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Ind. Eng. Chem. Res.

2004, 43, 8093-8106 8093

Polymeric Hollow Fiber Heat Exchangers: An Alternative for Lower

Temperature Applications
Dimitrios M. Zarkadas† and Kamalesh K. Sirkar*
Center for Membrane Technologies, Otto H. York Department of Chemical Engineering,
New Jersey Institute of Technology, 161 Warren Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102

Because of their better chemical resistance and fouling characteristics, plastic heat exchangers
are of increasing interest for lower temperature applications. However, their lower thermal
performance compared to that of metal heat exchangers has prevented their widespread use
and acceptance. To overcome this constraint, polymeric hollow fiber heat exchangers (PHFHEs)
are proposed as a new type of heat exchanger for lower temperature/pressure applications. In
polypropylene-based PHFHEs, the overall heat-transfer coefficients achieved here, 647-1314
and 414-642 W m-2 K-1 for the water-water and ethanol-water systems, respectively, are
comparable with accepted design values for metal shell-and-tube heat exchangers; further, for
20% of our water-water runs, it was higher than any value reported for plastic heat exchangers.
The extremely large surface area/volume ratio of PHFHEs makes them more efficient than metal
heat exchangers. Devices less than 30 cm (1 ft) long yielded efficiencies of up to 97.5%, up to 3.7
number of transfer units (NTU) and a height of a transfer unit (HTU) as low as 5 cm; the latter
is 20 times less than the lower limit for shell-and-tube exchangers and 10 times less than the
typical values for plate heat exchangers. PHFHEs achieve conductance/volume ratios 3-10 times
higher than shell-and-tube devices accompanied by low-pressure drops, as low as 1 kPa/NTU,
compared to 30 kPa/NTU for metal heat exchangers. Considering the much lower cost, weight,
and elimination of metal contamination, PHFHEs can substitute metal heat exchangers on both
thermal performance and economical grounds.

Introduction is confined below about 200 °C, while the thermal

expansion of plastics is 10 times higher than that of
Recognized over 40 years ago,1,2 polymeric materials metals, requiring special design considerations.3 How-
offer numerous advantages over metals in the construc- ever, the high thermal expansion of plastics can be
tion of heat exchangers. They are less expensive and beneficial insofar as fouling is concerned because re-
easier to shape, form, and machine than metals, and peated expansion and contraction of the plastic channels
their densities are 4-5 times lower,3 resulting in much
can lead to scale detachment.5
lower construction, transportation, and installation
costs. Moreover, the energy required to produce a unit The first all-plastic heat exchangers, made of Teflon,
mass of plastics is about 2 times lower than that of were manufactured by DuPont back in 1965.5 Shell-and-
common metals, making them environmentally attrac- tube and immersion coil heat exchangers were tested;
tive.4 The surface of plastics is smooth, leading to the above study is the most complete assessment of the
smaller friction factors and pressure drops and less plastic heat exchanger performance available. Data
fouling than commercial metal tubes.3 However, no long- collected included the heat-transfer coefficient and the
term fouling data are available except for a 76 h test friction factor for the tube and shell sides as well as
with hard water.5 The smooth surface of hydrophobic some limited data on fouling. The overall heat-transfer
plastics also promotes dropwise instead of filmwise coefficients varied between 30 and 570 W m-2 K-1, with
condensation and, consequently, much higher heat- the lower values corresponding to gas-to-gas applica-
transfer coefficients. Plastics possess excellent chemical tions and the higher values obtained with water. Similar
resistance to acids, oxidizing agents, and many solvents. values were quoted for fluorinated ethylene propylene
Bigg et al.6 have summarized the performance of various (FEP) and proprietary resin Q heat exchangers, also of
polymers under highly corrosive conditions. the shell-and-tube or immersion coil type (Ametek,
The main disadvantage of polymer materials is their Wilmington, DE).7 Overall coefficients between 100 and
low thermal conductivity, between 0.1 and 0.4 W m-1 500 W m-2 K-1 were reported for liquid-to-liquid ap-
K-1, which is 100-300 times lower than that of metals plications in polypropylene (PP), poly(vinylidene fluo-
and necessitates the use of thin wall tubes if a perfor- ride) (PVDF), and poly(phenylene sulfide) shell-and-tube
mance comparable with that of metal heat exchangers heat exchangers manufactured by GRETh (Groupement
is to be achieved.3 There is another disadvantage: the pour la Recherche sur les Echangeurs Thermiques,
lack of extensive experience and testing data with Grenoble, France)3 and 90-150 W m-2 K-1 for water-
plastic heat exchangers accompanied by a disinclination water heat transfer in a poly(vinyl chloride) shell-and-
of the chemical industry to depart from well-established tube heat exchanger.8
practices. Also, the operation of plastic heat exchangers Plastic plate heat exchangers with various channel
geometry configurations have been proposed for gas-to-
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel.: (973) gas or gas-to-liquid applications. Hetsroni and Mosyak9
596-8447. Fax: (973) 642-4854. E-mail: studied heat transfer and pressure drop in gas-to-air

E-mail: plastic plate heat exchangers with triangular channels.
10.1021/ie040143k CCC: $27.50 © 2004 American Chemical Society
Published on Web 11/09/2004
8094 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

