microFLUX - Microchannel Fabrication for Large Upgraded eXchangers



"Heat exchangers are used in a range of domestic and industrial applications from Air Conditioning, refrigeration and domestic heating, to chemical refinement and electricity production. Heat exchangers that boil a liquid are called two phase heat exchangers and are more commonly used in cooling applications. Currently, these heat exchangers are very inefficient at boiling fluids. To boil water at 100oC the heating surface of the exchanger has to reach 120oC and this inefficiency continues even when the liquid has started to boil.

Microchannels are an interesting solution to these inefficiencies. Microchannels provide sites for bubbles to form on a surface and limit their size. This means that once the bubbles reach their maximum size they are forced off the surface and fresh, cool liquid fills the space. This increased rate of fluid replenishment allows the surface to be cooled more efficiently. Microchannels are not easily created as the techniques used to create them require open and flat surfaces and can be very time consuming. They can also be damaged in manufacturing which means they cannot be applied prefabrication. This makes them impractical for commercial use.

microFLUX is a technology currently being investigated by Oxford nanoSystems as a method for improving the efficiency of these heat exchangers. microFLUX is a technique which allows channels, only a few hundred microns wide, to be cut into the internal surface of the heat exchanger. This overcomes the issues associated with microchannels and could allow them to be a real solution to the heat exchanger industry.

The outcome of the microFLUX technology will be more efficient heat exchangers which are smaller, using less material in their construction, and consume less power to operate, reducing their carbon footprint. As global temperatures rise the amount of energy we use on cooling is expected to increase. microFLUX has the potential to minimise the impact this new demand will have."

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