Rising energy demands and the continual push to find more energy efficient technologies have been the impetus for the investigation of waste heat recovery techniques. Diesel engine exhaust heat utilization has the potential to significantly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and reduce the release of greenhouse gases, because diesel engines are ubiquitous in industry and transportation. The exhaust energy can used to provide refrigeration by implementing an organic Rankine cycle coupled with a vapor-compression cycle. A critical component in this system, and in any waste heat recovery system, is the heat exchanger that extracts the heat from the exhaust.
In this study, a cross-flow microchannel heat exchanger was geometrically examined and thermally tested under laboratory conditions. The heat exchanger, referred to as the Heat Recovery Unit (HRU), was designed to transfer diesel exhaust energy to a heat transfer oil. Two methods were developed to measure the geometry of the microchannels. The first was based on image processing of microscope photographs, and the second involved an analysis of profilometer measurements. Both methods revealed that the exhaust channels (air channels) were, on average, smaller in cross-sectional area by 11% when compared to the design. The
cross-sectional area of the oil channels were 8% smaller than their design. The hydraulic diameters for both channel geometries were close to their design.
Hot air was used to simulate diesel engine exhaust. Thermal testing of the heat exchanger included measurements of heat transfer, effectiveness, air pressure drop, and oil pressure drop. The experimental results for the heat transfer and effectiveness agreed well with the model predictions. However, the measured air pressure drop and oil pressure drop were significantly higher than the model. The discrepancy was attributed to the model's ideal representation of the channel areas. Additionally, since the model did not account for the complex flow path of the oil stream, the measured oil pressure drop was much higher than the predicted pressure drop. The highest duty of the Heat Recovery Unit observed during the experimental tests was 12.3 kW and the highest effectiveness was 97.8%.
To examine the flow distribution through the air channels, velocity measurements were collected at the outlet of the Heat Recovery Unit using a hot film anemometer. For unheated air flow, the profile measurements indicated that there was flow maldistribution. A temperature profile was measured and analyzed for a thermally loaded condition.