heat exchangers operating
exchangers is deteriorated by various losses such as at cryogenic temperature is strongly governed by
longitudinal heat conduction through the wall various losses such as longitudinal heat conduction
material,[3] heat inleak from the surrounding,[4] and ow through the wall, heat inleak from the surroundings,
maldistribution, which are not normally considered for and ow maldistribution.
evaluation of heat exchanger performance.
Pacio and Dorao[5] reviewed the thermal hydraulic
models of cryogenic heat exchangers. They introduced Gupta et al.[7] investigated the second law analysis
physical effects such as changes in uid properties, ow for counter current cryogenic heat exchangers in the
maldistribution, axial longitudinal heat conduction, and presence of ambient heat inleak and longitudinal heat
conduction through wall. They cited the importance
of considering the effect of longitudinal heat
*Correspondence to: Ali Saberimoghaddam, Department of conduction in the design of cryogenic heat exchangers.
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Nellis[8] presented a numerical model of heat
Engineering, Malek Ashtar University of Technology (MUT),
Lavizan 158751774, Tehran, Iran. exchanger in which the effect of axial conduction,
E-mail: articlemut@gmail.com property variations, and parasitic heat losses to the

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86 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering

environment has been explicitly modeled. He systems. Transient behavior of Joule-Thomson cooling
concluded that small degradation exists in the systems depends on the thermal behavior of
performance of heat exchanger in conditions which recuperative heat exchanger operating in unsteady state
the temperature of heat exchanger cold end is equal to conditions. Fig. 1 shows the scheme of the Joule-
the temperature of the inlet cold uid. Narayanan and Thomson cooling system. As can be seen, in a Joule-
Venkatarathnam[9] presented a relationship between Thomson cooling system, high-pressure gas enters the
the effectiveness of a heat exchanger losing heat at the recuperative heat exchanger and is cooled by low-
cold end. They studied a Joule-Thomson cryocooler pressure cold gas returning from the other side of the
and concluded that the hot uid outlet temperature will heat exchanger. The cooled high-pressure gas passes
be lower in heat exchangers with heat inleak at the cold through an expansion valve and is cooled further by
end with respect to heat exchangers with insulated ends. the Joule-Thomson expansion (isenthalpic expansion).
Ranganayakulu et al.[3] studied the effect of longitudinal The expanded gas returns from the other side of the
heat conduction in compact plate-n and tube-n heat recuperative heat exchanger and cools the incoming
exchanger by using nite element method (FEM). They high-pressure gas. This process cools the high-pressure
indicated that the thermal performance deteriorations of gas gradually. Finally, the process becomes steady and
cross ow plate-n, cross ow tube-n, and counter the cooled high-pressure gas transforms into liquid
ow plate-n heat exchangers due to longitudinal heat phase partially. Fig. 2 shows the gradual cooldown
conduction may become signicant, especially when process of recuperative tube-in-tube heat exchanger.
the uid capacity rate ratio is equal to 1 and when the As can be seen, the cooling process of recuperative heat
longitudinal heat conduction parameter is large. exchanger starts from high-pressure gas inlet. As time
Damle and Atrey[10] studied the effect of reservoir proceeds, the heat exchanger material is cooled by
pressure and volume on the cooldown behavior of a high-pressure gas, and the Joule-Thomson effect
miniature Joule-Thomson cryocooler considering the appears gradually at the other end of the heat exchanger.
distributed Joule-Thomson effect. According to their The temperature of low-pressure gas at the heat
research, these parameters affect the cooldown time, exchanger inlet is a function of temperature and pressure
cooling effect, and the time for which the cooling effect of high-pressure gas at the heat exchanger outlet. On the
is obtained at the required cryogenic temperature. Chou other side, the temperature of high-pressure gas at the
et al.[11] used a simplied transient 1D model of heat exchanger outlet varies versus time until
momentum and energy transport to simulate the ow establishing steady state conditions. Therefore, the
and heat transfer characteristics. They proposed that temperature of low-pressure gas at the heat exchanger
the size and weight of cryocooler as important inlet as a boundary condition for mathematical
parameters must be reduced to improve the simulation is not constant and varies versus time.
performance. Tzabar and Kaplansky[12] presented a Transient cooling period, cooling process of high-
numerical cooldown analysis for Dewar-detector pressure gas from precooling temperature to
assemblies cooled with Joule-Thomson cryocoolers. liquefaction, is the main subject of the current study.
They analyzed the ability of their numerical model in Numerical simulation of this process is complicated
predicting the cooldown performances of Joule- due to variable boundary conditions. Dynamic
Thomson cryocoolers during the development stages simulation of helically coiled tube-in-tube heat
prior to prototype production. Hong et al.[13] studied exchanger operating in the Joule-Thomson cooling
the cooldown characteristics of a miniature Joule- system was performed by using FEM considering
Thomson refrigerator with a pressurized vessel, which variable boundary conditions, heat inleak into external
has different initial pressures of nitrogen gas. They wall, and longitudinal heat conduction along the
discussed the inuence of supply pressure and separating and external wall, simultaneously. The
temperature on the mass ow rate during the cooldown inuence of several parameters on the transient
stage. behavior of the Joule-Thomson cooling system was
Counter current tube-in-tube heat exchangers is studied, and possible solutions to improve the
usually used in small-scale Joule-Thomson cooling performance of mentioned system are presented.