Polyethylene (PE), polyester, and poly(vinylidene chlo- Their work was extended with a heat-transfer and cost
ride) (PVDC) were the materials tested; heat-transfer analysis24 and a comprehensive review of the properties
coefficients of 80-90 W m-2 K-1 were reported. Brou- of polymer materials accompanied by selection criteria,
wers and Van der Geld10 described air-to-water heat- which are not confined to solar heating systems but are
transfer experiments in rectangular-channel-plate heat also applicable to other liquid-to-liquid applications.25
exchangers of PP or PVDF and reported heat-transfer The above studies showed that a heat exchanger made
coefficients of around 55 W m-2 K-1. Deronzier and from tubing of high-temperature nylon (HTN, DuPont)
Bertolini11 studied plate-in-shell heat exchangers con- was the best design. Its wall resistance corresponds to
structed from liquid-crystal polymers. The plate had a heat-transfer coefficient of 1500 W m-2 K-1, a value
rectangular channels and was placed inside a cylindrical that would give a maximum overall coefficient of about
shell. Rather low water-water overall coefficients of 1100 W m-2 K-1.
150-230 W m-2 K-1 were reported. It also seems that, From the above discussion, it is apparent that the
because of the high plate thickness, this exchanger was thermal performance of plastic heat exchangers is
primarily targeted for gas-to-gas or gas-to-liquid ap- inferior to that of their metal rivals. Also, the designs
plications. described above are not in general substantially more
Cross-flow plate heat exchangers made of cross- compact than those of metal heat exchangers. Therefore,
corrugated films of poly(ether ether ketone) (PEEK) plastics are a good choice for gas-to-gas applications,
were used to study air-air and water-water flow when corrosion is an issue or when ultrapurity, such
configurations,12 while air-water systems with water as, for example, in the pharmaceutical industry, is
vapor condensation at the air side have also been required. It is the objective of this study to show that
reported recently.13 Of great interest was the very small the above disadvantages can be overcome by the use of
(50 µm) thickness of the channel wall, which corre- nonporous polymeric hollow fiber heat exchangers
sponds to a wall heat-transfer coefficient of 4340 W m-2 (PHFHEs). We have fabricated parallel-flow shell-and-
K-1. This value will not affect significantly the overall tube PHFHEs of solid/nonporous PP hollow fibers and
coefficient in a gas-to-gas application; however, it will tested them extensively between 0 and 75 °C and at 63
give high results in the case of a liquid-to-liquid ap- < Ret < 2537 with water-water and water-organic
plication. From the data supplied,12 an overall coefficient systems. We will clearly illustrate that PHFHEs achieve
of about 900-1000 W m-2 K-1 was calculated by us for overall coefficients close to the design values of metal
water-water experiments on the assumption that the heat exchangers and considerably higher than those of
same heat-transfer coefficients were obtained in both any liquid-to-liquid application reported for plastic heat
exchanger sides. The above value is the highest experi- exchangers. Next, we will also provide the theory
mental value for single-phase heat transfer ever re- describing heat transfer in PHFHEs; because of the
ported for a plastic heat exchanger. finite wall resistance of the polymeric hollow fibers, it
is somewhat different from that used for conventional
The good chemical resistance and cost characteristics
metallic tube based heat exchangers.
of polymeric materials initiated their extensive study
PHFHEs are somewhat identical with membrane
as potential replacements for metals in desalination
contactors. Therefore, they offer extremely high surface
units as early as the late 1950s.2 Lauro14 and Bandelier
area/volume ratios. Current commercial membrane con-
et al.3 reported results for what appears to be a spirally
tactors (Liqui-Cel Extra-Flow 10 × 28, Celgard, Char-
wound plastic film falling-film evaporator. No details
lotte, NC) have a surface area/volume ratio based on
were given for the plastic material or the exact flow
the total volume up to 3900 m2 m-3. This value is
configuration of the heat exchanger, except the thick-
slightly more than 1 order of magnitude higher than
ness of the plastic film, which was 50 µm. Overall heat-
shell-and-tube or plate heat exchangers, higher than
transfer coefficients between 2800-314014 and 1500- plate-fin heat exchangers, and inferior only to periodic-
70003 W m-2 K-1 were reported, with the higher values flow (matrix surfaces) heat exchangers.26,27 We will show
obtained at smaller temperature differences. Similar that, owing to this feature, the thermal performance of
values were also quoted by Jaakkola15 for falling-film PHFHEs is superior on a volumetric basis compared to
evaporators. Bourouni et al.16-19 described a desalina- that of metal shell-and-tube or plate heat exchangers,
tion plant utilizing geothermal energy, where both the making them an obvious choice for lower temperature
evaporator and condenser were shell-and-tube heat and pressure applications. Additional advantages ema-
exchangers made of PP. The overall heat-transfer coef- nating from the similarity between PHFHEs and mem-
ficient reported was low, 170 W m-2 K-1, because the brane contactors are the existence of well-established
tube wall thickness was 1 mm. The use of poly- fabrication techniques, a substantial operational experi-
(tetrafluoroethylene) (PTFE) for the construction of ence with porous hollow fibers, and the fact that they
evaporators in desalination plants, examined theoreti- can easily be scaled up.
cally,4 included a heat-transfer model as well as a cost
comparison; it showed that for the same thermal duty Theory
the PTFE exchanger was 2-3 times cheaper than its Heat Transfer in Tubular Devices with Finite
metal rivals. Wall Resistance. In the analysis of conventional heat-
Plastic heat exchangers were also used for heat transfer equipment, a constant wall temperature or a
recovery in greenhouses,20 in superfluid Stirling refrig- constant wall heat flux boundary condition is usually
erators or 3He-4He dilution refrigerators,21 and in assumed. In both cases, the wall resistance is not
Swenson Teflon tube crystallizers.22 Lately, an interest considered because the thermal conductivity of metal
in the application of polymeric materials in solar water tubes is so high that the wall resistance accounts for
heating systems has also emerged. Davidson et al.23 less than 5% of the overall resistance. This is not true
extensively reviewed the plastic heat-exchanger tech- when polymeric tubes are used. The thermal conductiv-
nology including detailed information on manufacturers’ ity of polymers is low, and the wall resistance will be
specifications for a typical solar water heating system. substantial, even at thicknesses below 100 µm, for which
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8095

a performance comparable to that of conventional heat- where

transfer equipment can be claimed.3 Therefore, the wall
resistance must be an integral part of the analysis. 1 Ai∆Tlm 1 1
Only laminar-flow solutions are considered here ) ) + (5)
because almost all of our runs were performed in the Ui Q hi U w
laminar regime. There are two approaches used in the
literature to solve laminar heat-transfer problems with and hi is calculated from NuT3. The above definitions
finite wall resistance: solve the problem as a conjugated are consistent with the fact that they are valid for a
problem or as a conventional convection problem.28 In long duct, where a distinction between local and mean
the conjugated problem, the energy equations for both heat-transfer coefficients and Nusselt numbers is mean-
the liquid and solid walls, coupled by the boundary ingless. However, in the case of a short duct, such a
condition at the inner wall surface, are solved simulta- distinction is necessary. When the expression for NuT3
neously. This approach, although more rigorous, pre- is inserted from eq 1 into eq 4 and after some manipula-
sents a lot of mathematical difficulties, and only a tions, the following second-order algebric equation in
limited number of studies are available in the litera- terms of Nuw results:
ture.29,30 However, these studies show that, for our
devices, heat transfer inside the polymeric wall is one- 59 48
dimensional and longitudinal wall conduction is negli-
gible in all cases.
(1 - 220 Nu )Nu
ov w
+ (11 - 2Nu )Nu
ov w -
For the conventional convection problem, the wall Nu ) 0 (6)
11 ov
resistance and the outside convective resistance are
treated as a lumped term and only the energy equation
for the tube-side liquid is solved. Usually, the T3 Equation 6 yields two roots, one negative with no
boundary condition (also known as the boundary condi- physical significance and the other positive, which is the
tion of the third kind) is applied,28 which implies a desired solution.
convective boundary condition at the inside tube surface It should be noticed that eq 6, in combination with
and a constant temperature for the medium surround- eqs 2, 3, and 5, can be used for the simultaneous
ing the tube. On the basis of a constant outside convec- determination of both the inside and outside heat-
tive resistance, this is equivalent to a constant outside transfer coefficients, with the only required input being
wall temperature. This treatment is directly analogous the overall heat-transfer coefficient, which can be
to the classical Graetz problem, and therefore this experimentally determined. This is of great interest in
problem is often identified as the extended Graetz the case where parallel flow is used in the shell side of
problem. the PHFHE, a condition present in all experimental
For fully developed flow, the limiting inside Nusselt runs presented here. No reliable heat-transfer correla-
number can be found from the relationship proposed by tion exists for the case of parallel flow along a bundle
Hickman:31 of randomly oriented cylinders.32 Several mass-transfer
correlations (which could possibly be extended to heat
48 transfer on the basis of heat- and mass-transfer analogy)
+ Nuw for parallel flow in the shell side of membrane modules
NuT3 ) (1) do exist; however, the results are scattered, error
1+ Nu margins are rather large, and channeling and bypassing
220 w reinforce the poor predictability of the process.33 Finally,
eqs 1-6 are useful to obtain a first estimate of the inside
where and outside heat-transfer coefficients in case the ther-
mally developing flow problem, described in the next
UwDi paragraph, is solved.
Nuw ) (2)
ki Various studies of the thermally developing T3 prob-
lem have been performed,34,35 including a Leveque type
Uw Doho 2kw
Di () (3)
solution36 and a solution including the effect of axial
heat conduction.37 The most complete solution of the
problem, however, has been given by Hsu,38 who solved
it by including a thermal energy source. The problem
Note that eq 1 yields NuT3 values that lie between 3.66 was formulated mathematically as follows:
and 4.364, the limiting Nusselt numbers for the con-

( )
stant wall temperature (Nuw ) ∞) and the constant heat
flux (Nuw ) 0) boundary conditions, respectively. This ∂θ 1 ∂2θ 1 ∂θ
(1 - ξ2) ) + + S* (7)
is in qualitative agreement with the numerical results ∂z ri(Re)(Pr) ∂ξ2 ξ ∂ξ
of Mori et al.29 for the conjugated problem. In fact, the
results of eq 1 are higher than the ones obtained by the with boundary conditions
analytical solution described below, ranging from 0% for
Nuw ) 0 to 1.9% for Nuw ) ∞.28 Also, note that Uw in eq
3 is based on the inside area and that a fouling Ta
At z ) 0 θ ) 1 - (8)
coefficient for the outside stream can also be added. The Tin
overall Nusselt number is also based on the inside area
and is given by for z > 0 at ξ ) 0 )0 (9)
1 ki 1 1
) ) + (4) ∂θ Nuw
Nuov UiDi NuT3 Nuw for z > 0 at ξ ) 1 - ) θ (10)
∂ξ 2
8096 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

and found from the following set of equations:

