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Effects of coil diameter and pitch on the ow characteristics of alternative

refrigerants owing through adiabatic helical capillary tubes

Sukkarin Chingulpitak
a,b
, Somchai Wongwises
b,

a
The joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Bangmod, Bangkok 10140, Thailand
b
Fluid Mechanics, Thermal Engineering and Multiphase Flow Research Lab. (FUTURE), Department of Mechanical Engineering, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi,
Bangmod, Bangkok 10140, Thailand
a b s t r a c t a r t i c l e i n f o
Available online 3 August 2010
Keywords:
Capillary tube
Coiled tube
Adiabatic
Homogeneous ow
Coil diameter
Pitch
Alternative refrigerant
This paper presents the effects of various geometries of helical capillary tubes on the ow characteristics of
alternative refrigerants owing through adiabatic helical capillary tubes. The theoretical model is based on
the conservation of mass, energy and momentum of uids in the capillary tube. The two-phase ow model
developed was based on a homogenous ow assumption. The model was validated by comparing it with the
experimental data of published in literature for R-22, particularly various pairs of refrigerants. It was found
conventional refrigerants had lower capillary lengths than alternative refrigerants. For all pairs, the
numerical results showed that the traditional refrigerants consistently gave lower pressure drops for both
single-phase and two-phase ows, which resulted in longer tube lengths. The results show that coil diameter
variation (less than 300 mm) for helical capillary tube geometries affected the length of helical capillary
tubes. However, pitch variation (more than 300 mm) had no signicant effect on the length of helical
capillary tubes. This adiabatic helical capillary tube model can be used to integrate system models working
with alternative refrigerants for design and optimisation.
2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
In small refrigeration systems, the capillary tube is used as the
expansion device because of its low cost, low starting torque and low
maintenance. Normally, it is used in refrigeration systems with a
cooling capacity less than 10 kW such as household refrigerators and
air conditioners. The nominal size of the capillary tube ranges
between 0.52.0 mm in diameter and 25 m in length. Several
decades ago, the ow characteristics owing through the straight
capillary tube of various refrigerants were both experimentally and
theoretically studied. In practical applications, however, capillary
tubes are generally coiled to save space. The most productive studies
have been continuously carried out by the following researchers.
Zhou and Zhang [1] theoretically and experimentally studied the
performance of coiled adiabatic capillary tubes and compared the
results with straight capillary data. These results showed that the
mass ow rate of a refrigerant substantially increases by increasing
the coil diameter. However, little change was observed for coil
diameters larger than 300 mm.
Ali [2] proposed the pressure drop correlations developed in terms
of uid properties ( and ), owrate (V) and tube geometry (d
i
, D
C
, p
and L). In most previous works, the relevant correlations were
developed in terms of Dean number (De), Helical number (He),
curvature ratio (D
C
/d
i
) and Euler number (Eu), Reynolds number (Re)
and the obtained geometrical group.
Kim et al. [3] presented a mass ow rate correlation based on the
Buckingham theorem for R-22 and its alternatives, R-407C and R-
410A. Their results indicated that the mass owrates of R-407C and R-
410A were higher than those of R-22 by about 4% and 23%,
respectively. In addition, the mass ow rates of straight capillary
tubes are higher than those of coiled capillary tubes, especially at
smaller coiled diameters. For instance, mass ow rates for 40 mm
coiled diameter tubes are smaller than the straight capillary tubes by
approximately 9%.
Park et al. [4] studied the ow characteristics of coiled capillary
tubes for R-22 and developed a mass ow rate correlation for coiled
capillary tubes. At the same operating condition, they found that the
mass owrates of the coiled capillary tubes decreased by 516% more
than those of the straight capillary tubes. The Buckingham theorem
was used to form a generalised correlation to calculate the refrigerant