Figure 1. Scheme of recuperative heat exchanger connected to expansion


needle valve
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering RECUPERATIVE TUBE-IN-TUBE HEAT EXCHANGER 87

Figure 2. Cool-down process of recuperative heat exchanger in transient period, A)


the high pressure gas enters the heat exchanger with pre-cooling temperature and
cools the low pressure gas, B) the high pressure gas cools the heat exchanger material
and low pressure gas, expands in expansion valve. Due to expansion, the low
temperature low pressure gas is generated and cooling process of heat exchanger
and high pressure gas starts from other side of heat exchanger, C) the step B develops
and cooling process continues until steady state conditions

MODELING PROCEDURE AND VALIDATING Conduction and convection heat inleak terms were
neglected (high vacuum conditions).
Finite element method was used to solve the system of Pressure drops along the tubes were assumed 0. This
energy conservation equations established on the assumption was obtained from experimental tests
counter current helically coiled tube-in-tube heat performed by liqueer.
exchanger. Forward, central, and backward forms of
FEM were used to discretize the energy equations in The model was solved by using direct use of heat
high-pressure gas, tube wall, and low-pressure gas, capacities, radiation heat transfer into external tube wall,
respectively. MATLAB m-le programming was and longitudinal heat conduction along the separating
employed to solve the FEM forms of energy equations and external walls. A detailed geometry of heat exchanger
by using Gauss-Jordan method. The properties of gas at and stream conguration has been shown in Fig. 3.
various temperatures were collected from references The energy equations were established in 4 sections
(for hydrogen[1] and for nitrogen[14]) and added to a (high-pressure gas, low-pressure gas, separating wall,
separate function m-le of MATLAB software. This and external wall) as follows:
function m-le was used in the main code. The
assumptions applied to simulate the problem were as
follows: dT 1 dT 1
1 A1 cp1 m1 cp1
dt dz (1)
The radial distribution of temperature was neglected
in gas ows and tube wall.  h1 2r1 T 1  T 2
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
88 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering

Figure 3. The value of vapor fraction in downstream of expansion valve versus


time for various heat inleaks (stainless steel tube)

dT 2 d2T 2 The temperature and pressure of gas at expansion valve


2 A2 cp2 k 2 A2 2 h1 2r1 T 1  T 2
dt dz (2) inlet inuence the liquid fraction and temperature of gas
 h3 2r2 T 2  T 3 at the outlet. This phenomenon is due to the variable
Joule-Thomson coefcient based on Eqn. (6).
dT 3 dT 3
3 A3 cp3 m3 cp3 h3 2r2 T 2  T 3  
dt dz (3) T
J-T (6)
h3 2r3 T 4  T 3 P h

dT 4 d2T 4 The slope of a tangent line on the isenthalpic curves


4 A4 cp4 k 4 A4 2  h3 2r3 T 4  T 3
dt dz (4) presents the value of Joule-Thomson coefcient at any
Ql 2r4 : temperature and pressure. Considering the isenthalpic
process taking place in the expansion valve, when the
outlet of expansion valve is at saturated conditions
Ql was dened as heat inleak term by using radiation
(with a specied pressure), the value of liquid fraction
heat transfer mechanism as follows:
and temperature at the outlet can be estimated by using
 the temperature and pressure of gas at the inlet. The Joule-
Ql T 4a  T 44 (5) Thomson coefcient can be estimated by using the P-V-T
properties or an equation of state, such as the modied
The boundary conditions are as follows: Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state. Enthalpy is a
function of temperature and pressure; therefore:
T 1 z 0 T Pre-cooling    
h h
T 2 z 0 T Pre-cooling and T 2 z l f T 1 z l  dh dT dP (7)
T P
T 3 z l f T 1 z l  P T

