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International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822

An experimental investigation on performance of bubble pump

with lunate channel for absorption refrigeration system
Lianying Zhanga,*, Yuyuan Wua, Hongfei Zhengb, Jingang Guoa, Dongsheng Chena
School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China
School of Vehicle and Transport Engineering, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China
Received 19 May 2004; received in revised form 10 November 2005; accepted 16 November 2005
Available online 24 February 2006


An experimental research on the performance of the bubble pump for absorption refrigeration units was made. The bubble
pump provides the drive for the absorption cycle and is a decisive component of the absorption refrigeration unit. The bubble
pump’s property determines the efficiency of the absorption refrigeration system. A continuous experimental system with
different size of bubbles pumps were designed, constructed and successfully worked. The experiments were performed by
changing some of the parameters affecting the bubble pump performance. The experimental results shows that the performance
of the bubble pump depends mainly on the driving temperature, the solution head and the combining tube diameters. With the
suitable size of section area of the pump tubes the net elevating height of solution is 2.5 times as high as the solution
submergence. The lunate channel has several outstanding characteristics, such as low starting temperature (minimum 68 8C),
wide operating temperature range and lower requirement for vacuum condition (under 10 kPa). Then the elevating capability of
the bubble pump with lunate channel is much better than others currently. It would provide well foundation for practical
q 2005 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Absorption system; Experiment; Pump; Bubble; Geometry; Calculation

Système frigorifique à absorption: étude expérimentale sur la

performance d’une pompe à bulles munie d’un canal sous
forme de croissant
Mots clés : Système à absorption ; Expérimentation ; Pompe ; Bulle ; Géométrie ; Calcul

1. Introduction

For refrigeration purpose, absorption refrigeration

systems are preferred when enough exhaust heat or low-
* Corresponding author. cost alternated energy source is available. In this respect, the
E-mail address: (L. Zhang). LiBr–H2O absorption refrigeration system is widely used,
0140-7007/$35.00 q 2005 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.
816 L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822

F the wall area of the lunate channel (m2) Subscript
h motive head (m) cw condensate water
k heat transfer coefficient (W mK2 KK1) hw hot water
m_ mass flow rate (g sK1) hwi inlet of hot water
Q heat input (W) hwo outlet of hot water
q heat flux (W m-2) ps poor solution
T temperature (8C) rs rich solution
v_ volume flow rate (ml sK1) si inlet of solution
x0 vapor mass fraction, dimensionless so outlet of solution
w water
Greek Symbols
r density (kg mK3)