mass ow rate for both straight and coiled capillary tubes. The effects
of inlet condition, refrigerant property and coiled tube geometry were
considered. For both straight and coiled capillary tubes, the results
showed that the proposed correlation gave a satisfactory agreement
with the experimental data for R-22, R-407C and R-410A. The average
and standard deviations were around 0.24% and 4.4%, respectively.
Garca-Valladares [5] presented a numerical simulation based on
nite volume formulation for describing the ow characteristics of
International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
Communicated by W.J. Minkowycz.
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: somchai.won@kmutt.ac.th (S. Wongwises).
0735-1933/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.icheatmasstransfer.2010.07.005
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er. com/ l ocat e/ i chmt
coiled adiabatic capillary tubes. The numerical model was considered
for various aspects such as geometry, type of uid (pure substances
and mixtures), critical or non-critical ow conditions, metastable
region and transient behaviour.
Mittal et al. [6] presented an experimental investigation of coiling
effect on the ow characteristics of R-407C in an adiabatic helical
capillary tube. It was observed that the coiling of capillary tubes (coil
diameters 60 mm, 100 mm and 140 mm) signicantly inuenced the
mass ow rate of R-407C. From the experimental results, the mass
ow rates of coiled capillary tubes were about 510% less than those
of straight capillary tubes. In addition, they also proposed correlations
to predict the mass ow rate of R-407C owing through straight and
helical capillary tubes. Compared with the experimental data, it could
clearly be seen that the majority of the data fell within 10% of their
proposed correlation.
Although some information is available on the ow characteristics
in helical capillary tubes, there remains room for further research, for
example the effect of the relevant parameters on ow characteristics.
In this study, the aimis to analyse the effect of coil diameters and pitch
on ow characteristics of refrigerants owing through the adiabatic
helical capillary tubes. Moreover, this investigation will aim to
compare various alternative mixtures of refrigerants, particularly
between the following pairs of HCFCs with HFCs:
R-502 (R-22/R-115; 48.8.51.2) and R-404A (R-125/R-143a/R-134a;
44%/52%/4%);
R-502 (R-22/R-115; 48.8.51.2) and R-507A (R-125/R-143a; 50%/
50%);
R-22 and R-407B (R-32/R-125/R-134a; 10%/70%/20%);
R-22 and R-407C (R-32/R-125/R-134a; 23%/25%/52%);
R-22 and R-410A (R-32/R-125; 50%/50%); and
R-22 and R-410B (R-32/R-125; 45%/55%).
2. Mathematical modelling
As shown in Fig. 1, the ow of refrigerants through a capillary tube
can be divided into two distinct regions: the single-phase subcooled
liquid and two-phase regions. In modelling, the physical method,
which is used to describe ow characteristics, is developed from the
conservations of mass, energy and momentum. Moreover, the model
includes the effect of the condenser and evaporator temperatures,
inner diameter, degree of subcooling and mass ow rate of
refrigerant.
The position between points 1 and 2 indicated in Fig. 1 is the
capillary tube inlet associated with a pressure drop because of sudden
contraction. Similarly, the position between points 2 and 3 is the
single-phase subcooled liquid region and the position between points
3 and 4 corresponds to the two-phase region consisting of the liquid
vapour two-phase region. The developed model is based on the
following assumptions:
The horizontal helical coiled tube has a constant diameter;
The inner diameter and roughness of the capillary tube are constant;
Adiabatic and homogeneous two-phase ow;
Non-metastable liquid region;
One-dimensional and steady ow;
Oil-free refrigerant; and
The thermodynamic equilibrium through the capillary tube.
The governing equations for describing ow characteristics for the
single-phase and two-phase ow regions are presented below.
2.1. Single-phase ow region
A pressure loss because of an inlet sudden contraction between
points 1 and 2 is determined from:
P
1
P
2
= k
V
2
2g
; 1
where k is the entrance loss coefcient (for square edged, k=0.5). The
steady owenergy equation between points 2 and 3 can be expressed
as:
P
2