T 4 z 0 T Pre-cooling and T 4 z l f T 1 z l  Also,

where f[T1(z = l)] is a function of high-pressure gas dh Tds VdP (8)


outlet temperature (upstream of expansion valve) to
apply the Joule-Thomson effect in calculations. The So,
term f[T1(z = l)] was coded by using a separate function
m-le and used in the main program. This function
evaluates the liquid fraction and temperature of gas at      
h s
expansion valve outlet by using equation of state as dh dT T V dP (9)
T P P T
follows.
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering RECUPERATIVE TUBE-IN-TUBE HEAT EXCHANGER 89

Temperature drop in expansion process without phase results. Eqn. (6) was used in high-pressure gas, and
change at expansion valve outlet can be calculated by an Eqn. (7) was used in low-pressure gas. The program
iterative process by using a simple equation as follows: was able to select a suitable equation for the ows
according to ow regime during the computational
T out   run. Simulation details were presented in Table 1.
T
T P
dP (10) To validate the model, upstream and downstream
temperatures of expansion valve obtained from
T in h
simulation at different time steps were compared with
where the right-hand side term is also dependent on experimental data obtained from an experimental gas
temperature. Tin and Tout are the inlet and outlet liqueer. The cooling system operating in gas
temperatures of expansion valve, respectively. liqueer contained a helically coiled tube-in-tube heat
Alternatively, considering enthalpy as a point function exchanger with 4 m length and Joule-Thomson
(meaning the change in the value of parameter depends expansion valve. The helically coiled tube-in-tube
on the initial and the nal conditions, and not on the heat exchanger made from stainless steel 304L and
path followed), the enthalpy change in the expansion expansion valve were placed in a cold box equipped
process may be simplied as a sum of 2 terms. The rst with evacuated jacket (109 bar). The vacuum
term is for an isothermal expansion from the initial conditions within the cold box were established by
pressure to the nal pressure, and the second term is using a Woosung rotary vacuum pump (5 m3 hour1)
for isobaric cooling/heating from the initial temperature and a DP-100 diffusion vacuum pump
to the nal temperature. Considering the enthalpy (250 L second1) in series. The temperatures were
change equal to 0, from Eqn. (9), the nal temperature measured by using Pt-100 sensors with an accuracy
can be calculated by solving Eqn. (11), given as: of 1 K. To eliminate the effect of collector heat
capacity (collector is used for collecting the liqueed
Pout  gas in normal operation of small gas liqueer), the
T out   
V expansion valve outlet was directly connected to the
CP dT P out
T
T P
 V dP (11) inlet of the low-pressure side of the heat exchanger.
T in Pin P Experimental tests were performed by using nitrogen
gas as working uid and precooling temperature of
Pin and Pout are the inlet and outlet pressures of 273 K (melting point of ice). Nitrogen gas was
expansion valve, respectively. This procedure was used supplied from a high-pressure gas cylinder (50 L).
in f[T1(z = l)] to evaluate the expanded gas temperature The pressure was controlled by a pressure regulator
at the Joule-Thomson valve outlet. The pressure and installed on the gas cylinder. The gas pressure was
temperature of high-pressure gas at the heat exchanger measured at several points of the recuperative heat
outlet (z = l) were used as inputs, and the modied exchanger, including inlet of high-pressure side, outlet
Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state was applied of high-pressure side (upstream of expansion valve),
to estimate the gas properties. inlet of low-pressure side (downstream of expansion
The initial temperature of materials was adjusted to valve), and outlet of low-pressure side. The value of
precooling temperature. To estimate convection heat pressure drop along the heat exchanger tubes was
transfer coefcient within the helically coiled tube, negligible during the experimental tests. The
the correlations proposed by Xin and Ebadian were volumetric ow was measured by a rotameter ow
used as follows[15]: meter calibrated for nitrogen gas. Initial cooling of
 heat exchanger within the small gas liqueer was
N uave 2:153 0:318De0:643 Pr0:177 20 performed by using a low-pressure ow of nitrogen
< De < 2000; 0:7 < Pr gas cooled in a separate chiller. In this step, the
(6) expansion valve was open and the operational
d
< 175; 0:0267 < < 0:0884 pressure of the system was equal to 1 bar. After an
Dcoil initial cooling time, the expansion valve was partially
  closed, the operational pressure was adjusted by using
3:455d pressure regulator, and experimental test was started.
N uave 0:00619Re Pr
0:92 0:4
1 5103
Dcoil The data obtained from similar runs (simulation and
< Re < 105 ; 0:7 < Pr (7) experiment) are presented in Table 2. The
experimental data presented in Table 2 are the
d average value of 3 individual experimental runs. The
< 5; 0:0267 < < 0:0884
Dcoil mass ow rate of gas in simulation was adjusted to
the mass ow rate obtained from rotameter in
These correlations were proposed for hecal coiled experimental tests. As can be seen, the maximum
tubes and had good agreement with experimental relative error is about 4% at lower temperatures.
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
90 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering
Table 1. The Details Used for Simulation of Recuperative Heat Exchanger

