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international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

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j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s e v i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / i j r e f r i g


Review of nature-inspired heat exchanger


Zhiwei Huang, Yunho Hwang *, Reinhard Radermacher

Center for Environmental Energy Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland,
4164 Glenn L. Martin Hall Bldg., College Park, MD 20742, USA


Article history: The enormous heat and mass transfer phenomena in nature have led engineers to seek
Received 5 October 2016 solutions for heat transfer enhancement problems from nature. In a current study, a com-
Received in revised form 15 prehensive review of nature-inspired heat exchanger technology is presented, with focuses
February 2017 on fractal geometries, heat exchanger surface wettability control and evaporative cooling.
Accepted 6 March 2017 Fractal geometry, widely found in respiratory systems and vascular systems of plants and
Available online 8 March 2017 animals, has been introduced into heat transfer area because of its intrinsic advantage of
minimized flow resistance and strong heat transfer capability. Plant leaves with different
Key words: surface wettability inspire heat exchanger surface treatment for condensation and frost-
Nature-inspired ing application. Evaporation of perspiration to regulate human temperature enlightened the
Heat exchanger application of evaporative condensers. Based on a review, an outline for applying biomimicry
Fractal to heat exchanger design has been developed. Promising natural phenomena for future design
Surface wettability are discussed. This review is expected to motivate future research on nature-inspired heat
Evaporative condenser transfer devices.
Biomimicry 2017 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.

tude de la technologie des changeurs de chaleur inspire

de la nature
Mots cls : Inspir par la nature ; changeur de chaleur ; Fractal ; Mouillabilit de surface ; Condenseur vaporatif ; Bio-mimtisme

instructive heat and mass transfer enhancement phenom-

1. Introduction ena and mechanisms are observed in nature, partially imitated
and applied to enhance heat and mass transfer in engineering.
Nature has always been the source of inspirations for scien- Heat exchanger design is of significance due to its crucial role
tists and engineers to solve problems in various fields. Abundant in thermal and power systems. Hence, heat exchanger design

* Corresponding author. Center for Environmental Energy Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland,
4164 Glenn L. Martin Hall Bldg., College Park, MD 20742, USA. Fax: (+1) 301 405 2025.
E-mail address: yhhwang@umd.edu (Y. Hwang).
0140-7007/ 2017 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.
2 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

have not been applied in current technologies but are of great

Nomenclature potential are also summarized in this table. The nature-
inspired heat exchange applications reviewed in this paper
include fractal heat exchange devices, heat exchanger surface
wettability control and evaporative cooling. They are reviewed
AR aspect ratio
in details and research gaps are discussed. At the end, we outline
Cp specific heat (kJkg1K1)
how to apply natural mechanisms to heat exchanger designs.
D dimension
f friction factor
FC fractal channel
jm mass transfer Colburn factor 2. Fractal heat exchanger devices
m mass (kg)
m total number of branching levels Fractal geometries are widely found in respiratory systems and
PC parallel channel vascular systems of plants and animals, and have been intro-
Re Reynolds number duced into heat transfer area because of their intrinsic advantages
SC serpentine channel of minimized flow resistance and strong heat transfer capabil-
wre retained water ratio ity. In this section, we first review the fractal theory development,
c contact angle (deg) and then we discuss the model development for fractal heat ex-
A advancing contact angle (deg) changer devices with a focus on assumptions. We discuss our
R receding contact angle (deg) main findings and mechanisms for the phenomena as well as
design parameters affecting the thermal and hydraulic perfor-
Subscripts mance. To close we summarize the research gaps.
def defrosting
re retained
2.1. Fractal theory

Much research has been done to develop the fractal theory

is one of the main research domains of adapting the heat (Bejan, 1997, 2002, 2003; Bejan and Lorente, 2006, 2007, 2011;
and mass transfer phenomenon in the nature. Though plenty Bejan et al., 2008; Mandelbrot, 1982; Murray, 1926; Sherman,
nature-inspired heat exchanger designs were proposed and 1981; West, 1997; Xu and Yu, 2006), and the major findings are
studied, they are neither recognized as products of biomimicry summarized in Table 2.
nor systematically reviewed and studied in the past. Current
study aims to give a comprehensive review of nature-inspired 2.2. Model development
heat exchangers in literature.
Enormous heat exchange devices are inspired by the nature, Fractal theory has been applied in different kinds of heat ex-
as shown in Table 1. Heat and mass transfer phenomena that change devices, but mostly in heat sinks for electronic devices,

Table 1 Heat transfer in nature and corresponding heat exchange application.

Type Nature phenomena Heat exchange application inspired Benefit
Plant Leaf vein structure Fractal channel (Wang et al., 2010) Heat transfer enhancement
Micro-reactor (Chen et al., 2011) Pressure drop reduction
Fractal tube-in-tube heat exchanger (Azad and
Amidpour, 2011)
Distributor (Guo et al., 2014)
Leaf surface wettability Heat exchanger surface wettability control
(Jhee et al., 2002)
Animals Sweat glands system Evaporative condenser (Hwang et al., 2001) Heat transfer enhancement
Artificial skin materials (Cui et al., 2014)
Lung and blood vein structure Fractal channel (Pence, 2002) Heat transfer enhancement
Micro-reactor (Yongping Chen, 2011) Pressure drop reduction
Fractal tube-in-tube heat exchanger (Azad and
Amidpour, 2011)
Distributor (Guo et al., 2014)
Countercurrent blood vein in penguin feet Preheating and cooling heat exchanger Heat transfer enhancement
(Domanski et al., 1994)
Fish body shape Heat exchanger with oval/airfoil/droplet shape Pressure drop reduction
tubes (Bacellar et al., 2016)
Shark skin Fan blade material (potential)
Humming bird fast-flapping wings Fan integrated heat exchanger (Staats and Heat transfer enhancement
Brisson, 2015)
Nest structure Termite nest; bee nest Heat exchanger shape design to utilize natural
convection (potential)
international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 3

Table 2 Fractal theory development.

