Parallel micro or mini-channels are widely used in various devices of process and energy engineering including micro-reactors, compact heat exchangers and fuel cells. Nevertheless, the flow maldistribution due to the improper design of distributor/collector is usually observed, leading to globally poor performances of these devices. The objective of this study is to optimize the shape of the distributor/collector pipes so as to achieve a uniform flow distribution among an array of parallel mini-channels. A Z-type ladder fluid network with 10 mini-channels in parallel having square section is introduced and investigated. Two methods are used to optimize the shape of distributor/collector pipes: a discrete stairway shape optimized according to the scaling relations proposed by Tondeur et al. (2011) and a continuous tapered shape with the inclined angle varying from 0° to 30°. 3D-CFD simulations are carried out using the ANSYS FLUENT code. Numerical results obtained show that a relatively uniform flow distribution may be reached by the discrete stairway shape or by the linear tapered shape under very low flow-rate conditions. Larger inclined angle or fewer channels in parallel are favorable for more uniform flow distribution under higher flow-rate conditions. Nevertheless this implies that the distributor and the collector pipes occupy a large volume so that the entire device is less compact.
Papers presented to the 12th International Conference on Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Costa de Sol, Spain on 11-13 July 2016.