especially in air-conditioning. But a conventional air- A number of parallel bubble pumps were required for
conditioning system is driven by higher grade energy increasing the capacity of the refrigerator.
source like mechanical/electrical energy to circulate the Koyfman et al. [3] presented an experimental investi-
refrigerant–absorbent solution. Hence, miniaturization of gation to study the performance of the bubble pump for
the absorption refrigerators and reduction of electric power diffusion absorption refrigeration units. A continuous
consumption requires the replacement of this mechanical experimental system was designed, built and successfully
pump by a pumping system driven by heat, e.g. a bubble operated. In the experiments, some of the parameters
pump. To obtain a higher coefficient of performance and to affecting the bubble pump performance were changed.
make it compatible with solar heat (low generator During the experimental investigation, photographs were
temperature), a two-fluid bubble pump is suggested. taken. It can be seen that the bubble pump operates at slug
Chen et al. [1] study on improvement of the current cycle flow regime with a churn flow regime at the entrance of the
performance of a diffusion–absorption refrigerator. They bubble pump tube.
designed and fabricated a new generator with heat The prediction of rates of heat transfer and thermally
exchanger to increase the COP of the cycle by 50%. Their induced flow (circulation rate) is the primary requirement
generator make up of heating elements, a bubble pump and a for the design of a bubble pump. The experimental
coaxial heat exchanger. This configuration reduced heat measurement of these rates was carried out earlier by Piret
losses so as to increase the efficiency of the heating process and Isbin [4,5] on an electrically heated pipe. Johnson [5]
and to increase the COP. measured the circulation rate in a steam-heated vertical
Studies on bubble pump both analytically and thermosyphon elevating tube of standard design. The effects
experimentally were developed by Pfaff et al. [2]. A bubble of heat flux, submergence and physical properties were
pump was modeled for intermittent slug flow of solution and studied experimentally by many workers [6–9].
vapor mixture. A test rig was built in glass to evaluate the In this paper, the bubble pump is a full-length heating
performance of the bubble pump, to visualize the flow bubble pump with lunate channel, the working fluid is
water-lithium bromide solution. The present experiment
regime and to validate the analytical model. In order to
will study the effect of driving temperature, motive head and
study the effect of pipe diameter on the performance of the
design parameters on performance of the bubble pump.
bubble pump. Pfaff et al. [2] built the test rig with several
bubble pumps that were connected in parallel.
The bubble pump of Pfaff et al. [2] operated at slug flow
regime in cyclic intervals. They found that the pumping 2. Theoretical foundation of boiling heat transfer
ratio (the ratio between the strong solution flow rate and the enhancement for lunate channel
refrigerant flow rate) is independent of the bubble pump heat
input within the operating ranges studied but increase with Narrow slot thermosiphon boiling heat transfer has two
higher driving head, lower pump lift and smaller tube notable characteristics [10]: both in remarkable heat transfer
diameter. It was found that the frequency of the pumping enhancement, especially at high heat flux, and in small
action increases with rising the heat input to the bubble temperature difference for boiling heat transfer.
pump, increases in driving head, and decreases in pump lift The lunate channel is formed by locating a tube extreme
and tube diameter. Pfaff et al. [2] found that a bubble pump eccentrically inside a bigger tube so as to make the outer
with a tube diameter of 10 mm and heat input of 40 W is wall of smaller tube to contact the inner wall of the bigger
suitable for a refrigerator of about 100 W cooling capacity. tube at one straight line theoretically, which is shown in
L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822 817

Convective heat
A A Annular transfer through
flow liquid film

Slug flow

flow Subcooled

Cross-section A-A Convective

Fig. 1. The construction of the lunate channel. transfer

Fig. 1. Both inner and outer tubes are soldered together at

both ends of the contacting line. This configuration have
several advantages as follows [11] (1) it is convenience to
Fig. 2. Flow patterns. Boiling regimes along a bubble pump.
machining; (2) the pointed corners of the lunate channel
cross section can provide artificial nucleation sites, the
3. Experimental apparatus and procedures
bubbles will create easily at it; (3) the wider part of the
lunate channel operate as liquid filling, which can prevent
The whole experimental system mainly consists of five
the wall being dried.
portions: a test section (11), condenser (3), vapor–liquid
Because the pointed triangles of lunate channel operate
as boiling nuclei, bubble would be easily formed, especially separator (9), liquid container (6), heat source, pressure
with the inner and the outer wall heating fluids simul- balanced tube (10) and connecting tube, etc. The system is
taneously. The hot boundary layer is thinner, so the made of stainless steel except heat-exchange element.
superheat degree for forming bubble is decreased greatly. The bubble pump served as the test section (11). The
The flow regimes along the heated length of the test sample outer and inner tubes were made of purple copper. The outer
have been shown in Fig. 2 [13]. The subcooled liquid tube was of 32 mm i.d. and 1660 mm long. The inner tubes
entering the tube gets heated by single phase convection and were, respectively, of 16, 19, 22 mm i.d. and 1450 mm long.
moves upwards. In the liquid ascending process, the liquid The elevation tube connected with the liquid container (6)
undergoes single-phase flow, bubbly flow and slug flow in and joined with a vapor–liquid separator (9) and total
turn. Monde [12] showed that slug flow is in favor of condenser vessels (3) forming a thermosiphon loop as
elevating solution much more. Because water–LiBr solution schematically shown in Fig. 3. The hot water provided by
is a viscous fluids, in order to obtain slug flow inside the heater and pumped by a centrifugal hot water pump entered
channel, it is important to choose the cross section size of the inner and the outer tube from the bottom, and then went
the channel. If the channel is too narrow, the flow resistance out from the top. Thus, the vertical lunate channel was
of two-phase will be increased, which will weaken elevating heated by hot water in the inner tube and outside the outer
solution. If the channel is too wider, the boiling required tube simultaneously. The weak solution of known concen-
heat flux is increased. The circulation of fluid flow will be tration was boiled in the lunate channel, and was driven
unstable. The choice of present experimental channel has upward due to density difference between the liquid in the
considered all aspects. container (6) and boiling two-phase fluid in test section (11)
818 L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822