Researchers Main findings
Murray, 1926 Developed Murrays law: The cube of the radius of a parent branch equals the sum of the
cubes of the radii of daughter branches.
Sherman, 1981 Found when Murrays law was obeyed a functional relationship exists between channel
diameters and various flow characteristics such as wall shear stress, velocity profile and
pressure gradient.
Mandelbrot, 1982 Described fractal structure from nature: coastlines, leaves and clouds.
West, 1997 Developed scaling laws for a bulk fluid transport problem to minimize the flow work.
Bejan et al., 2008; Bejan and Lorente, 2006, Developed Constructal Theory: For a finite-size flow system to persist in time (to survive)
2007, 2011; Bejan, 1997, 2002, 2003 its configuration must evolve in such a way that it provides an easier access to the
currents that flow through it.
Xu and Yu, 2006 Analyzed the transport properties including electrical conductivity, heat conduction,
convective heat transfer, laminar flow, and turbulent flow in the networks and also derived
the scaling exponents of the transport properties in the networks.

which we reviewed in detail. Table 3 is a summary of re- investigate the thermal and hydraulic performance of fractal
search for heat sinks with single-phase fluid. No. 3 in the table heat sinks, but experimental work is insufficient. As shown in
is study of fuel cells, which we included due to its role in mod- Table 3, only few research (numbers 6, 10, 12 and 13) include
eling. Different shapes have been studied in literature. Fig. 1 experimental work.
(a) and (b) shows the two main shapes used as fractal heat sink. Models in literature have been developed over the last
Fig. 1 (a) is the disk shape with inlet in the middle and outlet, decades and summarized in Table 3. The research trend is to
which is at the end of mth level branch, on the edge of the eliminate the simplicity of assumptions to make the model
circle. In the literature, the disk shape fractal heat sink studied closer to the reality, but a simple model is still applicable under
is one layer structure so that the medium flows through the certain circumstances, and have the advantage of simplicity.
channel radially and is collected at the circle edge using an Here are some discussions about the main assumptions that
annular plenum. Fig. 1 (b) is the rectangular shape with inlet are made in the model listed in Table 3.
in the middle and outlet scattering in the rectangular space.
In Fig. 1, the branch angle, which is defined as the angle of two Assumption 1: Almost all models assumed laminar flow and
branches, is 180; however, this angle can vary and another rect- neglected the heat loss to environment.
angular shape with the branch angle of 180+180 is shown in Assumption 2: Most models did not account for the effect
Fig. 2. For rectangular shape, some research have opted for two- of gravity but Guo et al. (2014) pointed out that the inertial
layer sandwich structure as illustrated in Figs. 3 and 4. Plenty force could result in uneven bifurcation, leading to flow mal-
of research have been done to analytically and numerically distribution. This is especially the case when the channel

Table 3 Summary of modeling work for fractal heat sinks.

No. Researcher Shape Layers Model Assumptions* Experiment (N/Y)
1 Pence, 2002 Disk One 1-D 1, 2, 3a+3b, 4a, 5a N
2 Chen and Cheng, 2002 Rectangular Two 1-D 1, 2, 3a, 4a, 6a N
3 Senn and Poulikakos, 2004 Rectangular Two 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5a, 6a N
4 Alharbi et al., 2003 Disk One 3-D 1, 3b, 4b, 5a, 6a N
5 Alharbi et al., 2004 Disk One 3-D 1, 3b, 4b, 5a, 6a N
6 Enfield et al., 2004 Disk One 2-D 1, 3b, 4b, 5a Y
7 Wang et al., 2006 Rectangular, angle = 180+180 One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6a N
8 Wang et al., 2007 Disk, with different angles One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6a N
9 Hong et al., 2007 Rectangular One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6c N
10 Chen et al., 2010 Rectangular Two 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5a, 6c Y
11 Wang et al., 2010 Rectangular One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6a N
12 Yu et al., 2012 Rectangular, angle = 180+180 One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6b Y
13 Zhang et al., 2013 Rectangular, angle = 180+180 One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6b Y
14 Zhang et al., 2015 Rectangular, angle = 180+180 One 3-D 1, 2, 3b, 4b, 5b, 6b N
* Explanation of modeling assumptions:

1: laminar flow and negligible heat loss to environment.

2: negligible gravity.
3a/3b: fully developed flow/developing flow in channel.
4a/4b: negligible/non-negligible effect at bifurcation.
5a/5b: constant/temperature dependent properties.
6a/6b/6c: constant heat flux at channel wall/constant temperature with adiabatic top/constant heat flux at bottom plate and conjugated heat
transfer of wall.
4 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117




Branching angle=180


Fig. 1 Two main shapes of fractal heat sinks: disk shape (a) and rectangular shape (b) (Pence, 2002).

length is not long enough for the flow to be fully developed and thermal development lengths were negligible as com-
again after the bifurcation. pared to the channel lengths, could be true if the length to
Assumption 3: Senn and Poulikakos (2004) pointed out that diameter ratio was very high for the flow channels (and the
Chen and Chengs (2002) analytical analysis, in which the Reynolds number was rather small). Otherwise, the as-
assumption of both thermally and hydrodynamically de- sumption was not applicable and the flow should be
veloped flows was only appropriate when the hydrodynamic assumed to be developing flow.
Assumption 4: In the early stage research period, Pence (2002)
and Chen and Cheng (2002) assumed that the effects of bi-
furcation on heat transfer and pressure drop were negligible
but Alharbi et al. (2003) observed pressure recovery at bi-
furcations so that the prediction of pressure drop was 20%
higher if the effect of bifurcation was neglected. Senn and
Poulikakos (2004) and Wang et al. (2007) also found pres-
sure drop from bifurcation was substantial and not negligible.
Fig. 2 Branch angle equals 180+180 (Wang et al., 2007). Zhang et al. (2011) stated that the pressure drop should be
taken into consideration as it was related to the angle of
the branches. The effect of bifurcation on the pressure loss
could be neglected for disk configuration while it should be
taken into consideration for rectangular shape.
Assumption 5: Alharbi et al. (2004) found the pressure drop
for straight channels was 17% lower than one estimated
using constant properties, which are assumed and are evalu-
ated at the average temperature between the inlet and outlet
bulk fluid temperatures, thus the constant properties as-
sumption was not suitable for high heat flux condition
because of the large temperature range.
Assumption 6: Different thermal boundary conditions were
made in the open literature, including constant heat flux,
constant temperature wall with adiabatic top wall, and con-
stant heat flux at bottom plate with conjugated heat transfer
of wall. Selection should be made by the operating condi-
Fig. 3 Two-layer sandwich structure (Senn and tion to further approach the reality. Hong et al. (2007) first
Poulikakos, 2004). suggested to use conjugated heat transfer of wall which led
international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 5

Fig. 4 Image of the mid-plate for aluminum fractal heat sink. (a) Top surface and (b) bottom surface (Chen et al., 2010).

