Modeling of Finned-Tube Heat Exchangers: A Novel Approach to the Analysis of Heat and Mass Transfer under Cooling and Dehumidifying Conditions

The construction of physics-based models of the simultaneous heat and mass transfer on the air-side surface of aircooled fin-and-tube heat exchangers during dehumidification can present distinct challenges. Because only part of the external surface of a finite length finned tube may be wetted in the radial and/or axial directions, the determination of the wet/dry boundary for this partially wet tube surface must parsimoniously describe the nonlinear variations in both the refrigerant temperature and air temperature profiles. A literature review indicates that extant heat exchanger models tend not to consider the partially wet conditions due to modeling complexity; moreover, many standard dehumidification models in the literature also exhibit significant deficiencies. For instance, the Lewis number is often incorrectly assumed to be unity, and the air saturation enthalpy at the surface interface is also assumed to be a linear function of temperature in both the Effectiveness model and the LMED (Logarithmic-Mean Enthalpy Difference) model. These simplifying assumptions can often introduce appreciable deviations between simulation outputs and measured data.
This paper proposes a new heat exchanger model that aims to address these challenges through new modeling approaches. After reviewing extant heat exchanger models that include the effects of dehumidification, a novel approach based upon the underlying physics is presented to analyze the air-side simultaneous heat and mass transfer. This new approach has a number of distinct advantages, including the fact that it allows scenarios with non-unity values of the Lewis number to be modeled, as well as the fact that the model accuracy is also significantly improved over extant models because of the assumption of the air saturation humidity ratio as a cubic function of temperature. In addition, these models allow the dry-wet boundary for partially wet surfaces to be readily determined from both air flow and refrigerant flow directions. A tube-by-tube analysis (which can be easily extended to a segment-bysegment analysis) including multiple refrigerant phases is adopted to allow for the simulation of complex tube circuitries. Results from this new approach are validated with experimental data reported in literature, and demonstrate good agreement.