Numerical analysis of rectangular fins in a PCM for low-grade heat harnessing

Abdur Rehman Mazhar, Ashish Shukla, Shuli Liu

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    Harnessing waste thermal energy from greywater (GW) in non-industrial buildings is becoming necessary to reduce energy demands, make heating/cooling technologies more efficient and to increase the share of renewables in the consumption. Harnessing this low grade energy to heat incoming cold water (CW) linked with phase change materials (PCMs) would decouple demand and supply along with integrating heat recovery with storage in a single unit, unlike technologies of the past.

    Radially installed rectangular copper fins around the GW and CW pipes of such heat exchanger (HE) enhance the thermal conductivity of the PCM which is the biggest obstacle in this high-impulse application, with the flow rate being high only for a short duration of time. Initially an experimental test rig is used to validate a numerical model as the basis of a sensitivity analysis to find the optimum geometric parameters of the finned HE for this application. A 40 × 90 mm fin with a 10 mm pitch provides complete phase change for both melting and freezing in the constrained time duration of 900s. Compared to a non-finned geometry this optimized fin configuration enhances the effective thermal conductivity of the PCM by a factor of 1.38 for melting and 4.75 for freezing. Although the development of buoyancy induced natural convection vortices are inhibited by fins the eventual heat transfer is enhanced due to a lower overall thermal resistance compared to a non-finned configuration. The GW to CW energy transfer efficiency is 72.4% with higher fluid flow temperature increments, compared to only 47.3% for a non-finned version.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number106306
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Thermal Sciences
    Early online date8 Feb 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the CC BY license


    • Grey water
    • Heat harnessing
    • PCM
    • Heat transfer enhancement
    • Fins


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