Parameters Values
Working uid Hydrogen and nitrogen (for validating)
Time interval (s) 1
High-pressure gas temperature at inlet (K) 273 (for nitrogen), 80 (for hydrogen)
Working pressure (bar) 30 (for nitrogen), 80 (for hydrogen)
Mass ow rate (kg h1) 0.1
Space interval (m) 0.1
Inner tube internal diameter (mm) 1.671
Outer tube internal diameter (mm) 8.001
Tubes wall (mm) 0.762
Tube length (m) 4
Tube wall thermal conductivity (W m1 K1) 16-400

Table 2. Upstream and Downstream Temperature of Expansion Valve Obtained from Simulations and
Experiments

Time Upstream temperature Downstream temperature Upstream temperature (K) Downstream temperature
(min) (K) (simulation) (K) (simulation) (experiment) (K) (experiment)
5 243 232 245 233
10 229 217 232 219
15 216 202 220 205
20 202 185 206 188
25 184 163 190 167
30 154 123 159 128
The high-pressure gas temperature of the heat exchanger inlet is 273 K.

These errors can be attributed to the axial position of Radiation heat transfer is expressed by Stefan
the sensors along the heat exchanger tubes. A Boltzmann equation as follows:
complementary discussion related to the axial

positioning error of the sensor at low temperatures Ql T 4a  T 4c (8)
can be found in a report published by
Saberimoghaddam and Bahri.[16] Nitrogen gas was
used as working uid to validate the model because where Ql is heat transfer from ambient to cold surface,
of the safety aspect, the limitations associated with is emissivity, is Stefan-Boltzmann constant, Ta is
negative Joule-Thomson coefcient of hydrogen, and ambient temperature, and Tc is cold surface
the high pressure needed for refrigeration process. temperature. The value of Ql varies from 0 to
However, in the following, hydrogen gas has been 50 W m2 and for Tc from 300 to 20 K. This means
used as working uid in the simulations to evaluate that a cryogenic heat exchanger operating in a
the transient behavior of recuperative heat exchanger temperature range between 20 and 77 K (hydrogen
operating in hydrogen liqueer (as an explosive uid liquefaction process) is inuenced by a maximum
with high operational pressure and very low radiation heat transfer value of 50 W m2. The value
temperature needed for liquefaction). of 50 W m2 remains approximately constant between
20 and 77 K. However, this value can be decreased to
lower than 50 W m2 by using radiation shields.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Figure 4 shows the high-pressure gas outlet
temperature versus time for helically coiled tube-
Transferring energy from surrounding to external in-tube heat exchanger with various heat inleaks. As
surface area of the cryogenic heat exchanger is can be seen, the high-pressure gas outlet temperature
considerable due to high temperature gradient. Energy becomes steady at 800 seconds for heat inleak equal
transfer takes place by several mechanisms: to 50 W m2. Using one radiation shield leads to
convection, conduction, and radiation. Convection decrease in heat inleak to 25 W m2. Using further
and conduction can be removed by using ultra-high radiation shields decreases radiation heat transfer with
vacuum conditions. Because all the cryogenic a ratio of 1 / (1 + n) in which n is the number of
processes operate in vacuum conditions, convection radiation shields. Precooling of hydrogen is usually
and conduction heat transfers are usually negligible. performed by using liquid nitrogen. So, considering
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering RECUPERATIVE TUBE-IN-TUBE HEAT EXCHANGER 91