ξ) , θ)
T - Ta
, S* )
Cn ) 1 -
I + S*Gn
Tin n

Nuw Yn(1)
Note that, for S* ) 0, eq 7 is identical with the equation In ) (20)
n ∫0 ξ(1 - ξ )Yn dξ
2 λ 2 1 2 2
solved in the classical Graetz problem. The solution of
the above equation yields the following relationships for
the temperature as a function of radial and axial
displacement and the wall heat flux and bulk mean
- ∫01ξYn dξ
Gn ) (21)
temperature as a function of axial displacement: λn2 ∫01ξ(1 - ξ2)Yn2 dξ
θ(ξ,z) )
T(ξ,z) - Ta
( )
2 Nuw
From the above discussion, it follows that the problem
of determining the temperature profile inside the

( )
PHFHE reduces to the problem of calculating the
∞ 2 eigenvalues and eigenfunctions by solving the set of
λn z

CnYn exp -
(11) equations and boundary conditions (16)-(18). The latter
was solved as an initial value problem by integrating
numerically equation (16) with a fourth-order Runge-

{ [ ]}
Kutta method, combined with a secant method39 that
S* ∞ λn2z utilizes the convective boundary condition (eq 18). The
qw ) UwTin
+ ∑ CnYn(1) exp - r (Re)(Pr) initial guess for the eigenfuction at ξ ) 0 is free.40 As a
n)1 i final note, it should be mentioned that the exact
(12) analogous mass-transfer problem was solved in a simi-
lar manner for membrane hollow fiber dialyzers by
Tb - Ta Davis and Parkinson,41 who also included eigenvalues
θb ) ) for values of the wall convective parameter appearing

{ ]}
Tin in eqs 10 and 18 of smaller than 1.

Comparison with Metal Heat Exchangers. In this
S* S* Nuw ∞ CnYn(1) λn2z

section, the way we compared our results with existing
4 + + exp - metal heat exchangers is briefly described. All compari-
24 4Nuw 2 n)1 λn2 ri(Re)(Pr)
sons were made on a volumetric basis, and the total
(13) volume of the heat exchanger was used. This should be
emphasized because in most of the heat-transfer litera-
Using the above expressions, the local Nusselt number ture the surface area/volume ratio, β, based on one side
can be calculated as (cold or hot stream) is used. We chose not to use this
parameter because it can give somewhat misleading
qw 2ri results; i.e., in the case of plate heat exchangers, it does
NuT3,loc ) (14) not take into account the plate spacing. We will use two
Tb - Tw ki comparison criteria. The first one is the overall conduc-
tance per unit volume, which is given by
and from eq 14 the mean inside Nusselt number is found
by integration: CUVov ) RiUi ) RoUo (22)

and expresses the total amount of heat transferred per

NuT3,m )
∫0LNuT3,loc dz (15) unit time and unit volume. A higher CUV value simply
indicates a more compact heat exchanger for the same
thermal duty or a heat exchanger that transfers more
The eigenvalues λn and eigenfunctions Yn are only heat for the same heat exchanger volume.
functions of ξ and are calculated from the following The second criterion is the volume goodness factor
characteristic equation: based on the total volume,42 which can be used to
compare surfaces with different hydraulic diameters.
d2Yn The volume goodness factor was formulated based on β
1 dYn
+ + λn2(1 - ξ2)Yn ) 0 (16) and not R, and it refers to only one side of the heat
dξ ξ dξ exchanger. However, because for shell-and-tube heat
exchangers R ≈ β/243 and the surface/volume ratios are
which satisfies the following boundary conditions: calculated in the exact same way for PHFHEs, it follows
that the volume goodness factor can also be expressed
dYn in terms of R. Also, because of the similarity between
at ξ ) 0 )0 (17) shell-and-tube heat exchangers and PHFHEs, we can
dξ assume, without introducing significant error in our
dYn Nuw calculations, that the shell-side heat-transfer and pres-
at ξ ) 1 - ) Y (18) sure drop characteristics will be similar for both types
dξ 2 n of exchangers. In this case, a comparison of the conduc-
tance and frictional losses of only the tube side gives a
Finally, the coefficients in the series expansion are good estimate of the respective parameters for both
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8097

Table 1. Geometrical Characteristics of PHFHEsa

active total
length length Ao R
module N (cm) (cm) φ σ (cm2) (m2 m-3)
1 35 21.9 28.0 0.200 0.107 138 1394
3 9 20.3 26.4 0.051 0.027 33 358
4 35 20.3 26.4 0.200 0.107 128 1394
a The shell inside diameter for all modules was 0.0076 m.

sides. The volume goodness factor for a circular tube is

expressed by a plot of the following two quantities:42

Cpµ 1 k
hR ) R 2/3 St(Pr2/3)Re ) RNu (23)
Pr D D
Figure 1. Experimental setup for heat-transfer measurements
3 3 in PHFHEs.
1µ 1 fFu
ER ) R 2 3fRe3 ) R (24)
2F D 2 Apparatus and Procedure. The experimental setup
used for heat-transfer measurements is shown in Figure
The surface that plots higher in a hR vs ER plot is better 1. The feed solution held to a constant temperature by
and can transfer more heat per unit time per unit means of a thermostatic bath (Haake A81) was circu-
volume with the same frictional power loss per unit lated through the lumen side of the PHFHE by a
volume. diaphragm pump (Cole Parmer, Vernon Hills, IL).
Equations 22-24 require the knowledge of the surface/ Before it entered the PHFHE, it went through an inline
volume ratio. The latter is found for a shell-and-tube filter (Whatman GF/B filter with a cutoff size of 2.7 µm)
heat exchanger or a PHFHE from the following rela- to remove any particulate matter present. Tap water
tionship: was passed through the shell side for the majority of
the runs performed. However, for a significant number
4NDo of runs, an aqueous cooling solution of 33% by volume
R) (25) EG was circulated through the shell side by means of a
Ds2 Polystat chiller (Cole Parmer, Vernon Hills, IL). In all
runs, the shell-side fluid flowed along the fibers (parallel
The tube count can be approximated for shell-and-tube flow). The inlet and exit temperatures of the two
heat exchangers within (5% by44 streams were recorded with a four-channel temperature
recorder (Sper Scientific, Scottsdale, AZ) with an ac-
0.78(Ds - Do)2 curacy of (0.2 °C. Flow rates were obtained at the two
N= (26) outlets of the PHFHE by measuring the time required
C1PT2 to collect a certain volume of liquid. The experimental
procedure adopted was as follows. For each feed flow
For plate heat exchangers, good estimates of the surface rate selected, four or five different shell-side flow rates
area/volume ratio can be obtained by were employed, starting from the highest flow rate. Flow
rates were measured at least twice during each run.
L Temperatures were recorded every 5-10 min until two
NpAp tp + b 1 to four subsequent readings did not differ by more than
R) ) wR) (27) (0.1 °C. Most runs lasted between 30 and 40 min,
V WHL tp + b
although steady-state conditions were attained much
Experimental Section faster. The feed inlet temperature was varied between
40 and 75 °C, while the coolant inlet temperature was
Chemicals and Materials. Distilled water or dena- varied between -5 and +20 °C.
tured alcohol (Fisher Scientific Inc., Pittsburgh, PA) was A separate set of runs with water on both sides was
used as the tube-side liquid. A 33% by volume aqueous also performed to extract information on the transient
ethylene glycol (EG) solution or tap water served as the thermal response of solid hollow fiber devices. We chose
cooling medium circulated in the shell side of the to perform these experiments to clearly show that the
PHFHE. PP solid hollow fibers of 420 µm i.d. and 575 presence of a wall with a substantial thermal resistance
µm o.d. (Celgard Inc., Charlotte, NC) were used for the would not introduce a prolonged response time for the
fabrication of three modules whose geometrical char- PHFHE. Two sets of experimental runs were performed;
acteristics are shown in Table 1. Note that the active one involved step changes in the flow rate of the lumen
length was used for the calculation of the heat-transfer side (hot stream) and the other flow rate changes for
area, while the total length was used for the calculation the cold (shell-side) stream. For each set, two runs were
of friction factors. The shell side in all cases was 3/8 in performed: one from a high flow rate to a low one and
FEP tubing (Cole Parmer, Vernon Hills, IL). The vice versa. For step flow rate changes in the lumen side,
modules were fabricated by connecting the FEP tubing the flow rate in the shell side was taken to be ap-
with two PP male run tees (Cole Parmer, Vernon Hills, proximately in the middle of the flow rate range used
IL) and inserting the fibers. The tube sheet was formed for the experiments described in the previous para-
by potting the two ends of the male run tees with an graph. For step flow rate changes in the shell side, the
epoxy resin (C-4 resin with activator D from Armstrong, lumen-side flow rate was set to a value close to the
Easton, MA). The outside fiber surfaces were acid- maximum that can be achieved in the current experi-
treated to enhance bonding with the epoxy. mental setup. This was expected to result in a more
8098 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