to a finding of hotspots at highest branches which was not in three-dimensional simulation and pointed out that
observed in previous research using constant wall flux (Senn this was due to the tapered increase in cross section area,
and Poulikakos, 2004). which acts similarly to a diffuser following each bi-
furcation. And the pressure recovery is largest for the
In summary, more complicated assumptions are more higher order daughter branches, which have smaller
accurate and closer to reality, thus is recommended by the branching angles. The magnitude of the pressure recov-
authors. ery also depends upon the flow path taken due to the
asymmetry of each bifurcation (Alharbi et al., 2003; Wang
2.3. Major findings and mechanism discussion et al., 2007). Boundary layer reinitiation has the pres-
sure drop forming a non-linear relationship with the
The major findings from fractal heat sink studies are summa- mass flow rate, unlike the linear relationship for paral-
rized in Table 4. The similarities and differences are discussed lel heat sink (Hong et al., 2007). Thus, we recommend
first, followed by the discussion of design parameters effects to apply FC in low flow rate case in practice to the make
on the performance. most advantage of pressure drop. Improved tempera-
ture uniformity can be achieved by the increased number
(1) Performance of fractal channel (FC) compared with that of parent channels and branch levels. Wang et al. (2006)
of serpentine channel (SC): It was found that FC had demonstrated that fractal channels could effectively
larger heat transfer capability and more than 50% lower reduce the potential thermal damage by reducing the risk
pressure drop (Chen et al., 2010; Senn and Poulikakos, of accidental blockage of channel segments.
2004; Wang et al., 2006), and an inherent advantage of (2) Performance of fractal channels (FC) compared with
uniform temperature on the heating surface (Chen et al., those of parallel channels (PC): Pence (2002) found that
2010; Wang et al., 2006). This was compared with SC with FC yielded a 60% lower pressure drop than PC with same
the same heat transfer area, rectangular area and inlet convective heat transfer and heat sink areas at the same
channel dimensions at the same Reynolds number. The total flow rate and a 30 C lower wall temperature under
mechanism for better heat transfer is that first, the re- identical pumping power conditions. Packing density
initiation of boundary layer at each bifurcation results (defined as convective heat transfer area per unit volume)
in local heat transfer coefficient spikes at each bifurca- of FC is 50% lower than that of PC and yields similar
tion with different magnitude, which contributes to the maximum wall temperatures and pressure drop. Chen
global increase of heat transfer coefficients (Wang et al., and Cheng (2002) and Hong et al. (2007) also concluded
2007); second, there are secondary flow motions initi- that FC had benefits in both heat transfer and pressure
ating at bifurcations, generating longitudinal vortices drop over PC. Alharbi et al. (2004) found FC had a 75%
that result in enhancing thermal mixing and a de- lower temperature variation and a 10% pressure-drop
crease in required flow rate for heat transfer and this penalty, and further pointed out that an optimized design
laminar mixing by secondary flow motions which also was needed. Wang et al. (2006) found that the pressure
improves the local Nusselt number (Senn and Poulikakos, drop for FC was marginally higher than that for the PC
2004). However, the transverse vortices may create re- with same total convective heat transfer and channel
circulation at bifurcations that results in hotspot at the volume for the same flow rate. These differences may
inner corners of bifurcation (Senn and Poulikakos, 2004; be due to the channel shape, because in this case the
Zhang et al., 2015). The main reason for lower pressure channel height was kept the same while the channel
drop in literature is the pressure drop recovery phenom- width varied, which resulted in different aspect ratio (AR).
enon found at the bifurcation that diminishes the overall These new aspect ratios were found to be a factor that
pressure drop (Alharbi et al., 2003; Wang et al., 2007). influenced the performance of FC (Zhang et al., 2015) as
Alharbi et al. (2003) found this phenomenon only appears discussed later.
6 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

Table 4 Summary of major findings in research on fractal heat sinks.

Ref. Major findings
Pence, 2002 Compared with PC with equal surface area, FC has:
1. 60% lower pressure drop for the same total flow rate and 30 C lower wall temperature under identical
pumping power conditions.
2. 50% lower density with similar maximum wall temperatures and pressure drop.

Chen and Cheng, 2002 Compared with PC with equal surface area, FC has:
1. Higher total heat transfer rate.
2. Lower total pressure drop.
3. Larger fractal dimension or a larger total number of branching levels will result in a stronger heat transfer
capability with a smaller pumping power.

Senn and Poulikakos, 2004 1. Compared with SC with same heat transfer area and same rectangular area, FC has larger heat transfer
capability and 50% lower pressure drop.
2. Pressure drop from bifurcation is substantial and not negligible.
3. Lower pressure results from the not fully developed flow in higher branching level.
4. Secondary flow motions initiate at bifurcations.
5. Transverse vortices create recirculation at bifurcations that results in hot spots at the inner corners of
6. Longitudinal vortices result in enhanced thermal mixing and a decrease in the required flow rate for
heat transfer.
7. Laminar mixing by secondary flow motions improves local Nusselt number.

Alharbi et al., 2003 Compared with Pences 1-D model, the 3-D model:
1. Predicts a 20% lower total pressure drop for fractal channels but similar for straight one; this is due to
pressure recovery at bifurcations that results from an increase in flow area.
2. Predicts pressure drop 17% higher for SC when using temperature dependent properties, but similar for FC.
3. Has the reinitiating assumption, which seems to provide plausible trends in pressure distribution.

Alharbi et al., 2004 1. FC has 75% lower temperature variation and a 10% pressure-drop penalty compared with the PC.
2. The assumption of constant properties is not suitable for high heat flux condition.

Enfield et al., 2004 1. Developed a 2-D model for predicting concentration profiles and degree of mixing (DoM).
2. Developed a non-dimension number and a design guideline to determine the optimal number of branch
levels to minimize pressure drop and maximize DoM for a fixed initial parent channel width, total path
length, and channel depth.

Wang et al., 2006 Compare FC with PC and SC, FC has:

1. The best temperature uniformity.
2. Lower pressure drop than SC but higher pressure drop than PC.
3. Reduced risk of accidental blockage of channel segments.
4. Reduced potential of thermal damage due to the reduced risk of blockage.
5. Increased number of parent channels and branch levels resulted in increased temperature uniformity.

Wang et al., 2007 1. Pressure drop increases as bifurcation angle increases with a decreasing increasing rate and 30 is the
optimal angle.
2. Channels with bifurcation angle of 180+180 have a lower pressure drop compared with PC due to pressure
recovery at bifurcation.
3. Increasing angle also increases the risk of appearance of hotspot near the bifurcation.
4. More uniform distribution of the outlet mass flow can be achieved with increased bifurcation angles, but the
gradient is reduced with increasing angles.

Hong et al., 2007 1. A modified structure was proposed to address the hotspot issue (by adding serpentine channel structure at
the end of highest branches).
2. Hotspot appears at the highest branch (4th) due to assumption of conjugate heat transfer.
3. Effect of bifurcation on pressure drop becomes more obvious for higher flow rate, results in a non-linear
relationship between pressure drop and mass flow rate, unlike the linear one for PC.
4. The modified FC is much better than that of PC with respect to pressure drop, thermal resistance and
temperature uniformity; and this advantage is much more obvious when the flow rate or the pressure drop
is low, which is favored because high pressure drop is not recommended in practice for the design of

(continued on next page)

international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 7

Table 4(continued)
Ref. Major findings
Chen et al., 2010 1. FC has considerable advantages over SC in both heat transfer and pressure drop.
2. FC has inherent advantage of uniform temperature on the heating surface than SC.
3. The local pressure loss due to confluence flow is found to be larger than that due to diffluence flow.

Wang et al., 2010 1. Leaf-like flow networks have lower pressure drop and higher heat transfer coefficient than symmetric
tree-like ones.

