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Theory & Concepts
AIC Heat Exchangers

Heat Exchange Concepts & Heat Exchangers

Heat Exchanger Fundamentals

Heat exchange is a natural phenomenon occurring throughout our environment. It drives the weather cycles and energy exchange between ecosystems. Harnessing its utility through accurate control of heat exchange has been a focus of our industry for over a century.

Heat exchangers allow control over the dynamics of heat transfer between fluids. They are used in widespread applications, such as solar heating, pool heating, domestic water heating, radiant floor heating, food processing, marine applications, general industrial process control, and more.

Below are parametric thermodynamic equations that define the nature of heat exchange and performance of a heat exchanger for any given application. Once these thermal parameters are determined they can be used to calculate heat exchanger performance in order to select the most suitable product based on the specific application.

Theoretical Heat of a Fluid

The heat transfer principal in heat exchangers is based on a colder fluid gaining heat from a relatively hotter fluid separated by, and flowing over, a heat conductive material.
This is expressed by the following formula:

Heat exchanger equation1           (eqn 1)

Q = Total heat load 
m = Mass flow rate of fluid. 
cp = Specific heat of fluid at constant pressure.
DT = Change in temperature of the fluid.

This formula provides the Theoretical Heat Yield to or from a given fluid undergoing a temperature change, DT at a mass flow rate, m with the fluid’s specific heat property, cp.

Practical Heat Transfer Control

The theoretical heat yield of a fluid gives the amount of heat that needs to be transferred into or from a fluid. The practical heat transfer is a function of the physical geometry of the heat exchanger, its material composition, and the fluid condition.

The general form of the equation defining the maximum potential heat transfer through a heat exchanger is expressed by the formula:

Heat exchanger  equation 2           (eqn 2)

= Overall heat transfer coefficient
A = Surface area
LMTD = Logarithmic mean temperature difference

The Practical Heat Transfer Control is determined by the molecular thermodynamic interactions between the fluids flowing through the heat exchanger and the geometry of the heat exchanger itself.
The overall U value is calculated by an equation specific to the geometric configuration of a Heat Exchanger. It is a function derived using dimensionless numbers such as Reynolds Number (Re), Prandlt Number (Pr), along with fluid flow parameters. The overall U value is calculated over the total surface area A of the heat exchanger, across which the fluids exchange heat.

The log mean difference of the inlet and outlet temperatures (LMTD) of the hot and cold fluids for a counter flow exchanger is expressed by the formula:

Heat exchanger equation 3           (eqn 3)

= Inlet temperature of hot fluid
Tco = Outlet temperature of cold fluid
Tho = Outlet temperature of hot fluid
Tci = Inlet temperature of cold fluid

heat exchange value, Qp, can be compared to the theoretical, Qt, value to determine if the heat Exchanger has enough capacity to fulfill the application requirements.

AIC Unique Solutions

The above formulas govern the basic theoretical performance of any heat exchanger, regardless of type or material. To select the most appropriate heat exchanger for any specific application, however, one must also take into consideration other variables involved: material compatibility with operating fluids, performance optimizations, design rating and certification requirements, installation and maintenance constraints, product availability, etc.

To assist in heat exchanger product selections, from standard applications to customized installations, AIC provides a web based, product selection software, SAHARA, available under our partner zone. Please contact the AIC office if you would like access to this online sizing software, or if you have any questions regarding heat exchangers. One of our experienced and knowledgeable engineers will be happy to assist you. You can also submit any heat exchanger related inquiries through this form.

At AIC our years of specialization in heat exchanger designs, and technical knowledge of the heat transfer field in general, have resulted in distinctive and versatile product solutions for applications that have varied from swimming pool heating to lethal service. As a leading manufacturing and research facility, our developments, from condensing technology to micro tubing designs, prove our commitment to providing the best product solution and service to our clientele.


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