Table 2. Heat-Transfer Performance of PHFHEs

tube liquid shell liquid module no. of runs Ret Res Q (W) Uo (W m-2 K-1)
water EG/water 1a 48 63-860 150-930 120-501 320-800
water water 3 and 4b 75 110-2537 758-5794 40-647 647-1314
ethanol water 3b 20 197-1090 1471-5757 20-50 414-642
a Vertical orientation of the PHFHE. b Horizontal orientation of the PHFHE.

Table 3. Sample Heat-Transfer Data Obtained with PHFHEs

run m̆t (g s-1) Tt,in (°C) Tt,out (°C) m̆s (g s-1) Ts,in (°C) Ts,out (°C) Q (W) Uo (W m-2 K-1)  NTU HTU (cm)
Module 1: Water (Tube)-Aqueous EG (Shell)
4 2.3 59.8 24.1 42.2 1.1 3.5 351 682 0.618 0.975 22.5
21 6.4 63.4 44.0 30.7 0.8 5.3 501 720 0.302 0.375 58.3
25 1.0 59.8 11.0 39.0 1.1 2.7 214 575 0.854 1.861 11.8
42 6.0 39.5 36.2 10.1 20.2 22.6 85 375 0.176 0.206 106.2
Module 3: Water (Tube)-Water (Shell)
10 1.3 44.9 31.7 59.6 15.3 15.6 69 945 0.446 0.594 34.2
13 2.2 46.0 38.6 25.5 16.4 17.1 69 826 0.250 0.291 69.7
16 4.0 47.2 41.2 59.9 16.5 16.9 100 1108 0.195 0.219 92.9
18 4.0 47.1 41.9 26.0 16.6 17.3 86 954 0.169 0.188 108.3
Module 3: Ethanol (Tube)-Water (Shell)
1 0.6 40.2 26.3 15.1 17.9 18.2 19 414 0.623 0.984 20.6
4 0.6 40.3 25.1 39.2 17.3 17.4 21 456 0.660 1.082 18.8
17 2.4 46.2 38.8 40.1 17.9 18.2 47 584 0.261 0.305 66.6
20 2.5 46.5 40.3 14.7 18.3 19.0 41 507 0.222 0.254 80.0
Module 4: Water (Tube)-Water (Shell)
8 1.6 44.8 29.1 27.5 23.2 24.1 103 686 0.729 1.340 14.1
17 3.9 45.5 32.9 42.2 23.0 24.1 205 1069 0.560 0.845 24.0
26 0.9 66.3 24.0 69.9 22.9 23.5 150 1029 0.975 3.714 5.5
46 5.1 74.2 44.2 71.0 18.1 20.3 647 1314 0.539 0.789 25.7

pronounced transient behavior because the ratio of the WebBook45 for water and the literature for aqueous EG
m̆Cp product for the two streams was close to unity. mixtures46,47 and ethanol.48,49
Finally, the feed and coolant inlet temperatures were Table 2 shows that the heat-transfer rate in a solid
kept at around 74 and 18 °C, respectively. hollow fiber device can reach high values, up to 650 W
Pressure drop measurements were performed in a for a device that is essentially a piece of tubing, 9.5 mm
setup similar to the one depicted in Figure 1. The only in diameter and 20 cm in length. The smaller numbers
difference was that all measurements were isothermal for ethanol-water runs are due to the fact that module
and no thermocouples were used. Distilled water was 3, which has the smallest number of fibers, was used
circulated only through the lumen side at a temperature in these experiments. The overall heat-transfer coef-
of 21.2 °C. A pressure gauge (Matheson, Montgomer- ficients we obtained are the highest reported in the
yville, PA) with a 0.1 psi (0.69 kPa) subdivision was used plastic heat-exchanger literature for liquid-to-liquid
to record the pressure head at the tube inlet of the applications and reasonably high compared to tubular
PHFHE. The outlet of the PHFHE was kept at atmo- metal heat exchangers. In the literature,49 design values
spheric pressure, and the volumetric flow rate of the of 1100-1400 and 300-850 W m-2 K-1 are quoted for
tube stream was determined by measuring the time water-water and organic solvent-water systems in
required to collect a certain volume of water. tubular heat exchangers. These values include a total
dirt factor of 0.00053 m2 K W-1, which, if incorporated
Results and Discussion in the coefficients quoted in Table 2, would result in an
Table 2 gives the range of results obtained for the 143 upper limit of about 800 and 500 W m-2 K-1 for the
heat-transfer experiments performed with PHFHEs. It water-water and ethanol-water runs, respectively.
presents the tube- and shell-side Reynolds numbers, the However, the incorporation of the same fouling factor
heat-transfer rates, and the overall heat-transfer coef- for polymer surfaces is questionable because limited
ficients based on the outside fiber area obtained for the experimental data5 show that fouling in plastic tubes
various tube liquid-shell liquid configurations tested. is considerably less than that in metal tubes. Therefore,
Note that for calculation purposes Ui is more convenient the difference in the heat-transfer performance between
for laminar-flow heat exchangers, while Uo is routinely a PHFHE and conventional tubular heat exchangers is
used to compare different heat exchangers. In Table 3, not as pronounced as one would initially think.
representative heat-transfer data, covering the whole Note also that all of the runs for the water-EG/water
range of operation tested in this study, are presented. system were performed in a vertical configuration, with
These include the mass flow rate, inlet and outlet the hot stream traveling downward. This configuration
temperatures for each stream, the total rate of heat was primarily aimed at simulation and information
transfer, the overall heat-transfer coefficient, the heat- gathering about the heat-transfer conditions during
exchanger effectiveness, the number of transfer units crystallization in solid hollow fiber crystallizers.50 How-
(NTU) and the height of a transfer unit (HTU). The ever, the results obtained are general and illustrate the
standard procedures used to obtain all of these quanti- heat-transfer performance of vertical PHFHEs. The
ties from experimental data are briefly described in the latter, as the results of Table 2 suggest, is not signifi-
Appendix. The physical properties required for the cantly different from the performance in horizontal
calculations were taken from the NIST Chemistry PHFHEs. We confirmed that by calculating the Rayleigh
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8099

Figure 2. Effectiveness of PHFHEs as a function of tube- and

shell-side Reynolds number. Figure 4. Experimentally obtained HTUs in PHFHEs as a
function of tube- and shell-side Reynolds number.