Yu et al., 2012 1. FC has a much higher heat transfer coefficient at the cost of a much higher pump power compared with PC
with the same heat transfer area.
2. AR (aspect ratio = height/width) of microchannels plays a very important role when considering pressure
loss, heat transfer coefficient, and COP.
3. FC with lowest AR has the highest COP, but the one with the highest AR has the highest ratio of COP over
COP of PC.

Zhang et al., 2013 1. Small aspect ratio is preferred for a smaller pressure drop and a larger heat transfer rate.
2. A high branching level produced a high pressure drop and a large heat transfer rate.
3. The bends with fillets for the fractal-like microchannel reduce the local minor pressure losses, compared
with that with the 90 bends, resulting in a lower overall pressure drop.

Zhang et al., 2015 1. Both the flow rate and the AR have large influences on the evolution of the vortices, which promote the fluid
mixing and enhance the efficiency of heat transfer.
2. FC with a smaller AR of 0.333 was verified to have lower pressure drop and better heat transfer performance
within all the other microchannel networks under investigation in the study.
3. Observed transverse and longitudinal vorticities, secondary flow and recirculation flow motions.
4. Confluence flow has a larger pressure drop than diffluent flow, but not much difference.

(3) Discussions about different design factors: Larger fractal conduction to investigate the heat transfer performance of
dimension or a larger total number of branching levels fractal structures (Chen et al., 2015a, 2015b).
result in a stronger heat transfer capability and require From the experiment point of view, most investigations on
less pumping power (Chen and Cheng, 2002), and this experiments only focused on the pressure drop and tempera-
also results in increased temperature uniformity (Wang ture profile of fractal channels (Enfield et al., 2004; Luo et al.,
et al., 2006). Wang et al. (2007) discovered that both the 2007, Chen et al., 2010; Zhang et al., 2013; Xia et al., 2015). Other
pressure drop and the pressure drop change ratio with techniques such as the flow visualization technique were used
bifurcation angle increase with bifurcation angle, meaning to further investigate the mixing localization and flow distri-
that smaller bifurcation angles are preferred because bution uniformity (Guo et al., 2014). Most of the current research
pressure drop is lower and less sensitive to angle. does not utilize flow boiling for this technique, which is another
However, distribution uniformity of the outlet mass flow gap that needs further research (Daniels et al., 2011). There are
increases as bifurcation angle increases, which results conflicting results in the literature regarding the pressure penalty.
in a contradiction if uniform distribution is also a target. This means that the fractal concept alone cannot necessarily
We also investigated the aspect ratio and proved that it guarantee a good design but other factors such as branch angles
had significant influence on the evolution of vortices, and AR resulting in significant impact should also be compre-
which increased the fluid mixing and enhanced the hensively studied.
efficiency of heat transfer. Therefore, aspect ratio played From the application point of view, fractal geometry has been
a very important role. The lowest AR (0.333) has the applied in a wide range of heat exchange devices, including
highest COP, but the highest AR has the highest ratio of heat sink (as shown in Table 3), fuel cells (Senn and Poulikakos,
COP over COP of straight channels (Yu et al., 2012). Since 2004), microreactor (Chen et al., 2011, 2015a, 2015b), distribu-
the fractal structure has both inlet and outlet, it is in- tor (Guo et al., 2014; Luo et al., 2007; Tondeur and Luo, 2004),
teresting to investigate the confluence flow and diffluence collector (Guo et al., 2014), tube-and-shell heat exchanger (Guo
flow. We found that pressure drop due to confluence flow et al., 2014), spindle (Xia et al., 2015), and Si/Ge nanocomposites
was larger than that of diffluence flow (Chen et al., 2010, (Chen et al., 2015a, 2015b). However, most of these research proj-
2015a, 2015b), but the difference in pressure drop was ects focused on heat sink for electronics and chip cooling due
insignificant (Chen et al., 2015a, 2015b). to the inherent advantages of temperature uniformity of fractal
structure. For fluid types, research covers liquid-to-liquid (Guo
2.4. Research gaps et al., 2014; Luo et al., 2007; Tondeur and Luo, 2004), solid-to-
liquid (as shown in Table 3), solid-to-two-phase (Daniels et al.,
From the modeling point of view, the models evolved from 1-D 2007, 2011; Zhang et al., 2011), solid-to-gas (Chen et al., 2011,
to 2-D, and then to 3-D. However, most research focused on 2014, 2015a, 2015b), and solid-to-solid (Chen et al., 2015a, 2015b)
steady state modeling, and very few used the transient heat heat exchangers; however, no research has been done for
8 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117


Inlet Outlet


Fig. 6 Topology optimized heat sink (Yaji et al., 2015).

mimicking lotus leaves (Ensikat et al., 2011; Genzer and Marmur,

2008), and surfaces that reduce drag during movement in water
Fig. 5 Topology optimized heat sink (Oevelen and mimicking skin of sharks (Bechert et al., 2000). The formation
Baelmans, 2014). of various surface structures is based on the variability of cell
shapes, micro- and nano-structures on the cell surfaces and
the formation of multicellular structures (Koch and Barthlott,
2009). Much of this research has been done for the investiga-
liquid-to-gas heat exchangers, which is a research gap and
tion of new surface materials with variable wettability. Wetting
should be investigated.
behavior of solid surfaces can be divided into four categories
From the design method point of view, one should note that
according to static contact angle (c), i.e. superhydrophilic surface
most design methods were based on scaling laws, but could
(when c < 10), hydrophilic surface (when 10 < c < 90), hy-
not necessarily result in optimized design, often leading to
drophobic surface (when 90 < c < 150), and superhydrophobic
incomprehensive and unfair comparison. Some researchers
surface (when c > 150 and a low hysteresis or a low tilting angle
pointed out that the shape of the bends had an impact on the
of less than 10) (Koch and Barthlott, 2009).
performance, especially the pressure drop. The bends with
Koch and Barthlott (2009) summarized the different sur-
fillets for the fractal-like microchannel reduced the local
faces found in plants. As an example, the leaves of Regnellidium
minor pressure losses as compared to that with the 90 bends,
diphyllum (Marsileaceae) are hydrophobic. The leaves of Bras-
resulting in a lower overall pressure drop (Zhang et al., 2013).
sica oleracea are superhydrophobic. The leaves of Alocasia
Haller et al. (2009) also found that T- and L-junctions with
odora are hydrophilic, and the leaves of Ruellia devosiana are
wedges and radii have a lower pressure drop than those with
90 bends and joints, but suffered a degradation of heat trans-
We found that wettability of the heat exchanger surface has
fer as well. However, these design methods of integrating fillets
significant impact upon the performance of heat exchangers
and scaling law are still limited in regard of topology change.
under condensation, frosting and defrosting processes. Water
In topology optimization, the shape optimization problem
droplets remain on fin-and-tube surfaces due to surface tension,
becomes a material distribution problem. The boundary of two
resulting in bridging between fins which increases air pres-
materials, coolant and solid, may appear and vanish during
sure drop, and may lead to reduction in air-side heat transfer
optimization. Oevelen and Baelmans (2014) applied topology
coefficient and cooling capacity (resulting in corrosion). Under
optimization to the cooling of a constant temperature heat
extreme conditions, the severe blockage by the frost layer on
source and optimized the locations where the channels and
fin surfaces would even cause shutdown of heat pumps. There-
fins should form, as shown in Fig. 5. This topology optimiza-
fore, inspired by plant surfaces, researchers changed fin surface
tion method leads to branching, tree-like flow network designs.
characteristics to (i) reduce water retention, (ii) avoid corro-
In Fig. 5, the black areas are solid flow channels and white areas
sion and (iii) reduce energy consumption. Several different
are liquid flow channels. Yaji et al. (2015) utilized topology op-
coating methods were invented to create superhydrophilic sur-
timization method for the design of heat sink device as well
faces, hydrophilic surfaces (Hong and Webb, 2000), hydrophobic
and achieved a similar fractal design, as shown in Fig. 6. To-
surfaces (Sommers et al., 2012), and superhydrophobic sur-
pology optimization should be investigated more fully in order
faces (Liang et al., 2015; Liu and Jacobi, 2009; Wang et al., 2015)
to achieve optimal design for each application condition.
for heat exchangers. The most commonly used coating is to
create hydrophilic surface. Much research has been done in-
vestigating the thermal and hydraulic performance of heat
3. Heat exchanger surface wettability exchangers, with various surface wettability controlled by dif-
ferent coatings (both theoretically and experimentally). In this
3.1. Surface wettability control section, we summarize and discuss in detail the main find-
ings of relationships between the surface wettability and heat
Biological surfaces have inspired enormous biomimetic ma- exchanger performance under condensation, frosting and de-
terials, such as water-repellent and self-cleaning materials frosting processes.
international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 9

