Numerical investigation of the influence of leading and sequential bubbles on slug flow boiling within a microchannel
Multiphase CFD simulations are presently employed to investigate the flow boiling of multiple sequential elongated bubbles in a horizontal microchannel. Most of the computational studies published so far explored the features of boiling flows within microchannels by simulating the fluid-dynamics of a single evaporating bubble, but the present work shows that multiple bubble simulations are necessary to capture the essential features of the heat transfer process of a slug flow. In particular, it is shown that leading and sequential bubbles interact thermally and hydrodynamically due to the evaporation process, thus possessing different growth rates, velocities and thicknesses of the thin liquid films trapped between the bubbles interfaces and the channel wall. The evaporation of this thin liquid film is the dominant heat transfer mechanism in the vapor bubble region and the transit of trailing bubbles strongly enhances the time-averaged heat transfer coefficient of the bubble-liquid slug unit, by as much as 60% higher relative to the leading bubble under the operating conditions presently set. Furthermore, the presence of a recirculating vortex just after the tail of the bubble in the liquid slug trapped between the bubbles was found in the simulations, significantly improving the heat transfer between the wall and the bulk liquid, thus maintaining the heat transfer coefficient much higher than otherwise expected in the liquid slug region as well. Finally, a new multiple bubble heat transfer model is proposed to predict the local variation of the heat transfer coefficient, which might prove to be useful to improve the current boiling heat transfer methods, such as the three-zone model of Thome et al. [1,2]. The numerical framework employed to perform this study was the commercial CFD solver ANSYS Fluent 12 with a Volume Of Fluid interface capturing method, which was improved here by implementing external functions, in particular a Height Function method to better estimate the surface tension force and an evaporation model to compute the phase change. (C) 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.