Heat Exchanger Overview | AIChE

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Heat Exchanger Overview

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Understand the basics of heat exchanger operation and design to ensure effective equipment sourcing and efficient operation.

Heat exchangers are used to thermally process materials, and can be employed to heat or cool a range of products in applications such as food processing (refrigeration, pasteurization, and sterilization), chemical processing, energy production, and waste treatment. The thermodynamic considerations involved in the design and construction of heat exchangers are complex.


Figure 1. Shell-and-tube heat exchangers are common in the chemical process industries (CPI).

This article provides an introduction for new engineers, plant managers and operators, or anyone else who needs a refresher on heat exchanger design. As is true with any equipment specification and purchasing, seek the opinion of an expert familiar with your process, but use the information presented here as guidance in this effort...

Designing a heat exchanger begins with two primary concerns. The first is selecting the right type of heat exchanger: plate, shell-and-tube (Figure 1), scraped-surface, etc. Various factors influence this choice, including the nature of the material(s) to be heated or cooled, the objective of the process (e.g., refrigeration or pasteurization), and any restrictions of the environment where the heat exchanger is to be used. The second consideration is size, which is critical to the effectiveness of the equipment in the application.

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