3.2. Major findings condition, fin geometry, condensation mode and thermal
resistance of coating itself. Depending upon the
Different fin types with and without surface treatments have wettability of the surface and heat exchanger geom-
been examined, including plain fins, wavy fins, slit fins, louvered etries, condensation occurs in three modes: filmwise (on
fins, and lanced fins. The most common surface wettability is surface with good wettability), dropwise (on surface with
hydrophilic and hydrophobic, while superhydrophilic and poor wettability) and mixed. Thus condensation on hy-
superhydrophobic surfaces are not widely studied. Major drophilic surfaces is likely to be filmwise while that on
findings are: hydrophobic surfaces is likely to be dropwise. For a single
plain surface, it is believed that the dropwise conden-
(1) Dry condition: For completely dry surface condition, the sation has the largest heat transfer coefficient while the
hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces have a negligible filmwise condensation has the smallest, because the film
effect on the thermal-hydraulic performance enhance- condensation provides an insulating liquid film. However,
ment. No results are available for superhydrophilic and there are two factors that need to be considered here.
superhydrophobic surfaces. The first one is inlet air condition; this determines the
(2) Condensation condition: The research on coated heat ex- condensation regime of that on uncoated baseline
changers under condensation condition is summarized surface. For hydrophilic surface, if condensation on the
in Table 5. Most research found that the air-side heat uncoated heat exchanger is dropwise, then the coated
transfer coefficient of hydrophilic surface under wet con- one has a lower heat transfer coefficient (Wang et al.,
dition was similar to those of uncoated surface, it might 2002), and if condensation on the uncoated one is
slightly increase (Min et al., 2011) or decrease (Wang et al., filmwise, the coated one has a higher heat transfer co-
2002). Though hydrophobic surface for plates is re- efficient because of the reduction in film thickness due
ported to have 25% heat transfer improvement (Rainieri to limited amount of the condensate retained on the
et al., 2009), the heat exchanger with hydrophobic surface coated surface (Min et al., 2011). The second factor is heat
has a slight degradation in heat transfer (Liu and Jacobi, exchanger geometry. For a heat exchanger with louvered
2009). This confliction may be due to specific inlet fins, even though the uncoated heat exchanger may have

Table 5 Surface wettabilitys effects in condensation process.

Tube Fin type Contact angle Heat transfer Pressure drop*
type coefficient*
Mimaki, 1987 Round Plain Uncoated; hydrophilic 23% improvement 4050% reduction
Wang and Round Plain Uncoated; hydrophilic No effect 1540% reduction
Chang, 1998 Parallel louver coating
Hong and Webb, Round Wavy; lanced and louver Uncoated; hydrophilic No effect 15% reduction for wavy and
1999 coating (10) 45% reduction for louvered,
no effect for lanced
Kim and Jacobi, Round Plain; slit 92 for uncoated; 10 No effect Reduction
2000 for coated
Shin and Ha, Round Plain fin with slant ends A = 65; R = 0 N/A N/A
2002 Plain discrete fins
Wang et al., 2002 Round Plain, slit Uncoated; hydrophilic ~20% degradation ~ 40% reduction
coating (<10)
Ma et al., 2007 Round Wavy Uncoated; hydrophilic Increases when condensate ~ 44% reduction
coating (1020) water drops on uncoated
fin surface cannot form
plenty of water flow,
otherwise decreases
Liu and Jacobi, Round Slit Uncoated (A = 85, R = 42) Slight degradation 3545% reduction for
2009 Hydrophilic coating hydrophilic coating and 25
(A = 30, 50,R = 0) 40% increase for
Hydrophobic coating hydrophobic coating
(A = 110, R = 0)
Min et al., 2011 Round Wavy Uncoated (A = 90; R = 50) Slight improvement N/A
Hydrophilic coating
(A = 4071 R = 08)
Rainieri et al., Plain plate Hydrophobic 25% improvement N/A
Kim and Lee, Round Louver Super-hydrophilic (3), No effect Hydrophobic is 2030%
2012 hydrophobic (130) larger than
10 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

