Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a highly efficient microchannel polymer heat exchanger in a compact and lightweight design.
Heat exchangers are commonly used for heating, cooling, and refrigeration applications. Their basic function is to transfer heat from one fluid to another, often with the aid of a refrigerant. Most refrigerants are kept in sealed compartments and an additional fluid (typically water) acts as an intermediary transfer between the refrigerant and the fluid being heated or cooled by the heat exchanger. In modern tube-fin heat exchangers a fluid is pumped through metal tube coils and the heat is dissipated through a large collection of fins. This design is not very efficient, as it requires powerful flow across a large volume of fins to effectively transfer heat. Further, the amount of metal needed in this tube design can be expensive to manufacture. A powerful pump is also necessary to compensate for pressure drops throughout the tubes, which is an inefficient use of power.
Researchers at the University of California Davis have developed low-cost, plastic microchannel heat exchangers with superior thermal efficiency. Instead of large metal tube coils, this design features a thin-walled plastic piping network. The surface area in contact with the fluid is thereby substantially increased per fluid volume in this design. The increased surface area contact not only increases the thermal exchange of the system, but also negates the need for a large fan and pump, thus saving additional power and manufacturing costs. The lightweight, chemically-resistant plastic body possibly has a lower manufacturing cost and can be used in a variety of heating, cooling, and refrigeration applications. This novel design is especially promising for cooling single-family and multi-family residences, where it is more efficient compared to finned-tube heat exchangers.
heat exchanger, microchannel plastic, air conditioning, refrigeration/cooling