2
g
+
V
2
2
2g
+ z
2
=
P
3

3
g
+
V
2
3
2g
+ z
3
+ f
sp
L
sp
d
i
V
2
2g
: 2
For an incompressible uid,
2

3
=, the continuity equation is
presented as:
m =
2
V
2
A =
3
V
3
A = VA: 3
Rearranging Eqs. (2)(3) yield:
P
2
= P
3
+ g z
3
z
2
+
f
sp
L
sp
d
i
_ _
V
2
2
_ _
: 4
Nomenclature
A cross sectional area of capillary tube (m
2
)
d
i
capillary tube internal diameter (m)
D
C
coil diameter (m)
De Dean number De = Re

d
i
= D
C
_
e/d
i
relative roughness
T
sub
degree of subcooling (C)
f friction factor
g gravitational acceleration (m/s
2
)
G mass ow rate per unit area (kg/s m
2
)
h specic enthalpy (J/kg)
H
loss
total head loss (m)
He Helical number He = Re d
i
=D
C
= 1 + p=D
C

2
_ _ _ _
1=2
p pitch of coil (m)
k entrance loss coefcient
L length (m)
m mass ow rate (kg/s)
P pressure (Pa)
Re Reynolds number
s specic entropy (J/kg K)
T temperature (C)
V velocity (m/s)
x quality
Greek letters

w
shear stress at wall (N/m
2
)
specic volume (m
3
/kg)
dynamic viscosity (kg/m s)
density (kg/m
3
)
Subscripts
cond, evap condenser and evaporator, respectively
f, g liquid phase and gas phase, respectively
h homogeneous ow
i capillary inlet condition
sp, tp single-phase and two-phase, respectively
1306 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
For z
2
=z
3
, substituting Eq. (4) into Eq. (1) gives:
L
sp
=
d
i
f
sp
2
G
2
P
1
P
3
k1
_ _
5
where
G = V 6
The important parameter is the single-phase friction factor (f
sp
),
which can be calculated from three different friction factor models.
These equations are expressed as follows (where f
c
is the friction
factor for coiled capillary tubes and f
s
is the friction factor for straight
capillary tubes):Schmidt [7]
f
c
= f
s
= 1 + 0:14Re
x
; 7
where x=[10.0644/ (D
C
/ d
i
)
0.312
] / (D
C
/ d
i
)
0.97
. Mori and Nakayama
[8]
f
c
=
C
1
d
i
=D
C

0:5
Re d
i
=D
C

2:5
_
1= 6
1 +
C
2
Re d
i
=D
C

2:5
_
1=6
_ _
8
C
1
=1.8841117710
1
+85.2472168(/ d
i
) 4.6303062910
4
(/
d
i
)
2
+1.3157001410
7
(/ d
i
)
3
C
2
=6.7977863310
2
+25.3880380
(/ d
i
) 1.0613314010
4
(/ d
i
)
2
+2.5455534310
6
(/ d
i
)
3
Manla-
paz and Churchill [9]
f
c
= f
s
= 10:18=f1 + 35=He
2
g
0:5

m
+ 1 + d
i
=f3D
C
g
2
He=88:33
0:5
9
where m=0 for DeN40
He = Re d
i
=D
C
=f1 + p=D
C

2
g
_ _
1=2
:
2.2. Two-phase ow region
In this region, the capillary tube is divided into a number of
elements as shown in Fig. 1. The following equations are based on the
control volume considerations in the two-phase region. The conser-
vation of mass can be calculated using the following equation:
m =
AV
i
v
i
=
AV
i + 1
v
i + 1
: 10
The conservation of energy for the steady-state adiabatic condition
without external work can be expressed as follows:
h
3
+ gz
3
+
V
2
3
2
_ _
= h
i
+ gz
i
+
V
2
i
2
_ _
11
If the elevation difference is neglected, we get:
h +
V
2
2
= constant 12
where h and V are the enthalpy and velocity of uid at any point,
respectively.
Because the refrigerant ows along the capillary tube, the pressure
gradually drops and the liquid ashes into vapour arising purely from
the reduced pressure at any point. Hence:
h
i
= h
fi
1x
i
+ h
gi
x
i
; v
i
= v
fi
1x
i
+ v
gi
x
i
13
Also, m=VA=constant
V =
m
A
=
G

= Gv 14
The energy balance between point 3 and at any point along the
capillary tube in the two-phase ow region can be calculated by
substituting Eqs. (13) and (14) into Eq. (12):
h
3
+
V
2
3
2
= h
f
+ x h
g
h
f
_ _
+
G
2
2
v
f
1x + v
g
x
_ _
2
15
Expanding the right-hand side of Eq. (15) and rearranging yields:
v
g
v
f
_ _
2G
2
2
_ _
x
2
+ G
2
v
f
v
g
v
f
_ _
+ h
g
h
f
_ _ _ _
x
+
G
2
v
2
f
2
h
3

