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The heat exchanger: Is a piece of equipment built for efficient heat transfer from one medium to another.
The media may be separated by a solid wall, so that they never mix, or they may be in direct contact. Heat
exchangers are found in most chemical or mechanical systems. They serve as the system's means of gaining or
rejecting heat. Some of the more common applications are found in heating, ventilation and air
conditioning (HVAC) systems, radiators on internal combustion engines, boilers, condensers, and as
preheaters or coolers in fluid systems. This unit will review some specific heat exchanger applications.



The typical shell and tube heat exchanger consists of a shell, a tube bundle, tube sheets, two waterboxes,
and two fluids. The shell forms a casing around the region where heat transfer occurs. One fluid flows
through the tube bundle. That fluid is called the tube side fluid and is usually the fluid with the lowest
temperature. The other fluid flows outside the tubes and is called the shell side fluid. The tube sheets are
metal plates that the tubes are attached to. The tube sheets separate the two fluids in the heat exchanger
and provide support for the tubes. The areas at each end of the tubes are the waterboxes. The tube side
fluid enters through one of the waterboxes, flows through the tubes, and exits though the other waterbox.

There are various tube shapes on heat exchangers and some are shown below.

Shell and tube heat exchangers can be arranged with any number of tube or shell passes. A pass occurs
each time either fluid flows across or along the heat exchangers length. Below are several shell and tube
arrangements for single and multiple-pass heat exchangers. Multiple passes allow the heat exchanger to
be shorter with effectively the same tube length as a longer single-pass exchanger.

2. U-TUBE TYPE: (shell and tube)

There is no mixing of the fluids. Most common is the tube and shell type heat exchanger.
The shell provides the supporting enclosure for the heat exchanger. Typical materials of construction are
cylinder or pipe of carbon steel or alloy steel, plate of carbon steel, molybdenum, nickel, chromium,
chromium nickel steels, and other alloys.
The tubes: provide the means for separation of fluids in the heat exchanger, and transfer the heat from
hotter fluid or steam to colder fluid.
Bonnet or head (the end of the heat exchanger). Provides the entrance and exit connections for the
cooling fluids. It can be designed to establish the number of passes the cooling fluid will make in the
heat exchanger. Typical materials of construction; normally made of the same material as the shell. See
drawing below for a U-tube type heat exchangers:

In large steam systems (nuclear plant), or in any process requiring high temperatures, the input fluid is
usually preheated in stages, instead of trying to heat it in one step from ambient to the final temperature.
Preheating in stages increases the plant's efficiency and minimizes thermal shock stress to
components, as compared to injecting ambient temperature liquid into a boiler or other device that
operates at high temperatures. In the case of a steam system, a portion of the process steam is tapped
off and used as a heat source to reheat the feedwater in preheater stages.

As the steam enters the heat exchanger and flows over and around the tubes, it transfers its thermal
energy and is condensed. Note that the steam enters from the top into the shell side of the heat
exchanger, where it not only transfers sensible heat (temperature change) but also gives up its latent
heat of vaporization (condenses steam into water).


This type has straight tubes that are secured at both ends to tubesheets welded to the shell. The con-
struction may have removable channel covers.
The principal advantage of the fixed tubesheet is low cost because of its simple construction. In fact, the
fixed tubesheet is the least expensive construction type, as long as no expansion joint is required.
A picture of a fixed tube heat exchanger with bonnets off is on the next page as well as an insulated one
at a nuclear plant. Note the tube arrangement.
If you read the sign on the front of the heat exchanger (next page) you will see that it is the 12 th one in
the system, also, it is just one of the low pressure heaters! For those of you that have not been in a power
plant, I hope this give you an idea of the size and scope of the use of heat exchangers at a nuclear power

A plate heat exchanger is a unit which transfers heat continuously from one media to another media
without adding energy to the process. The basic concept of a plate and frame heat exchanger is two
liquids flowing on either side of a thin corrugated metal plate so heat may be easily transferred between
the two.
The plates are compressed by means of tie bolts between a stationary frame part (called the head) and a
movable frame part (called the follower).
The plate heat exchanger efficiency requires less floor space compared to other types of heat transfer
equipment and is lighter in weight.
The plate heat exchanger is designed with either single-pass or multi-pass flow, depending on the duty.
For most duties single-pass is suitable and often the preferred solution as it keeps all connections on the
stationary frame part and consequently makes disassembly easier. Multi-Pass however, is required when
flow rates are low or when approach temperatures are close.
Below, are drawings of a plate type heat exchanger. The blue is the cold fluid or gas and the red is the
hotter fluid or gas.

The mixing of the different fluids at different temperatures account for the amount of heat transferred. The
exchange of heat is direct; between the molecules
of the mixing fluids.

See drawings. For an understanding of

direct contact heat exchangers.

Spray type direct contact heat exchanger

(pressurizer in a PWR) see drawing

Parallel flow:

Both the cooling media and the fluid to be cooled flow in the same direction. Flow velocities may not
be the same. If the length of the cooling tubes is long enough, the temperature differential at the exit of
the heat exchanger may be small.

An example is given in the drawing below. The flow in the tube (center) is in the same direction as the
flow in the shell (outer

This form of flow in a heat exchanger is less efficient in that the maximum amount of transfer occurs
only at the beginning of the exchange. Remember the T in the equation. As the length of travel
increases the T decreases.

Cross flow:

This occurs if the two fluids flow perpendicular to each other. Condensers are classic examples of cross
flow heat exchangers. The exhaust steam flows downward in a perpendicular path to the tubes
containing the cooling water flow. See illustration below.

Counter current: (or counter flow)

These heat exchangers also have parallel flow paths for the fluids, but they flow in opposite directions.

Generally this is the most desirable arrangement, because a higher average temperature difference
between the two fluids is maintained.

For equally sized (surface area) heat exchangers, counter flow heat exchangers transfer more heat (are
more efficient) due to higher average T between the working fluids as the fluids pass from the inlet
to outlet.


This type of heat exchanger uses "sandwiched" passages containing fins to increase the effectiveness of the unit.
The designs include crossflow and counterflow coupled with various fin configurations such as straight fins,
offset fins and wavy fins.

Plate and fin heat exchangers are usually made of aluminum alloys, which provide high heat transfer efficiency.
The material enables the system to operate at a lower temperature difference and reduce the weight of the
equipment. Plate and fin heat exchangers are mostly used for low temperature services such as natural
gas, helium and oxygen liquefaction plants, air separation plants and transport industries such as motor
and aircraft engines.

Advantages of plate and fin heat exchangers:

High heat transfer efficiency especially in gas treatment

Larger heat transfer area

Approximately 5 times lighter in weight than that of shell and tube heat exchanger.

Able to withstand high pressure

Disadvantages of plate and fin heat exchangers:

Might cause clogging as the pathways are very narrow

Difficult to clean the pathways

Aluminum alloys are susceptible to Mercury Liquid Embrittlement Failure