filmwise condensation, droplet retention for coated ones higher on the water film than that of the bare surface.
would sometimes deteriorate the inherent boundary On the contrary, the distribution density of water
layer. This restarted the effect of the interrupted surface droplets formed on the surface of a hydrophobic heat
and caused a degradation in heat transfer. Also, the fin exchanger is relatively small, resulting in a lower frost
pitch may be so small that even with hydrophobic density.
coating, the bridging effect is not reduced significantly
if the uncoated heat exchanger has dropwise conden- Pressure drop of heat exchangers under frosting condi-
sation (Liu and Jacobi, 2009). tions largely depends upon the frost layer mass and thickness.
Its growing rate is determined by the frost developing rate. Thus
All research found that the air-side pressure drop for sur- the uncoated surface has the largest pressure drop and highest
faces with hydrophilic coating under wet conditions is less than pressure drop increasing rate, followed by superhydrophilic
that of the uncoated surfaces. However, hydrophobic coating surface (Kim and Lee, 2012), and then hydrophobic surface (Kim
increases the air-side pressure drop as compared to un- and Lee, 2012), or superhydrophobic surface (Wang et al., 2015).
coated surfaces. As discussed above, the hydrophilic coating There is no comparison between performances of hydropho-
heat exchangers will have a very thin and uniform film which bic and superhydrophobic coated heat exchangers.
reduces the bridging effect in between adjacent fins and tubes; Regarding heat transfer, some research has found that
however, the hydrophobic coating heat exchanger results in surface treatment had no significant impact on heat transfer
dropwise condensation which contributes to the bridging effect. (Huang et al., 2009). Some argued that the heat transfer coef-
When the heat exchanger reaches its steady state, there is ficient decreased due to air blockage, and thermal resistance
certain amount of water retained between the fins of heat ex- caused by the additional frost layer. Under frosting condi-
changers. Water retention reduces about 5075% for hydrophilic tions, the heat transfer rate decreases with time because of
coated heat exchanger (Kim and Jacobi, 2000; Shin and Ha, 2002). the formation and growth of the frost layer. Wang et al. (2015)
Thus hydrophilic surface is recommended for tight fin found that the heat transfer rate of uncoated heat exchangers
spaced heat exchangers under condensation condition. had the fastest decreasing rate, followed by hydrophilic, and
then superhydrophobic coated ones. The heat transfer rate
(3) Frosting condition: Here we compare the frost forma- for hydrophilic coated surfaces is 33% lower than that of
tion, mass, thickness and density on different heat superhydrophobic coated surfaces at the 40 minute mark.
exchanger surfaces. Na and Webb (2003) found that the Kim and Lee (2012) found that the heat transfer rate of
air at the cold surface should be supersaturated in order superhydrophilic coated surfaces was three times faster than
for frost nucleation to occur and a low energy surface that of hydrophobic coated surfaces, and it became 50% of that
(high contact angle) requires higher supersaturation of hydrophobic coated surfaces within 40 minutes (Kim and
degree for frost nucleation than a high energy surface. Lee, 2012).
Thus factors affecting the surface energy all influence
the frost formation process, including temperature of cold (4) Defrosting condition: Melting time positively corre-
surfaces, air humidity, air temperature, air velocity, char- lates with frost mass and thickness. Thus the melting
acteristics of the surfaces and foreign particles (Na and time for superhydrophobic coated heat exchangers
Webb, 2003). This finding well explains why there is frost was found to be the shortest, followed by hydrophilic
retardation on hydrophobic surfaces (Kim and Lee, 2012). coated heat exchangers, and then the uncoated ones.
However, for frost formation on hydrophilic surfaces, Specially, the mechanism of frost layer melting on hy-
there are conflicting results in literature, some re- drophobic coated surfaces is that the layer attached to
search found frost layer grows faster on hydrophilic the fin-and-tube surface melts first, and then the water
surface than uncoated surface (Kim and Lee, 2012) while layer is absorbed by the frost layer above it which behaves
some research found the opposite (Liu et al., 2008). The like a hydrophilic medium. This causes the water layer
main reason is that the contact angle is not the only to release from the vertical superhydrophobic surface
factor that determines the surface energy level. Liu et al. (Wang et al., 2015). It is reported that the melting times
(2006) found that the cold plate temperature and hu- are 128, 147 and 107 seconds for the hydrophilic, bare
midity have a very strong influence on frost deposition and superhydrophobic heat exchangers, respectively
processes. The frost deposition rate increases sharply as (Wang et al., 2015). Accordingly the energy consump-
the plate temperature decreases, and thickness of the tion for melting of superhydrophobic heat exchangers
deposited frost layer increases rapidly with air humid- is the lowest.
ity. The frost layers were found to have the largest mass
and thickness for the uncoated surface, followed by hy- The ratios of retained water ( wre = mre mdef ) were 25% and
drophilic and superhydrophobic surfaces (Wang et al., 39% for the superhydrophilic and hydrophobic fins, respec-
2015). However, the density of the frost layer (which is tively (Kim and Lee, 2012). The ratios were 27.5%, 25.3% and
obtained by mass and thickness) is highest on hydro- 18.1% for hydrophilic surfaces, uncoated surfaces and
philic coated heat exchangers, followed by uncoated and superhydrophobic surfaces as reported in another study by
hydrophobic ones (Jhee et al., 2002). This is due to the Wang et al. (2015).
hydrophilic heat exchanger distributing moisture on the Average water drain rates of hydrophilic and hydrophobic
surface as a water film, which in turn provides a broad heat exchangers increased by 3.7% and 11.1% as compared with
area for frost to grow on. Therefore, the frost density is uncoated surfaces (Jhee et al., 2002). However, the duration of
international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 11

defrosting cycle should be long enough to completely dry out Air-cooled condenser is most widely used in residential small
the water spread on the hydrophilic surface, otherwise, the hy- capacity split heat pumps. When the ambient temperature in-
drophilic capability of the coating would lessen during the creases, larger air velocity is required. Water-cooled condensers
second cycle (Huang et al., 2009). are mainly used for heat pumps with large capacity, and it is
Thus superhydrophobic and hydrophobic surfaces show the usually integrated with a cooling tower to dissipate heat into
best anti-frosting performance and defrosting performance, and the ambient air. Water-cooled condensers are especially used
are recommended for frosting and defrosting conditions. in situations where the cooling source is located far from the
system. One drawback is that this process consumes a large
3.3. Research gap discussion amount of water and needs a large water pump to circulate
the water. Evaporative condensers are used for non-residential
Based on the literature review, the research gap is discussed heat pumps with large capacity to enhance heat transfer at
as follows: high ambient temperature. The most common method is to
spray or deluge water directly on the surface of condenser while
For condensation condition, not much work has been the air still flows through the tubes at the same time. The water
done to investigate the effect of superhydrophilic and partially evaporates and partially drains to the bottom of the
superhydrophobic surfaces on heat transfer and pressure condenser, and is pumped back up to the spray nozzle by a
drop. Under condensation conditions, there are conflict- pump. Since the coils do not have to be immerged in the water
ing results regarding the heat transfer performance of heat and there is no long distance between the condenser and the
exchangers with surface treatments, which reveals that the cooling tower, the water amount and pumping power are largely
surface type is not the only factor that contributes to the reduced as compared to water-cooled condenser.
heat transfer performance. Thus, the calculation requires This evaporative condenser is first used in the process in-
a general evaluation factor, which can take into account dustry for many years (Collins and Mathews, 1960; Harris, 1962,
various factors, including the inlet condition and heat ex- 1964) and much research has been done investigating heat
changer geometry. transfer and hydraulic performance, including round tube banks
Although plenty of research has been done for heat ex- (Faco and Oliveira, 2000; Finlay and McMillan, 1970; Pawlowski
changers with fin-and-tube surface treatment, there is no and Siwon, 1988; Simpson et al., 1974, 1984; Wataru et al., 1988),
research regarding the heat exchangers with in-tube surface and elliptical tube banks (Dreyer et al., 1992; Hasan and Sirn,
treatments. Limited research has been done to investigate 2004). Different fin types have been studied as well, including
the heat transfer and flow pattern in hydrophilic surface plain fin (Hasan and Sirn, 2003, 2004; Simpson et al., 1984;
(Derby et al., 2014; Fang et al., 2010) and hydrophobic surface Wataru et al., 1988; Yang and Clark, 1975), wavy fin (Wiksten
in microchannels (Chattopadhyay and Usha, 2016; Chen and El Haj Assad, 2010), louvered fin (Chen et al., 2013; Popli
et al., 2014; Derby et al., 2014; Fang et al., 2010). However, et al., 2012; Song et al., 2003; Yang and Clark, 1975; Zhang et al.,
the heat exchangers performance has different character- 2012) and perforated fin (Yang and Clark, 1975).
istics regarding heat exchanger geometry, flow mal- Researchers focused on both model development and ex-
distribution, and other factors, as observed for air side periments, trying to explain the mechanism of heat transfer
(requiring deeper investigation). enhancement by adding water spray as compared to dry con-
dition and figuring out how much pressure penalty could be
and other characteristics are. Here is the summary of main
4. Evaporative condenser findings.