V
2
3
2
+ h
f
_ _
= 0
16
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of an adiabatic helical capillary tube.
1307 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
The quality (x) can be expressed in the form of a quadratic
equation as shown in Eq. (17):
x =
h
fg
G
2
v
f
v
fg
+

G
2
v
f
v
fg
+ h
fg
_ _
2
2G
2
v
2
fg
_ _
G
2
v
2
f
2
h
3

V
2
3
2
+ h
f
_ _

G
2
v
2
fg
17
where h
fg
=h
g
h
f
and v
fg
=v
g
v
f
.
Again, the conservation of momentum can be expressed by
reconsidering the element of uid as shown in Fig. 1.
P
d
2
i
4
_ _
P + dP
d
2
i
4

w
d
i
dL = mdV 18
where
w
is the wall shear stress which is dened as follows:

w
=
f V
2
8
19
substituting Eq. (19) into Eq. (18), we get:

d
2
i
4
dP
f
tp
8
V
2
d
i
dL = mdV 20
or
dL =
d
i
f
tp
2dP
V
2
+
2md
i
V
AV
2
_ _
: 21
For the constant mass ow rate, dm=0, Eq. (22) is obtained:
dV
V
=
d

: 22
Substituting Eq. (22) into Eq. (21) gives:
dL =
2d
i
f
tp
dP
V
2
+
d

_ _
: 23
3. Solution method
As shown in Fig. 1, the capillary tube between points 3 and 4 can be
divided into numerous sections. Because P
3
is known (saturated
liquid), the pressure at any section i can be calculated from the
following equation:
P
i
= P
3
iP: 24
The pressure (P
i
) and quality (x
i
) can be calculated from Eq. (16).
So, the entropy of each section can be calculated from:
s
i
= s
if
1x + s
ig
x: 25
The Reynolds number in the two-phase region is determined by:
Re
tp
=
Vd
i

tp
v
tp
26
where
V = G
tp
= G xv
g
+ 1 x v
f
_ _
: 27
The two-phase dynamic viscosity correlation proposed by McA-
dams et al. [10] is presented as follows:
1

tp
=
x

g
+
1x

f
: 28
The gradual increase of the entropy is obtained along the capillary
tube. When the entropy reaches its maximumvalue, the uid velocity
is equal to the local speed of sound and the ow is choked. As a
consequence, the calculation is ended at this point. The pressure of the
element, where the entropy has the maximum value (P
i
)
s max
, is then
compared with the evaporator pressure (P
evap
) given by:
if P
i;s max
= P
evap
then P
4
= P
evap
if P
i;s max
P
evap
then P
4
= P
i;s max:
Thus, from Eq. (23) the two-phase length can be expressed as
follows:
L
tp
= d
i
2
G
2

P
s max
P
3

f
tp
dp + 2
P
s max
P
3
d
f
tp
_
_
_
_
: 29
Fig. 2. Comparison of the present numerical results with the measured mass owrate at
different coil diameters and degrees of subcooling.
Fig. 3. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-502, R-404A
and R-507A.
1308 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
The capillary length of each section is calculated by:
L
i
=
2d
i
f
tp;i