Figure 4. The high-pressure gas temperature at heat exchanger outlet versus


time for helically coiled tube in tube heat exchanger with various heat in-leaks

temperature approach equal to 3 K (respect to the to the expansion valve inlet decreases along the heat
normal boiling point of liquid nitrogen), the exchanger, and further decrease in temperature takes
temperature of hydrogen leaving the precooling section place in the expansion valve. This process continues,
reaches to around 80 K. Assuming 0 heat inleak, the and the high pressure gas is gradually cooled. In this
high-pressure gas temperature at heat exchanger outlet time step, the high-pressure gas temperature at heat
decreases from 80 K (initial value) to around 45 K in exchanger outlet decreases versus time until
steady state conditions. The higher heat inleak leads establishing steady state conditions. Assuming
to higher steady state (nal) temperature. The heat expansion valve (and its cooling effect) as a
inleak higher than 50 W m2 can be attributed to a refrigeration source and heat inleak as a heat source,
combination of radiation heat transfer and other heat increasing the heat inleak leads to increase in
transfer mechanisms such as conduction and temperature of cooled expanded gas and accordingly
convection. Conduction and convection take place decrease in temperature difference between cooled
when insufcient vacuum conditions exist within the expanded gas and high-pressure gas. Therefore,
cold box. As a result, the existence of heat inleak leads recuperative heat exchanger cannot cool the high-
to longer cooldown time and lower liquefaction pressure gas temperature as well as condition in which
efciency (because of the higher temperature of high- heat in leak does not exist. In other words, increasing
pressure gas at the heat exchanger outlet). Figure 4 the heat inleak eliminates the cooling effect of the
shows that an increase of heat inleak from 50 to expansion valve.
60 W m2 leads to negligible increase in cooldown Figure 5 shows the value of the vapor fraction in
time and steady state temperature, but the increase of downstream of expansion valve versus time for various
heat inleak from 100 to 110 W m2 leads to a heat inleaks. As can be seen, the rst droplets of liquid
considerable increase in cooldown time. Because the hydrogen are produced after 500 seconds for no heat
higher values of heat inleak are associated with heat inleak conditions. This point is shifted to higher values
transfer by convection and conduction mechanisms, it for higher heat inleak values. In addition, increasing the
can be concluded that convection and conduction heat heat inleak value leads to smaller steady state vapor
transfers must be eliminated by using ultra-high fraction.
vacuum for cryogenic applications, and the heat inleak Material used for manufacturing cryogenic heat
values higher than 100 W m2 can prevent the exchanger is important from practical point of view.
liquefaction of gas. Assuming heat inleak equal to 0, The kind and quantity of material used in cryogenic
the high pressure gas enters the heat exchanger inner heat exchanger inuence the cost and performance of
tube and expands in the Joule-Thomson expansion heat exchanger. Using a material with high density
valve. The gas is cooled due to expansion and returned and high specic heat can lengthen the cooldown time
through annular section. The cooled expanded gas and increase operating costs. Moreover, a material with
absorbs heat from high-pressure gas through tube wall. high thermal conductivity can lead to longitudinal heat
Therefore, the high-pressure gas temperature incoming conduction and its positive/negative effects on heat
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
92 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering
Table 3. Inuence of Heat Exchanger Material and
Heat Inleak on the Liquefaction of Hydrogen

Heat inleak Liquefaction Steady state


Material (W m2) start time (s) vapor fraction
Copper 0 500 0.86
Copper 25 580 0.89
Copper 50 720 0.91
Copper 100 1250 0.96
Stainless 0 500 0.87
steel
Stainless 25 590 0.90
steel
Stainless 50 740 0.93
steel
Stainless 100 1500 0.97
steel