4.1. Evaporative cooling in nature (1) Heat transfer performance compared with dry conditions:
It has been found that the heat transfer performance of
As homothermal animals, human beings have developed a heat exchangers was largely enhanced for both spray
complicated control scheme for thermal regulation. Under hy- cooling and deluge cooling. Simpson et al. (1974) found
perthermia, cutaneous active vasodilation is the basic responder the heat transfer was 56 times higher than that under
to heat stress, accompanied by sweating, enabling evapora- dry conditions, but the increasing rate decreased as
tive heat loss (Smith and Johnson, 2016). In HVAC systems, one air velocity increased. Yang and Clark (1975) found the
major component that needs to dissipate heat into the envi- improvement to be 45% at Re = 500; 33% at Re = 1000;
ronment is the condenser, and usually the heat sink is the 6.213.5% at Re = 7000. This was because the breakup of
ambient air. However, when the ambient air temperature thin liquid films formed on the fin surfaces. Dreyer (1992)
becomes too high, the cooling capacity of the unit decreases, found capacity under wet condition was 3.5 times of that
and the discharge temperature becomes severely high, which under dry condition, and heat transfer coefficient is 40
would cause compressor malfunction. Inspired by human 50 times larger. Hasan and Sirn (2003) found the heat
beings thermal regulation, evaporative cooling has been applied transfer increased by 92140% for air velocities from 1.66
in evaporative condenser devices. to 3.57 m/s. Popli et al. (2012) found that at same air ve-
locity (2.4 m/s), capacity under wet condition was 2.7
4.2. Main findings times that under dry conditions.
(2) Mechanism: Most research attributed the mechanism of
There are three main types of condensers used in HVAC heat transfer enhancements to the evaporation of water
systems: air-cooled, water-cooled, and evaporative-cooled. from wetted part of surface area (Lang and Bergles, 1996;
12 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

Song et al., 2003; Wataru et al., 1988). However, there is We observed that at higher air velocity, more water
also research arguing that this augmentation was mainly drained in the back of the heat exchanger, while more
due to the formation of liquid film while the contribution drained into the front of the heat exchanger when air
of evaporation was rather negligible (Yang and Clark, velocity was low. The percentage of drainage also in-
1975). Yang and Clark observed that the sprays of water creased as more water sprayed (Zhang et al., 2014).
(evaporates at 100C, Cp = 4.2 kJ kg1 K 1 ) and ethylene (7) Inlet air RH: In a humid and hot environment, the high
glycol (evaporates at 197C, Cp = 3.1 kJ kg1 K 1 ) yielded inlet air relative humidity may restrain the evapora-
same results. But this comparison cannot necessarily tion of water drops, resulting in performance degradation.
indicate that the contribution of evaporation is not sig- It was found that the water accumulation appeared when
nificant. Lang and Bergles (1996) found the sum of air inlet air humidity was 80%, but we did not observe this
and water heat rate did not equal to that of the heat ex- when inlet air humidity was only 40%. The highest en-
changer capacity, thus one can draw the conclusion that hancement ratios reduced from 4.1 to 2.8 when inlet air
removing sensible heat alone could not be the reason humidity increased from 40% to 80%, and the friction
for heat transfer enhancement of spray cooling. penalty increased from 0% to 25% respectively (Chen,
(3) Pressure drop: Most research found the pressure penalty, 2013). Thus, we recommend an evaporative condenser
if there was one, to be insignificant for spray cooling for dry and hot environments.
(Chen et al., 2013; Simpson et al., 1984; Wataru et al., 1988; (8) Dry out phenomenon: At low spray water rate, the rear
Yang and Clark, 1975; Zhang et al., 2012). However, Dreyer of tube-and-fin might remain dry (Simpson et al., 1974),
(1992) pointed out that pressure drop was related to fin and dry out pattern was affected by air flow rates, spray
spacing, and it should not be neglected when fin spacing water rate and surface temperature.
was smaller than 2.5 mm. Popli et al. (2012) found that (9) System performance: Much research has been done in-
at same air velocity (1.4 m/s), the pressure of deluge vestigating the performance of evaporative condensers
cooling was about 2.3 times of that under dry conditions in a vapor compression cycle, and other cooling systems
and the capacity was about 2.7 times of that under dry and were reviewed by Harby et al. (2016). They found that
conditions. Chen et al. (2013) experimentally found similar by using evaporative condenser, the power consump-
pressure jump at low air flow rate (Re = 100250) when tion could be reduced up to 58% and the coefficient of
spray rate was high and also pointed out high inlet air performance could be improved by 113.4% with systems
humidity led to a pressure drop penalty as well. of different cooling capacities ranging from 3 to 3000 kW,
(4) Fin design: Traditional long thin fins can significantly compared with an air-cooled condenser.
improve heat transfer under dry conditions; however, (10) Drawbacks and new designs: Despite the benefits, there
Dreyer (1992) found that the fin efficiency decreased are certain drawbacks from evaporative condensers.
under wet conditions because of the high heat transfer For instance, fouling issues and power consumption
coefficient on air side, which could be as low as 43% (pumping and fan) are drawbacks. Finlay and Harris (1984)
(Hasan and Sirn, 2003). Highest enhancement ratios pointed out that such condensers had vulnerability to
were observed for geometries with low fin heights and fouling. Fouling had been observed at the wetted sur-
wide fin spacing (Simpson et al., 1974). Thus Dreyer et al. faces on a louvered fin heat exchanger after two months
(1992) and Song et al. (2003) recommended short and on-and-off spray testing (with spray time of less than
thick fin designs to take full advantage of the evapora- 100 hours) using tap water. The fouling pattern re-
tive cooling. Furthermore, due to the blockage in low fin sulted from the position and orientation of the spray
spacing cases, we recommend that fin spacing be wider (Zhang et al., 2012). Although the pumping power is
than 3 or 4 mm apart. smaller for an evaporative condenser as compared with
(5) Tube shape design: The traditional tube shape is round, a water-cooled condenser, the pumping power was not
but there are also research papers about elliptical or oval eliminated and neither was the fan power. To address
tubes (Dreyer, 1992; Hasan and Sirn, 2004; Dreyer et al., this issue, some new designs have been proposed. Hwang
1992; Hasan and Sirn, 2004). They found that the average et al. (2001) proposed a new condenser with tubes im-
mass transfer Colburn factor jm for the oval tube was 89% mersed in a water bath with disks on top that are
of that for the circular tube, while the friction factor f partially submerged in the water bath. He rotated these
for oval tube was 4% of that for the circular tube. Com- disks with a direct-drive motor and blew a thin water
bining the thermal-hydraulic characteristics for the tubes, film on the air stream from the bath. The condenser tubes
the oval tube showed higher values for the ratio (jm/f) transferred heat to water bath and the evaporation of
which was 1.931.96 times of that for the circular tube, water film transferred heat to air stream. Even though
and this which indicated that the oval tube had better both the pump and fan were still needed, we found that
combined heat-pressure performance than round tube the airflow rate was much decreased, and pressure drop
(Hasan and Sirn, 2004). of the water loop was much less than of the spray nozzle.
(6) Drainage behavior: Zhang et al. (2012) found that the This resulted in reduced power consumption and led Nasr
mass flow rate of water drainage increased as the water and Hassan (2009) to propose an innovative evapora-
spray rate increased (with an increasing rate). This sug- tive condenser that used sheets of cloth wrappings to
gests at high water spray rate, one should use a drainage draw water from a water basin by capillary effect. They
collection and recirculation system. Another minor tested it in a vapor compression cycle and found that
factor that influences the drainage rate is air velocity. the evaporative condenser had the ability to transfer heat
international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117 13

