Reviewing the Technology and Concept of Heat Exchangers

January 31, 2019

Familiar conventions endure in heat exchanger design. There are the shell and tube layouts, which are commonly placed alongside plate type heat exchangers. Those two designs receive a lot of attention, which is to be expected, as they're built to efficiently trade masses of thermal energy while never actually letting their two fluid mediums mix. Added to this popular energy swapping duo, helixchangers are about to fall under our spotlight.

Reviewing the Headliners

Quickly but conscientiously, let's take those two headlining modes of swapping fluid-carried thermal energy apart. First up under our virtual microscope, tube and shell heat exchangers are seen in countless applications. A temperate liquid flows through a tube stack, the surfaces of those tubes warm, and the energy is then transferred from the tubes to a second fluid, one that's flowing around the stack and a series of flow-controlling baffles. The whole package is contained within one large pressure vessel. Moving onto plate heat exchangers, the tubes are replaced by an array of connected plates. Corrugated materials coat the plates, so there's a larger surface area, which works out to a bigger interface between the two isolated fluids. Corner ports channel the first fluid towards the plates, then a second fluid, flowing in and around the plates, absorbs heat from the warming plates.

What Are Helixchangers?

In both of the above concepts, the goal is to keep the two fluid mediums separate while a bridging material absorbs then trades their thermal energies. Cold-to-hot water, coil or plate to container vessel, the process flows. It can even work in the opposite direction, with the hot medium trading places with a cooling fluid. As for helixchangers, this concept uses shell and tubes, too. Only, the tubes are framed by a series of helically arranged baffles. Those sequentially arranged plates run the entire length of the shell, with their architecture regulating certain fluid-based forces. Shell turbulence and non-uniform shell fluid velocities are brought under control when these plated constructs are installed. At any rate, helixchangers have indeed been described in past posts. This time, however, we've chosen to highlight features that haven't been discussed before.

To add value to past discourse, let's consider the applications that best suit this design. Helixchangers are built to channel viscous fluids while they negate undesirable pressure drops. That's a feature pairing that suits the petrochemical industry very well indeed. In oil refineries, power generators, petrochemical sites and chemical processing complexes, the standard heat exchanging mechanisms combines with a baffle configuration that encourages helically shaped currents. Fouling minimization occurs as the design operates, as does a matching decrease in vessel vibrations.

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