regime, high NTUs are obtained at low tube-side Re

numbers in accordance with the heat-transfer litera-
ture.44 Another trend apparent in Figure 3 is a relatively
moderate increase of the NTU with an increase of the
shell-side Re.
Figure 4 yet shows an even more interesting feature
of the thermal performance of PHFHEs, namely, small
HTUs. The HTU is less than 30 cm (1 ft) for 56% of the
runs performed with a minimum of 5.5 cm obtained
from Table 3. This means that if a PHFHE were
constructed like a typical commercial membrane con-
tactor (Liqui-Cel Extra-Flow 10 × 28, Celgard, Char-
lotte, NC), then a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12
Figure 3. Experimentally obtained NTUs in PHFHEs as a transfer units could be achieved in a single device. Shell-
function of tube- and shell-side Reynolds number. and-tube heat exchangers are generally designed for
0.2-3 NTUs54 and have a typical length of 12-20 ft
numbers for both the tube (53-545) and shell (776- (3.6-6.1 m).49 This means that the lowest HTU obtained
2459) sides. The numbers quoted clearly show that in a shell-and-tube heat exchanger is typically between
superimposed natural convection effects are negligible, 1 and 2 m, approaching only the high end of our results.
if existent at all. The somewhat lower heat-transfer Plate heat exchangers achieve 0.5-4 NTUs with a
coefficients obtained can be attributed to the fact that channel length of usually less than 2 m.49 Therefore,
the shell-side Re numbers fell in the laminar regime, the HTU for plate heat exchangers is estimated at
below 1000 for flow parallel to bundles of cylindrical around 40-50 cm. From the above discussion, it follows
tubes spaced at least 0.2 diameters apart.51 that HTUs considerably smaller than those in shell-and-
Table 3 shows that high values of the heat-exchanger tube heat exchangers and comparable or smaller than
effectiveness and the NTU, up to 0.975 and 3.7, respec- those in plate heat exchangers are obtained in PHFHEs.
tively, are attainable by PHFHEs. These values cor- Figure 4 also indicates that, because small HTUs are
respond to an extremely small HTU value of only 5.5 obtained at low tube-side flow rates, a better thermal
cm, which is also in agreement with HTUs obtained in performance can be achieved if more frontal area is
microporous hollow fiber membrane-based separation specified for the same packing fraction or a higher
processes such as membrane solvent extraction.52,53 packing fraction is used for the same frontal area. It
However, inspection of Table 3 shows that considerably would then be possible to obtain high  and NTU values
lower  and NTU values, and therefore higher HTUs, with a smaller pressure drop, even for runs for which
were also obtained. From the above discussion, it is the C* ratio is close to unity, i.e., run 42 for module 1
obvious that a PHFHE is intrinsically a very efficient in Table 3.
heat exchanger and the accomplishment of an increased At this point, our experimental results will be exam-
thermal performance is primarily a rating problem. This ined against the theory presented earlier in the paper.
is clearly shown in Figures 2-4, where the thermal As mentioned in the Experimental Section, the flow in
effectiveness, NTU, and HTU, respectively, are plotted the shell side was parallel. Therefore, we were not able
against the tube- and shell-side Reynolds numbers. It to obtain independent estimates of the shell-side heat-
is evident in Figure 2 that a high effectiveness is transfer coefficient. However, as was already explained,
achieved if the tube-side Reynolds number is kept low, we were able to determine simultaneously both the
below about 500. However, the thermal effectiveness is tube- and shell-side heat-transfer coefficient based on
also a function of the relative heat capacity rates of both our experimental data by the following iterative proce-
streams, as shown in the Appendix. Therefore, the dure:
general requirement for a high thermal effectiveness is 1. Calculate Nuw from eq 6 based on the experimen-
the achievement of a high NTU number or a low HTU. tally obtained Ui, which allows one to calculate Nuov
Figure 3 shows that, for about 40% of the runs per- from the first part of eq 4. This is the Nuw value that
formed, the NTU was higher than 1. It also shows that would be obtained in the case where an infinitely long
for PHFHEs, which operate primarily in the laminar exchanger was used.
8100 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

calculations show that similar coefficients can be achieved

in 3/4-in. tubes, the most commonly used tubes in shell-
and-tube heat exchangers, at a velocity of about 2 m
s-1 or a Re of about 70 000. For ethanol, velocities in
excess of 3 m s-1 would be required in a 3/4-in. tube to
match our results. It should also be noticed that higher
tube coefficients were obtained for module 3, something
that can be attributed to thermal entrance effects. The
latter were more pronounced because of the smaller
number of fibers used for about the same throughput.
Table 4 also shows the percent contribution of each
resistance to the total resistance. The results presented
reveal that for aqueous systems the tube-side resistance
would be the smallest of the three and that little
improvement in the overall heat-transfer performance
should be anticipated by increasing the tube-side Re
number. In addition, because the NTU is inversely
Figure 5. Prediction error of eq 7 for the tube exit temperature
proportional to the Graetz number, it follows that a
of a PHFHE. small improvement in the overall heat-transfer coef-
ficient would be accompanied by a drastic decrease of
2. On the basis of the Nuw obtained in the first step, the NTU and the efficiency of the PHFHE. This is
solve eq 7 as explained in the Theory section and obtain exactly the behavior already presented in Figures 2-4.
NuT3,m from eq 15. The same conclusions will also hold for organic systems
3. Obtain a new estimate of Nuw from eq 4 and repeat such as ethanol, for which the situation is somewhat
steps 2 and 3 until satisfactory convergence between different because the tube-side resistance is comparable
successive Nuw numbers is achieved. with the wall resistance. The latter ranged considerably,
In all calculations, properties were evaluated at the from 18 to 66% of the total resistance, with the higher
average temperature between the inlet and outlet. numbers corresponding to a more efficient use of the
Figure 5 shows the prediction error for the tube outlet PHFHE in the sense that the heat-transfer capability
temperature obtained when the above iterative proce- of the tube- and shell-side fluids is fully utilized. This
dure was applied. Note that the results presented here was not the case for the shell-side fluid in most of our
were calculated with only two iterations. The agreement runs, especially the runs performed in module 1, for
between theory and experiment is excellent. The predic- which the viscous nature of the EG-water system
tion error for 143 experimental runs ranged between played an important role. The shell-side resistance was
-0.62 and +1.08 K. The mean error in the prediction often the dominant resistance, accounting for as much
of the tube outlet temperature was 0.17 K with a as 77% of the total resistance. Such a behavior can be
standard deviation of 0.29 K. Moreover, 85% of the data explained by the fact that in parallel flow channeling
were predicted within (0.5 K, as the dashed lines in and bypassing compromise the heat-transfer perfor-
Figure 5 show. Therefore, we can conclude that heat mance in a way similar to the one observed for mem-
transfer in PHFHEs can be treated as a conventional brane contactors.52,53 However, cross-flow in the shell
convection problem with a convective boundary condi- side of commercial membrane contactors has already
tion at the inside wall surface, as eqs 7-10 describe, been implemented, and we expect that a similar con-
provided that the shell-side temperature does not vary figuration in a PHFHE would result in a better utiliza-
substantially. This is in agreement with the results of tion of the shell-side fluid and higher overall coefficients.
Mori et al.29 for the conjugated problem in tubes, whose The variability of the shell-side heat-transfer perfor-
thickness is considerably smaller than their length, as mance, mentioned above, is also obvious in Figure 6,
in our case. where a Nu-Re plot is presented. The results are
The above procedure also provided information on reasonably well correlated from the equation shown;
both the tube- and shell-side heat-transfer coefficients, however, the scatter is evident, especially at higher Re,
which were calculated based on the NuT3,m and Nuw for which channeling and bypassing phenomena inten-
obtained. The shell-side coefficient was estimated by eqs sify. Figure 7 shows a plot of the Colburn factor and
2 and 3. The wall thermal conductivity needed for the friction factor for the tube side. The Colburn factor was
calculations was taken to be equal to 0.17 W m-1 K-1 calculated based on the calculated NuT3,m, while the
according to the literature.55 Table 4 provides the range friction factor was obtained from pressure drop mea-
of tube- and shell-side coefficients obtained for all surements after appropriate corrections for inlet and
systems tested. It is evident that the tube-side coef- exit losses and the hydrodynamic entrance effect. De-
ficients achieved are very high for both water and tails are given in the Appendix. The jH factor obtained
ethanol. For water, they are about half of what can be was higher than the one calculated from the Sieder-
achieved typically in a plate heat exchanger.49 Our Tate correlation for the L/D ratio of our devices. This

