Ph.D. Thesis Defense by Thomas M. Adams
Thursday, October 22, 1998

(Dr. Abdel-Khalik, advisor)

"Turbulent Convection in Microchannels"


Single-phase forced convection in microchannels is an effective cooling mechanism capable of accommodating the high heat fluxes encountered in fission reactor cores, accelerator targets, microelectronic heat sinks and micro-heat exchangers. Traditional Nusselt type correlations, however, have generally been obtained using data from channels with hydraulic diameters >2 cm. Application of such relationships to microchannels is therefore questionable. A diameter limit below which traditional correlations are invalid had not been established.

The objective of this investigation was to systematically address the effect of small hydraulic diameter on turbulent single-phase forced convection of water. A number of microchannels having hydraulic diameters ranging from 0.76 to 1.13 mm were constructed and tested over a wide range of flow rates and heat fluxes. Experimentally obtained Nusselt numbers were significantly higher than the values predicted by the Gnielinski correlation for large channels, the effect of decreasing diameter being to further increase heat transfer enhancement. A working correlation predicting the heat transfer enhancement for turbulent convection in microchannels was developed. The correlation predicts the lower diameter limit below which traditional correlations are no longer valid to be approximately 1.2 mm.

Of further interest was the effect of the desorption of noncondensable gases dissolved in the water on turbulent convection. In large channels noncondensables undergo little desorption and their effect is negligible. The large pressure drops coupled with large temperature increases for high heat fluxes in microchannels, however, leads to a two-phase, two-component flow thereby enhancing heat transfer coefficients above their liquid-only values. A detailed mathematical model was developed to predict the resulting void fractions and liquid-coolant accelerations due to the desorption of noncondensables in microchannels. Experiments were also performed to compare heat transfer coefficients for fully-degassed water to water saturated with air at test section inlet conditions. The data showed significant heat transfer enhancement for the air-saturated case over the fully-degassed case. The degree of enhancement was greatly under-predicted by current two-phase, two-component heat transfer correlations.