Figure 5. The value of vapor fraction in downstream of


expansion valve versus time for various heat in-leaks
(stainless steel tube)
conduction effect. With increasing time, energy
transfers along the tube wall by heat conduction
mechanism; therefore, temperature gradient decreases
along the tube wall with time. In the case of
k = 800 W m1 K1 (copper at cryogenic
temperatures), longitudinal heat conduction along the
tube wall results in decreasing the temperature in the
wide area along the tube. In the case of k = 50 W m1 K1
(stainless steel), the cooled area along the tube takes
place near the heat exchanger cold end. The cooled area
along the tube wall plays the role of cold shield and
decreases the negative effect of heat inleak from
surrounding.
In the liquefaction processes, the low-pressure cold
gas is produced in the downstream of the expansion
valve. The low-pressure cold gas ows within the
annular section of tube-in-tube heat exchanger due to
mechanical aspect. Thermal resistance of the tube wall
Figure 6. The value of vapor fraction in downstream of is negligible compared with thermal resistance of ow.
expansion valve versus time for various heat in-leaks Therefore, the cold gas is exposed to direct heat inleak
(copper tube) from surrounding. Transferring energy to cold stream
from surrounding at cryogenic temperatures can make
temperature cross along the heat exchanger tube. To
exchanger performance. Consequently, prediction of avoid temperature cross occurrence associated with
heat exchanger thermal behavior by using simulation heat inleak, the heat exchanger length must be
before manufacturing step can help engineers to select evaluated accurately. The shorter length decreases the
the appropriate material. Figure 6 shows the value of heat exchanger effectiveness, and the longer length
vapor fraction presented in Fig. 5 for copper heat leads to temperature cross occurrence. Consequently,
exchanger. The differences between Figs 5 and 6 have although the longer length of conventional heat
been presented in Table 3. As can be seen, using exchanger results in better performance, this is not
copper material has no considerable effect on acceptable in cryogenic applications. Compactness of
liquefaction start time for heat inleaks equal to 0, 25, a cryogenic heat exchanger with the least external
and 50 W m2 but leads to minor decrease in vapor surface area exposed to ambient temperature is the
fractions. Higher heat inleak values increase most important note in manufacturing step to reduce
liquefaction start time to about 1250 seconds for heat the value of heat inleak. Figure 7A to D shows the
exchanger made from copper metal. However, this temperature proles of cold and warm streams along
value is smaller than the corresponding value for heat the tube-in-tube heat exchanger with a length of 4 m
exchanger made from stainless steel. This phenomenon at various time steps (1, 4, 8, and 12 minutes,
can be attributed to tube wall longitudinal heat respectively). These temperature proles were obtained
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering RECUPERATIVE TUBE-IN-TUBE HEAT EXCHANGER 93

Figure 7. The temperature proles of cold and warm streams along the tube in tube heat
exchanger with length of 4 m at various time steps, A= 1 min, B=4 min, C=8 min, D=12 min