Table 4. Tube- and Shell-Side Heat-Transfer Coefficients Obtained in PHFHEs: Parallel Flow at the Shell Sidea
module system ht (W m-2 K-1) hs (W m-2 K-1) Rt/Rov (%) Rw/Rov (%) Rs/Rov (%)
1 water-EG/water 6324-7052 409-1972 7-16 18-43 42-77
3 water-water 6422-7818 1324-4189 14-20 37-59 21-50
3 ethanol-water 1806-2223 886-2863 31-43 22-34 22-47
4 water-water 6282-7070 1244-13335 14-25 34-66 15-52
a ht is based on the inside fiber area, while hs is based on the outside fiber area. All resistances are based on the inside fiber area.
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8101

vs Re curve ranged from -0.85 for the ethanol-water

runs with module 3 to -0.93 for the water-water runs
with module 4. Each data set had a correlation coef-
ficient of 0.997 or better, indicative of the consistency
of our results. Note also that the points looking as
outliers in Figure 7 correspond to the ethanol-water
runs, for which the thermal entry length calculated for
the prevailing hydrodynamic conditions was comparable
or even higher than the module length. As a result, a
slope approaching the slope of the Sieder-Tate curve
was obtained. From the above discussion, we can
conclude that for longer modules a slope closer to the
theoretical value of -1 will be obtained and that for
viscous fluids a departure from fully developed flow
conditions should be anticipated and incorporated in the
design procedure of a PHFHE.
Figure 6. Nu-Re plot for parallel flow in the shell side of The friction factor curve shown in Figure 7 shows also
PHFHEs. a departure from conventional theory. The slope of the
curve is -0.88 compared to the theoretical prediction
of -1 for Hagen-Poiseuille flow, revealing that higher
friction factors were obtained in the PP fibers used. The
friction coefficients obtained were higher than theoreti-
cal predictions by 1-41% and increased as Re became
larger. This is in accordance with the results of Mala
and Li57 for water flow inside stainless steel and fused-
silica microtubes. However, their results for microtubes
of 254 µm diameter were not as pronounced. The
observation of considerably higher friction factors than
those in theory for flow in microchannels has been a
subject of debate lately, and several explanations have
been proposed, as summarized by Guo and Li.58,59 The
most plausible for liquid systems seems to be surface
roughness, which has often been neglected for laminar
flow in conventional tubes. However, roughness ele-
ments of a few microns in a microchannel will cor-
Figure 7. jH and friction factor obtained in the tube side of respond to high relative roughness values, which would
PHFHEs. lead to larger frictional losses and more flow distur-
bances, a cause for an early transition from laminar to
can be attributed to two reasons. First, the Sieder-Tate
turbulent flow. This is supported by the results of Mala
correlation is applicable only for (Re)(Pr)(D/L) > 10.
and Li,57 who reported a transitional regime of 500 <
Below this limit, which was exceeded only during the
Re < 1500 and correlated well their results with a
ethanol-water runs, it considerably underpredicts the
surface roughness-viscosity model. Additional material
heat-transfer coefficient.56 Therefore, even if a high Nuw
supportive of the surface roughness hypothesis is given
could be achieved (approaching the condition of constant
by Guo and Li,58,59 who also quote the flow cross-
wall temperature), the Sieder-Tate correlation would
sectional variation as another factor causing higher
be a poor predictor of the tube-side performance of a
frictional losses.
PHFHE for the whole laminar regime and especially for
Re < 1000. The second reason is the type of boundary Similar behavior was also observed for macrosized (2
condition applicable, namely, a convective boundary mm) Teflon tubes, for which the transition from laminar
condition at the inside wall surface. Equation 1 shows to turbulent flow took place at Re of around 1000.5 The
that the Nusselt number approaches the value 4.36 for interesting feature of this study is that the friction
Nuw f 0 (constant heat flux f 0) and the value 3.66 factors in the turbulent regime were correlated well by
for Nuw f ∞ (constant wall temperature, Tw,i f Tw,o). a friction factor curve corresponding to tubes with a
The highest Nuw value achieved in our setup was 3.62, roughness of 0.006 diameters. This fact makes the
revealing that the tube-side Nusselt number would be surface roughness explanation even more credible.
closer to 4.36, much higher than the value for the Therefore, surface roughness and flow cross-sectional
constant wall temperature boundary condition. variation, a known issue for membrane hollow fibers,
Another interesting feature of the jH vs Re plot is its are the factors explaining our experimental friction
slope. As shown in Figure 7, the latter is equal to factors. Finally, the similarity of the slopes for the jH
-0.926, a value between the theoretical prediction of and f factors, although tempting to state that a relation
-1 obtained for fully developed laminar flow (constant similar to the Colburn analogy holds, is misleading and
Nu) and -0.67 for thermally developing flow (Leveque incidental because, as explained in the preceding para-
type dependence of Nu). This simply indicates that in graph, the jH factor dependence on Re will change if a
most cases the length of our devices is sufficiently larger different length is used for the PHFHE.
than the thermal entry length but not large enough for During our experiments, the 2.7-µm filter used before
the attainment of fully developed flow conditions. We the PHFHE was replaced very often, typically every day.
proved that by correlating each data set for each system The pressure drop across the filter was small compared
presented in Table 4 individually. The slope of the jH to that along the tube bundle length. This procedure
8102 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

the results obtained for the overall conductance per unit

volume. Data for polymer heat exchangers taken from
the literature and manufacturers are also included. Two
cases are presented, namely, CUV values based on clean
and dirty overall heat-transfer coefficients. The design
coefficients and dirt factors were obtained from the
literature,49 and clean coefficients were calculated based
on these values. A common design of a shell-and-tube
heat exchanger was chosen for comparison, while the
data shown for plate heat exchangers represent an
upper limit in the sense that the smallest plate thick-
ness and spacing were used to estimate R based on eq
27. Note also that the use of the same dirt factor for
PHFHEs and shell-and-tube heat exchangers is ques-
tionable because limited experimental data5 show that
fouling in plastic tubes is considerably less than that
Figure 8. Transient response of a PHFHE to a step change in in metal tubes.
the coolant flow rate. Operating conditions: tube-side flow rate,
4.54 cm3 s-1; step change in shell-side flow rate, from 69.2 to 10.1
Table 5 clearly shows that PHFHEs are superior to
cm3 s-1. any commercial, under development, or laboratory-scale
plastic heat exchanger as a result of higher heat-
was adopted to make sure that the data obtained were transfer coefficient and higher surface area/volume
not tainted with any filter buildup. In industrial prac- ratio. The overall conductance per unit volume achieved
tice, the pressure drop will be influenced by the cleanli- by PHFHEs is 2-20 times higher. Despite the fact that
ness of the process stream, the foulant type, and the the above conclusions are based on the results for
cake permeability. water-water systems, they will also be valid for water-
Figure 8 shows the transient response of a PHFHE organic solvent systems. Note also that the results
for a step decrease of the shell-side flow rate. The presented for the HTN exchanger are estimates only
specific transient run is presented because it resulted and are not supported by any experimental results. In
in the most delayed response. In all other transient comparison to shell-and-tube heat exchangers, PHFHEs
experiments described in the Experimental Section, the also show superior performance for both water-water
response time of the PHFHE was smaller than about 2 and water-organic solvent systems whether clean or
min. The initial plateau shown in Figure 8 corresponds dirty overall coefficients are used to calculate the overall
to temperature measurements taken within 1 min conductance per unit volume. The latter was up to 3
before the step change in the shell-side flow rate was times higher for clean coefficients and 5-8 times higher
implemented. Figure 8 illustrates that when a sudden if dirty coefficients were used. These numbers show that
and large decrease of the coolant flow rate occurs, the the CUV of shell-and-tube heat exchangers will at best
response of the PHFHE is relatively slow; it takes about match our current results in the case when 1/4-in. tubes
10 min to reach the new steady state. This shows that were used (R ∼ 300 m2 m-3) and that the influence of
a decrease in the shell-side flow rate is more difficult fouling on the performance of PHFHEs is of smaller
to control in accordance with the literature.27 Nonethe- magnitude. If fouling factors are introduced, then
less, our limited transient data show that the large PHFHEs are clearly a better choice, especially if one
surface area that PHFHEs offer can quickly dampen considers the fact that the packing fraction of our
any changes in upstream conditions and makes them modules was only 5-20%. This is the main reason that
ideal for temperature control. the CUV of plate heat exchangers is 30-60% higher
Finally, a more comprehensive comparison of PHF- than our results. However, as already mentioned, the
HEs with metal shell-and-tube and plate heat exchang- values of Table 5 for plate heat exchangers represent
ers, based on the performance criteria developed in the an upper limit of current technology and packing
Theory section, will be attempted. Table 5 summarizes fractions of 50% are common in membrane contactors.33

