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New approach could make HVAC heat exchangers five times better

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Frances Buoy
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PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] -- Researchers from Tsinghua University and Brown University have discovered a simple way to give a major boost to turbulent heat exchange, a method of heat transport widely used in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers show that adding a readily available organic solvent to common water-based turbulent heat exchange systems can boost their capacity to move heat by 500%.

"Other methods for increasing heat flux -- nanoparticle additives or other techniques -- have achieved at best about 50% improvement," said Varghese Mathai, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown and co-first author of the study, who worked with Chao Sun, a professor at Tsinghua who conceived of the idea.

Turbulent heat exchangers are fairly simple devices that use the natural movements of liquid to move heat.

They consist of a hot surface, a cold surface and tank of liquid in between.

Near the hot surface, the liquid heats up, becomes less dense and forms warm plumes that rise toward the cold side.

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Frances Buoy
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