from simulation considering heat inleak equal to Therefore, the cooled gas returning from the other side
50 W m2. As can be seen, in the initial time steps, of the heat exchanger cools the warm gas incoming
the temperature cross occurs along the heat exchanger upstream of the expansion valve. As a result, the warm
and the low-pressure gas temperatures are higher than high-pressure gas temperature decreases gradually to
the high-pressure gas temperatures near the heat steady state temperature. The shorter length of the heat
exchanger inlet. This phenomenon takes place due to exchanger leads to decrease in the effectiveness and
direct heat inleak to cold streams via external surface performance of the Joule-Thomson cooling system
area of heat exchanger. With increasing time, (including heat exchanger and expansion valve). By
temperature cross point moves to heat exchanger warm increasing the heat exchanger length, its effectiveness
end and nally eliminates. Sometimes, temperature increases and warm high-pressure gas can transfer
cross does not eliminate in steady state conditions. In further energy to cold low-pressure gas. Therefore,
this situation, the heat exchanger length is not suitable the warm high-pressure gas temperature decreases
and should be shortened. gradually and transforms into liquid phase partially.
Using longer length of tube-in-tube heat exchangers When the warm high-pressure gas transforms into
results in increasing the heat exchanger external liquid partially, the liqueed gas is separated and the
surface area that leads to higher heat inleak exposure mass ow rate of returning cold low-pressure gas
at cryogenic temperatures. Tables 4 and 5 present the decreases. This phenomenon leads to limit further
cooldown times and steady state operational refrigeration of high-pressure gas. Consequently, there
conditions for stainless steel and copper tube-in-tube is a critical length for a tube-in-tube heat exchanger
heat exchanger, respectively. The values are presented operating in the Joule-Thomson cooling systems. The
for various lengths of heat exchangers. As can be seen, heat exchanger with length shorter than critical length
increasing the heat exchanger length from 1 to 2 m cannot liquefy the warm high-pressure gas. In
leads to increase in cooldown time from 300 to addition, increasing the heat exchanger length up to
1600 seconds for stainless steel heat exchanger. critical length increases the cooldown time. This
Further increase in heat exchanger length leads to critical length corresponded with cooldown
sudden decrease in cooldown time. This decrease is temperature (TCD) and can be called as cooldown
due to production of liqueed gas in downstream of length (LCD). As the recuperative heat exchanger
the expansion valve. In the case of short heat decreases the temperature of incoming high-pressure
exchanger, the warm gas passes through the expansion gas down to TCD at the nozzle inlet (upstream of
valve and cools further due to the Joule-Thomson expansion valve), the expanded outlet gas reaches to
effect, but the gas does not transform into liquid phase. the boiling point. The cooldown length is dened as
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
94 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering
Table 4. Inuence of Heat Exchanger Length on the Transient Performance of Joule-Thomson Cooling system

Heat exchanger Startup Steady state temperature of warm Steady state temperature of cold Steady state
length (m) time (s) stream outlet (K) stream inlet (K) vapor fraction
1.0 300 68.4 49.3 1.00
1.5 1000 59.3 36.1 1.00
2.0 1600 49.1 20.3 0.99
2.5 1000 48.5 20.3 0.95
3.0 1000 47.5 20.3 0.93
3.5 1000 47.0 20.3 0.92
4.0 1000 47.0 20.3 0.92
Stainless steel material and Ql = 50 J m2.

Table 5. Inuence of Heat Exchanger Length on the Transient Performance of Joule-Thomson Cooling System

Heat exchanger Startup Steady state temperature of warm Steady state temperature of cold Steady state
length (m) time (s) stream outlet (K) stream inlet (K) vapor fraction
1.0 300 66.8 48.1 1.00
1.5 1200 57.0 33.1 1.00
2.0 900 48.1 20.3 0.98
2.5 700 47.5 20.3 0.94
3.0 700 47.0 20.3 0.92
3.5 700 46.8 20.3 0.91
4.0 700 46.8 20.3 0.91

Copper material and Ql = 50 J m2.

minimum length of a tube-in-tube heat exchanger


operating in the Joule-Thomson cooling system that
can lead to gas liquefaction at the nozzle outlet
(downstream of expansion valve). The cooldown
length varies based on the precooling temperature
(initial temperature of warm high-pressure gas). The
lower pre-cooling temperature results in shorter
cooldown length.
In the case of the copper heat exchanger, cooldown
length lies in the range of 1.5 to 2 m. The lengths
longer than LCD decrease cooldown time to
700 seconds, and the lengths longer than 3.5 m have
no inuence on steady state conditions. Moreover, as
mentioned above, increasing the heat exchanger length
may lead to appear temperature cross along the heat Figure 8. Warm gas outlet temperature versus time for heat
exchanger. The results show that in the cryogenic exchanger with various thermal conductivities (Ql=50 W m2)
applications, the heat exchanger length should be
selected in specic range to obtain favorite conditions.
This note is usually neglected by researchers who use
conventional heat exchanger design method in low thickness of 0.762 mm, the higher heat exchanger
temperature applications. material thermal conductivity leads to lower time to
Thermal conductivity of heat exchanger material is a reach cooldown temperature. In other words, the rst
parameter that can inuence heat exchanger droplets of liquid hydrogen are produced at 500 seconds
performance. Figure 8 shows the high-pressure gas and the system reaches to steady state condition at
outlet temperature versus time for heat exchanger with 800 seconds for a material thermal conductivity of
various thermal conductivities and heat inleak equal to 800 W m1 K1 (thermal conductivity of copper at
50 W m2. To study the inuence of thermal cryogenic temperatures). By decreasing the material
conductivity on the transient behavior of heat thermal conductivity, the system reaches to cooldown
exchanger, other parameters such as material heat temperature (and also steady state condition) at longer
capacity and density were set constant. As can be seen, times. This increased time is not considerable for heat
for a tube-in-tube heat exchanger with a tube wall exchanger with material thermal conductivity between
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering RECUPERATIVE TUBE-IN-TUBE HEAT EXCHANGER 95