Table 5. Comparison of PHFHE with Metal and Plastic Heat Exchangers: Overall Conductance per Unit Volume
heat exchanger UC (W m-2 K-1) CUVC (W m-3 K-1) UD (W m-2 K-1) CUVD (W m-3 K-1)
PHFHE 647-1314 9 × 105-1.8 × 106 482-776 6.7 × 105-1.1 × 106
shell-and-tubea 2839-5678 3 × 105-6 × 105 1136-1420 1.2 × 105-1.5 × 105
plateb 5700-7400 2.4 × 106-3.1 × 106
Ametek Inc. fluoropolymer heat exchangersc 567 3 × 105
George Fisher Inc. (PVDF, PP, PE)d 341-454 6 × 104-8 × 104
HTN shell-and-tubee 1100 6 × 105 696 3.8 × 105
PEEK plate heat exchangerf 900 1.03 × 106
Water-Organic Solvent
PHFHE 414-642 5.8 × 105-8.9 × 105 340-479 4.7 × 105-6.7 × 105
shell-and-tubea 334-1549 3.5 × 104-1.6 × 105 284-852 3 × 104-9 × 104
a 3/ -in. tubes in a 1-in. triangular pitch and a 30° layout. U data were from ref 49, R ) 105 was based on eqs 25 and 26, and shell
diameters were obtained from ref 44. b Plates were 0.4 mm thick, spaced 2 mm apart. U data were from ref 49. c Shell-and-tube heat
exchangers with R ) 123-541 m2 m-3 and U ) 341-567 W m-2 K-1. Data were obtained from manufacturers’ brochures. d Tube plate
heat exchangers with R ) 341-454 m2 m-3 and U ) 227-273 W m-2 K-1. Data were obtained from manufacturers’ brochures. e From ref
24. U values are theoretical estimates based on the tube wall resistance. f From ref 12. U values were estimated based on experimental
heat-transfer coefficients for one side and the assumption that both exchanger sides have approximately the same heat-transfer coefficient.
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8103

Figure 10. Pressure drop required to obtain one transfer unit in


because the NTU achieved is also a function of the shell-

side fluid temperature and hydrodynamic conditions, a
certain degree of scatter, increasing with tube-side Re,
will characterize the results. As shown in Figure 10, the
pressure drop per NTU for PHFHEs is much smaller
than 30 kPa, a commonly acceptable optimum value for
plate heat exchangers,60 if Ret is smaller than about 500.
From a total of 79 runs at Ret < 500, 72 have ∆Pt/NTU
ratios smaller than 30 kPa/NTU. In fact, ∆Pt/NTU can
routinely be as low as 1 kPa/NTU, an extremely small
value. Therefore, similar or better thermal performance
is achieved by PHFHEs compared to plate heat exchang-
ers at a significantly lower pumping power cost. In fact,
Figure 9. Comparison of PHFHEs with shell-and-tube heat
exchangers based on the volume goodness factor: (a) water-water PHFHEs are useful if operated at low ∆P, preferably
system; (b) ethanol-water system. below 10 kPa; this is substantially below the commonly
acceptable allowable ∆P limit of 66 kPa (∼10 psi).
Therefore, PHFHEs may be operated for substantial
Therefore, more area can be packed in PHFHEs, and lengths of time without the type of deterioration ob-
this would simply be translated in a performance served in shell-and-tube heat exchangers.
exceeding by at least 30-40% the thermal capabilities
of plate heat exchangers. Conclusions
Figure 9 shows a plot of the volume goodness factor
for the tube side of PHFHEs and shell-and-tube heat We have proposed the use of polymeric solid/non-
exchangers for the water-water and ethanol-water porous hollow fiber devices as heat exchangers and
systems. The plot was constructed based on eqs 23 and tested their performance for aqueous and aqueous-
24. Friction factors for the PHFHE were obtained based organic systems in PHFHEs made of nonporous PP
on the equation shown in Figure 7. The data for shell- hollow fibers. We have also provided a theoretical
and-tube heat exchangers were calculated for 3/4-in. framework for the description and design of such
tubes and fluid velocities between 1 and 5 m s-1. Heat- devices, which is based on a convective boundary
transfer coefficients and friction factors were calculated condition at the inside wall of the hollow fibers and
respectively by the Dittus-Boelter and Blasius correla- includes equations for both long (fully developed flow)
tions.49 The superiority of the PHFHE is evident in and short (thermally developing flow) PHFHEs. The
Figure 9a,b: for the same frictional loss per unit volume, theory, quite different from conventional heat exchanger
the overall conductance per unit volume for the PHFHE theory, was tested against our experimental data and
is higher than that of shell-and-tube heat exchangers was established as a good predictor of the PHFHE
by 5-20 times for the water-water system and by 12- performance. It can therefore be directly used for design
20 times for the ethanol-water system. purposes. Moreover, our experimental pressure drop
Another interesting characteristic of the PHFHE measurements provided tube-side friction factors that
curves in Figure 9 is that they are relatively flat. This can be used for the whole laminar regime.
means that approximately the same hR is obtained Our experimental results, obtained with shell-side
regardless of the frictional loss. Therefore, PHFHEs parallel flow, clearly illustrate that the high overall
should be operated with low tube-side velocities in order heat-transfer coefficients routinely realized in PHFHEs
to achieve a combination of high thermal performance are larger than any values ever reported for liquid-to-
and low pressure drop. As was already shown in Figures liquid applications in plastic heat exchangers of com-
2-4, the outcome of such an operation practice would mercial or laboratory scale. They are also comparable
be high effectiveness and NTU and extremely small to the ones obtained in metal shell-and-tube heat
HTU values. The same feature would also be a tremen- exchangers and only inferior to the values obtained in
dous advantage of PHFHEs over plate heat exchangers. plate heat exchangers. The large surface area/volume
Figure 10 shows the pressure drop needed to obtain one ratio of PHFHEs makes them extremely efficient heat
transfer unit as a function of the Re number. Note that, exchangers. Our transient experiments indicated a fast
8104 Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004