13 times larger than the air-cooler condenser at the same


4.3. Research gaps

Here is the discussion of research gap regarding evaporative


Spray pattern optimization. Water, as an important re-

source, can be rare and precious, especially in hot and dry
areas where an evaporative condenser is highly appli-
cable. Thus it is urgent to optimize the spray pattern and
take into account nozzle shape, water spray rate, spray ori-
entation, and spray pattern to minimize water consumption.
Water blockage and pressure penalty. Most research did not
find pressure penalty because the coils that had been ex-
amined were mainly bare tube bundles, or plain fin-and-
tube heat exchangers. However, when fin geometry becomes
complex and fin spacing becomes smaller, water blockage
and the pressure drop penalty would become an issue. More
research should be done in order to fully understand the
Universal condenser design and optimization for both dry
and wet conditions. To save water and protect the system,
condensers may need to run under dry conditions for most
of the time, and run under wet condition in extreme weather.
Based upon the review it is clear that the heat exchanger
that has been optimized in dry conditions may suffer a Fig. 7 Approach for applying biomimicry to heat
pressure drop penalty when used as evaporative con- exchanger design.
denser. Thus, a universal condenser design that can have
good performance in both conditions should be investigated.
Performance of condenser with hydrophobic and hydro-
made and further analysis should be done to investigate the
philic coating. There is no sufficient research studying
performance of the design. Analysis includes analytical, nu-
the effect of spray cooling on coated heat exchangers. The
merical analysis, optimization, manufacturing feasibility
coating may be a solution for universal condenser design.
checking, and prototype manufacturing and experimental
Innovative designs. To reduce the pumping power and fan
power, innovative designs should be looked to find an ac-
Here is an illustration of this procedure by using previous
ceptable way to utilize less water.
fractal heat sink design as an example:

Define problem and requirements: Design a heat sink that

has small pressure drop with enhancement in heat transfer.
5. Design outline and research gaps
Study nature phenomena: River flow, human vascular
5.1. Nature-inspired heat exchange device design outline system, or plant vessel system, fish body shape, and shark
skin properties are among many good options to choose for
Biomimicry design procedures have been proposed in areas other study.
than heat exchanger design (El-Zeiny, 2012; Lurie-Luke, 2014; Extract mechanisms from nature: Fractal flow channel,
Tavsan et al., 2015; Vanaga and Blumberga, 2015). In the current streamline shape, and special surface structure with low
study, we proposed a design approach based upon biomimicry drag are possibilities.
for heat exchanger design as illustrated in Fig. 7, but not limited Apply an analogous natural mechanism: We suggest using
to just heat exchanger design.This can serve as a general design fractal flow channels.
guideline as well. The first step is to define the problem tar- Finalize solution design using fractal heat sink.
geting heat exchangers. Meanwhile, designers need to examine Analysis: model development and experimental validation.
natural phenomena and extract the mechanisms from nature Confirm that we meet the requirement determination: Yes,
that they can apply as a solution. Usually these procedures are we are.
conducted in parallel and have mutual influence, which are
summarized as parallel processes in the approach. Then the 5.2. Research gaps
designer will apply analogous nature mechanism to the final
design mechanism of the scientific or engineering problem. In addition to the nature-inspired heat exchange devices that
After selecting the mechanism, the final design should be we reviewed in this paper, there are still many other nature
14 international journal of refrigeration 78 (2017) 117

principles that have the potential to be utilized in heat ex- and evaporative condensers are inspired by sweating of human
changer design. Here is a brief discussion about these skins. We critically reviewed all of these technologies in detail
phenomena and principles. and have proposed an approach to apply biomimicry to heat
exchanger design. We have discussed promising natural phe-
Control mechanism of sweating can be used for spray cooling nomena that have not yet been applied to the heat exchanger
pattern design and control. Humans have developed a me- design, such as thermal regulation control mechanism, arti-
ticulous control system for thermoregulation. Even though ficial skin materials, fish body shapes, shark skin, and wing
evaporative condensers utilize the idea of evaporation of vibration. This review is expected to throw a light on the
human skins, there is no research of the spray pattern design future research of nature-inspired heat and mass transfer
and control. The spray pattern should be controlled based devices.
upon the ambient temperature, the coil temperature, the
ambient humidity, air flow rate and other parameters. This
may lead to least amount of water consumption.
Artificial skin materials can be used as a heat exchanger Acknowledgements
coating to replace spray cooling and to save pumping power.
Recently, a novel passive cooling solution using temperature- The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of this effort
sensitive hydrogel (TSHG), a smart macromolecular material from the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering, Uni-
which is capable of releasing moisture automatically when versity of Maryland, CEEE, UMD.
its temperature exceeds the lower critical solution transi-
tion temperature, has been applied to microelectronics
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