CONCLUSIONS
In the present work, the transient thermal behavior of
the Joule-Thomson cooling system, including counter
current tube-in-tube heat exchanger and expansion
valve, was studied. Inuence of various parameters on
the performance of the Joule-Thomson cooling system
was investigated, and the following conclusions were
obtained:
The existence of heat inleak leads to longer
cooldown period and lower liquefaction efciency
(because of higher warm gas outlet temperature).
Increasing the heat inleak value leads to smaller
steady state vapor fraction upstream of the expansion
Figure 9. Warm gas outlet temperatures versus time for wall valve.
thickness of 0.762, 1.762, and 2.762 mm Using copper tubes instead of stainless steel tubes
leads to better performance of the Joule-Thomson
cooling system, especially in the case of higher heat
100 and 400 W m1 K1. This means that using inleak values.
stainless steel (k < 100 W m1 K1) or copper (k There is a critical length for a tube-in-tube heat
~400 and ~400 W m1 K1 at cryogenic temperatures) exchanger operating in the Joule-Thomson cooling
material in the heat exchanger with a tube wall systems. The heat exchanger with a length shorter
thickness of 0.762 mm has no meaningful inuence than the critical length cannot liquefy the warm gas.
on transient behavior of heat exchanger. It can be called as cooldown length (LCD).
Figure 9 shows the high-pressure gas outlet Increasing the heat exchanger length up to LCD leads
temperatures versus time for wall thicknesses of to increase in cooldown time. Increasing the heat
0.762, 1.762, and 2.762 mm. The curves were plotted exchanger length has no considerable effect on
for tube-in-tube heat exchanger with stainless steel cooldown time at length longer than LCD.
material and heat inleak equal to 50 W m2. As can Longitudinal heat conduction has no considerable
be seen, by increasing the tube wall thickness from effect on the performance of heat exchanger in
0.762 to 1.762 mm, cooldown time increases from unsteady state conditions.
1000 to 1600 seconds. Further increase in tube wall
thickness results in higher cooldown periods, but this
parameter dose not inuence steady state temperature NOMENCLATURE
signicantly. The increased cooldown time can be
attributed to higher heat capacity of heat exchanger. Symbols
Moreover, increasing the tube wall thickness leads to
increase in tube wall thermal resistance and decrease
in heat transfer. On the other hand, the higher tube wall A Cross section area (m2)
thickness results in higher heat transfer surface area in cp Specic heat (J kg1 K1)
the annular section (in the case of constant internal D Coil diameter (m)
diameter used here) and increase in heat transfer. d Tube diameter (m)
Because the tube wall thermal resistance is commonly De Dean number (dimensionless)
negligible compared with ow thermal resistance, the h Convection heat transfer coefcient (W m2 K),
negative effect of the higher heat capacity of heat enthalpy (J kg1)
exchanger is compensated by the positive effect of k Thermal conductivity (W m2 K)
increase in heat transfer surface area due to higher tube l Length (m)
wall thickness. The summation of these positive and Nu Nusselt number (dimensionless)
negative effects leads to obtain results shown in Figure Pr Prandtl number (dimensionless)
9. As a result, the simulations show that selecting the P Pressure (bar)
heat exchanger tube with small wall thickness Ql Heat inleak (W m2)
considering mechanical failure results in better r1 Internal radius of inner tube (m)
performance, while selecting the heat exchanger tube r2 External radius of inner tube (m)
with higher wall thickness has no considerable negative r3 Internal radius of outer tube (m)
effect on the heat exchanger performance in the r4 External radius of outer tube (m)
cooldown process. Re Reynolds number (dimensionless)
2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj
96 A. SABERIMOGHADDAM AND M. M. B. R. ABADI Asia-Pacic Journal of Chemical Engineering

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2016 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Asia-Pac. J. Chem. Eng. 2017; 12: 8596
DOI: 10.1002/apj