response of PHFHEs to flow rate step changes intro- ously considered as substitutes for metal shell-and-tube
duced at either side of the exchanger. This behavior or plate heat exchangers at lower temperatures (up to
reveals that any changes in the upstream conditions can 150-200 °C) and low pressures, on grounds of both the
quickly be dampened and PHFHEs are ideal for tem- heat-transfer performance and economic considerations.
perature control. In addition, efficiencies up to 97.5%
were obtained and more than one transfer unit was Acknowledgment
routinely achieved for Ret < 500 in devices less than 1
ft long. The HTU was as low as 5 cm, 20 times less than The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial
the lower limit for shell-and-tube heat exchangers and support provided by Pfizer Inc., Global Research &
about 10 times less than typical values for plate heat Development, Groton, CT, and the Center for Membrane
exchangers. The above results suggest that Technologies at New Jersey Institute of Technology. We
PHFHEs, if properly rated and designed like com- thank Celgard Inc., Charlotte, NC, for donating the solid
mercially available membrane contactors, can easily hollow fibers.
achieve 2-10 NTU in a single device.
The moderately packed hollow fiber modules used Appendix
here clearly show, based on the overall conductance per 1. Calculation of the Overall Heat-Transfer Co-
unit volume, superior thermal performance compared efficient, Exchanger Effectiveness, NTU, and HTU.
to any commercial, under development, or laboratory- The total rate of heat transfer for each stream was
scale plastic heat exchanger. We have also demon- calculated from the following relationship:
strated that PHFHEs can transfer up to 1 order of
magnitude more heat per unit time per unit volume Qj ) m̆jCpj∆Tj (A.1)
than metal shell-and-tube heat exchangers and quanti-
ties comparable to those of plate heat exchangers. These where j ) t for tube side and j ) s for shell side. The
numbers can increase 2-3 times if PHFHEs were logarithmic mean temperature difference and the over-
designed for the same packing fraction as commercial all heat-transfer coefficient based on the inside area
membrane contactors. Further, this performance level were estimated from the following relationships:
can be obtained with an extremely small pumping power
expenditure. We have illustrated that, at the same (Tt,in - Ts,out) - (Tt,out - Ts,in)

( )
∆Tlm ) (A.2)
pumping power expenditure, PHFHEs can transfer Tt,in - Ts,out
5-20 more heat per unit time per unit volume than ln
typical shell-and-tube heat exchangers. Moreover, we Tt,out - Ts,in
showed that pressure drops as low as 1 kPa are required
to obtain one transfer unit compared to 30 kPa for metal Uin ) (A.3)
heat exchangers. Ain∆Tlm
We also anticipate significant performance improve-
ments if cross-flow were used in the shell side of where Q is an average value of both streams. For all
PHFHEs. This would lead to a situation where the wall runs, the difference in the Q values calculated from eq
resistance would be controlling, a condition not always A.1 for each stream was less than 7%, with the discrep-
encountered here. If hollow fibers made of materials ancy being amplified by the fact that small temperature
such as PTFE, PEEK, or HTN having thermal conduc- differences were recorded for the shell side. The heat-
tivity higher than PP were used, then the overall exchanger effectiveness, NTU, and HTU were calculated
coefficients obtained would be up to 40% higher for from the following equations:54
water-water systems and 25-30% higher for organic- UiAi ∆Τmean UoAo ∆Tmean
water systems. This improvement would be simulta- ) ) (A.4)
neously accompanied by better chemical resistance, Cmin Τh,in - Tc,in Cmin Th,in - Tc,in
considerably larger mechanical strength, and an ex-
tended operational temperature range. Reinforced poly- UiAi UoAo
meric fibers, yet another choice, could also offer even NTU ) ) (A.5)
Cmin Cmin
higher thermal performance and better mechanical
strength at the expense of higher cost. HTU ) L/NTU (A.6)
Apart from the superior thermal performance of
PHFHEs, which can readily be ameliorated, their low where ∆Tmean is the true mean temperature difference
weight and the lower cost of polymer materials would used to calculate the rate of heat transfer, equal to ∆Tlm
make them an attractive choice over metal heat ex- given by eq A.2 in the case of a true counterflow heat
changers as far as construction, transportation, and exchanger.
installation costs are concerned. To put things into 2. Calculation of Tube-Side Friction Factors. The
perspective, it can be easily shown that the weight of Fanning friction factor can be calculated based on
0.6-m-long PP fibers similar to the ones used in this experimental measurements according to the following
study needed to obtain an outside surface area of 1000 relationship:57
m2 is only 61 kg! If 3/4-in. steel tubes, 20 BWG gauge
and 16 ft (4.88 m) long, were used, the same area would ∆P Di
fFanning ) (A.7)
be obtained at a weight of 6684 kg, a 100-fold difference. L 2Fu2
In addition, by proper rating, PHFHEs are character-
ized by a considerably lower pumping cost, which will Note that in eq A.7 ∆P is the pressure drop correspond-
reflect also in lower operational cost. In conclusion, we ing to the flow of the fluid through the tube. Therefore,
believe that our results strongly manifest that PHFHEs the experimentally obtained pressure drop should be
are very efficient heat exchangers and should be seri- corrected for entrance and exit effects, as well as for the
Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., Vol. 43, No. 25, 2004 8105

hydrodynamic entrance effect if the tubes are not r ) tube radius, m

sufficiently long. The entrance and exit losses were R ) thermal resistance, m2 K W-1
obtained based on literature graphs and the following Ra ) Rayleigh number, Ra ) (gβF2D3∆T/µ)(Cp/k)
Re ) Reynolds number, DuF/µ
relationships:27 s ) thermal energy generated per unit volume of the fluid,

[ ]
W m-3
u2 u2 S* ) thermal energy source number
∆Pen ) F (1 - σ) + Ken (A.8) St ) Stanton number, Nu/(Re)(Pr) ) h/FuCp
2 2
T ) temperature, K

∆Pex ) F [ u2
(1 - σ) - Kex
2 ] (A.9)
∆T ) temperature difference, K
TR ) surrounding medium temperature, K
tp ) plate thickness, m
u ) velocity, m s-1
where u is the velocity inside the tubes. Then, the true U ) overall heat-transfer coefficient, W m-2 K-1
pressure drop inside the tubes can be found by V ) volume, m3
W ) plate width, m
∆Ptrue ) ∆Pexp - ∆Pen - ∆Pex (A.10) x+ ) dimensionless axial distance for hydrodynamically
developing flow, (x/D)/Re
and if substituted into eq A.7 the apparent friction factor Yn ) nth eigenfuction
z ) axial distance, m
fapp can be calculated. The latter is higher than the
friction factor obtained in fully developed flow, which Subscripts/Superscripts/Greek Letters
is the desired result from a design point of view. The b ) bulk
friction factor for fully developed flow was calculated C ) clean
according to Shah and London28 by D ) dirty
en ) entance
fappRe(4x+) - 1.25 ex ) exit
f) (A.11) i ) inside
Re(4x+) in ) inlet
lm ) logarithmic mean
Finally, it should be noticed that the ratio f/fapp or the loc ) local
max ) maximum
equivalent pressure drop ratio should never exceed the min ) minimum
ratio of the hydrodynamic entrance length to the actual o ) outside
length of the device.56 The hydrodynamic entrance out ) outlet
length can be found by49 ov ) overall
p ) plate
Le/D ) 0.370 exp(-0.148Re) + 0.055Re + s ) shell side
t ) tube side
0.260 = 0.055Re for Re > 40-50 (A.12) w ) wall
R ) surface area/volume ratio based on the total volume,
Our calculations showed that the above constraint was m2 m-3
never exceeded. Therefore, the friction factors reported β ) surface area/volume ratio based on the volume of one
correspond to fully developed flow. side, m2 m-3
β ) coefficient of thermal expansion, K-1
Nomenclature  ) heat-exchanger effectiveness
A ) heat-transfer area, m2 θ ) dimensionless temperature
b ) plate spacing, m λn ) nth eigenvalue
C ) heat capacity rate, m̆Cp, W K-1 µ ) viscosity, kg m-1 s-1
C* ) heat capacity rate ratio, Cmin/Cmax ξ ) dimensionless radial displacement
C1 ) constant in eq 26 that takes the value 0.866 for a 30° F ) density
layout and 1 for 45° and 90° layouts σ ) ratio of free flow area to total frontal area
Cp ) specific heat, J kg-1 K-1 φ ) packing fraction of a PHFHE equal to NDo2/Ds2
CUV ) conductance per unit volume, W m-3 K-1
D ) tube/shell diameter, m Literature Cited
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