i
P
G
2
+

i
_ _
: 30
The total length of the two-phase region is determined from:
L
tp
=
n
i =1
L
i
: 31
Finally, the total length of the capillary tube is a summation of the
single-phase and two-phase lengths, which is dened as follows:
L
total
= L
sp
+ L
tp
: 32
4. Results and discussion
With the suitable friction factor equations, the straight capillary
tube model can also be applied to the coiled capillary tubes. The
viscosity model is calculated with the McAdams et al. [10] model
(recommended by Wongwises and Pirompak [11]).
4.1. Mathematical model verication
To validate the present model, comparisons are made with the
available experimental data of Zhou and Zhang [1] for R-22. Fig. 2 shows
the comparisons between the present results and experimental data of
Zhou and Zhang [1] for R-22 at different coil diameters and degrees of
subcooling. The results show that the calculated mass ow rate of R-22
deviates from the experimental results. Moreover, the results also
indicate that the mass ow rate obtained from the present model ts
very well with the data. In particular, the friction factor of Mori and
Nakayama [8] gives the best result, which is in agreement with the
results of Zhou and Zhang [1] for R-22. Moreover, the friction factor of
Mori and Nakayama [8] gives a mean absolute error of 1.58%.
4.2. Alternative refrigerants
As shown in Figs. 3 and 4, comparing the pressure drop
characteristics for the rest of the pairs of refrigerant types shows
that for all cases in the single-phase region the conventional
refrigerant owing through capillary tubes gives a slightly lower
pressure drop than the newer alternative refrigerants because of
the higher viscosity of the alternative refrigerant. In the two-phase
Fig. 5. Comparison of quality distributions along the capillary tube for R-22, R-407B, R-
407C, R-410A and R-410B.
Fig. 4. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22, R-407B,
R-407C, R-410A and R-410B.
Fig. 6. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22 at
different coil diameters.
Fig. 7. Comparison of quality distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
1309 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
ow region, however, the conventional refrigerant gives a signif-
icantly lower pressure drop than the alternative refrigerant,
resulting in a longer total tube length. This result indicates that
although both refrigerants have differences in composition, the
pressure distributions along the capillary tube are almost the same.
Fig. 5 shows the change in quality with position along the capillary
tube length. For all refrigerants, as expected, the quality is zero up to
the ash point and then increases in a non-linear fashion, rising more
rapidly as the critical length is approached. It also shows that all
alternative refrigerants vaporise earlier than their corresponding
conventional refrigerants.
4.3. Effects of coil diameter on helical capillary tube
As shown in Figs. 2 and 6, in the case of coil diameters less than
300 mm, the experimental data showed that the mass ow rate of
refrigerants rapidly increases by about 67%. On the contrary, the
mass ow rate increase of refrigerants is small (around 12%) for coil
diameters between 300 mm and 600 mm.
Fig. 7 illustrates the change in quality with position along the
capillary tube length. The observed trend for geometry consideration
is similar to that corresponding to the refrigerant consideration
previously mentioned. The quality is zero up to the ash point and
then increases in a non-linear fashion, rising more rapidly as the
critical length is approached. In addition, the total tube length of the
helical capillary tube is shorter than the straight capillary tube by
about 20% (at a coil diameter of 40 mm).
4.4. Effects of pitch on helical capillary tube
Figs. 812 present the pressure distributions at different pitches
along the helical capillary tube. The friction factor can be calculated
from Manlapaz and Churchill [9] because their correlation includes
pitch parameter (p) in the calculation. In the case of pitches less than
300 mm, the numerical results showthat the total tube length rapidly
increases by about 260290%. On the contrary, the total tube length
slightly decreases by around 915% for pitches from 300 mm to more
than 900 mm (to innity).
5. Conclusion
This paper presents the effects of coil diameter and pitch on the
ow characteristics of alternative refrigerants owing through the
adiabatic helical capillary tubes. Fromthe results, it is evident that the
most suitable equations for calculating the friction factor are Schmidt
[7] and Mori and Nakayama [8]. These equations provided a deviation
of 14%. This model was validated by comparing it with the
experimental data of Zhou and Zhang [1] R-22 and was found to
Fig. 8. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
Fig. 9. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
Fig. 10. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
Fig. 11. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
1310 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311
give an average discrepancy of around 4%. The obtained results show
that coil diameter variation (less than 300 mm) affects the length of
the helical capillary tube. Nevertheless, pitch variation (more than
300 mm) has no signicant effect on the length of the helical capillary
tube because the geometries of helical capillary tubes have similar
shapes to straight capillary tubes. By varying the model input
parameters for all pairs, it was found that newalternative refrigerants
consistently gave lower pressure drops for both single-phase and
two-phase regions, resulting in longer capillary tube lengths.
Acknowledgements
The authors are indebted to King Mongkuts University of
Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), the Ofce of Higher Education
Commission, the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and National Research
University Project for supporting this study.
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Fig. 12. Comparison of pressure distributions along the capillary tube for R-22.
1311 S. Chingulpitak, S. Wongwises / International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer 37 (2010) 13051311