P 25
2 3

Inlet of
cooling water 9
16 18
Outlet of m
cooling water 22 Outlet of
4 19 21
hot water
5 lift
m m


23 7 13 Motive
6 head
Inlet of
hot water

Fig. 3. Schematic diagram of the experimental set-up 1, vacuum watch; 2, vacuum valve; 3, condenser; 4, cooling water meter; 5, distilled water
reflux tube; 6, liquid container; 7, hot water valve; 8, sleeve muff of heating solution; 9, vapor–liquid separator; 10, pressure balanced tube; 11,
test section; 12, solution reflux tube; 13, hot water meter; 14, rich solution corrosion preventive rotameter; 15, distilled water rotameter; 16,
cooling water valve; 17, drain valve; 18, inlet of cooling water thermocouple; 19, outlet of cooling water thermocouple; 20, inlet test section of
poor solution thermocouple; 21, outlet test section of solution thermocouple; 22, outlet vapor–liquid of rich solution thermocouple; 23, inlet of
hot water thermocouple; 24, outlet of hot water thermocouple; 25, partition.

and then entered into the separator (9). The rich solution was around the condenser and other strategic locations in the
drained down the bottom of the separator (9) while vapors reboiler loop to ensure a reliable computation of circulation
were led to a condenser vessel (3) through partition (25). rates through the heat balance. The electric potential signal
The rich solution moved downwards and entered the liquid offering by thermocouples are directly read through digital
container through solution reflux tube (12). Distilled water microvolt meter. Drain valve (17) was provided at the inlet of
out of the condenser (3) also entered the liquid container (6) test section for feeding and draining solution. The entire set up
through distilled water reflux tube (5). They were mixed in was thoroughly lagged with asbestos rope and glass wool and
the liquid container (6) forming poor solution that re-entered finally covered with a thin aluminium sheet to reduce the heat
the test section (11) through a joint. The distilled water losses. After steady state was reached as indicated by the
volume flow rate was measured by a LZB-10 rotameter (15) thermocouples readings, the experimental data were recorded.
and the rich solution volume flow rates were measured by a
LZB-10F corrosion preventive flowmeters (14).
The stabilized hot water was supplied through an electrical
4. Data processing
heater. The hot water flow rates measured by a hot water meter
(13). The cooling water flow rate was maintained by means of
In the experimental system, the water mass flow rates
a centrifugal water pump and was measured by an ordinary
were obtained by
water meter (4). A TX-HB-FF copper-constantan thermo-
couple (20) was applied to measure the inlet liquid m_ cw Z v_cw rw (1)
temperature. The temperature of the boiling liquid before
The poor solution volume flow rates were calculated by
entry to the vapor–liquid separator was measured by another
making a mass balance on the test section:
thermocouple (21). TX-HB-FF copper-constantan thermo-
couples were also placed to measure the temperatures in and v_ps z v_cw C v_rs (2)
L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822 819

Then, the poor solution mass flow rates were computed by 18.0

Rich solution volume flow rate (mls–1)

m_ ps Z v_ps rps (3) 16.5 h=68.2cm
The vapor mass fraction of the two-phase mixture at the exit 15.0
of test section is:
x Z cw
(4) 12.0
m_ ps
The total heat inputted to the solution by the hot water is:
Q Z V_ hw rw ðThwi KThwo Þ (5)
The heat flux is:
qZ (6) 4.5
70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86
The heat transfer coefficient is:
Driving temperature T(°C)
kZ  (7)

F Thw KTs Fig. 4. Variation of rich solution volume flow rate with driving
temperature for different motive head.
1 temperature is 75 8C, the water mass flow rate attained

Thw Z ðThwi C Thwo Þ (8) around 2.0 g sK1. If the water can vaporize completely in
evaporator, the refrigerating capacity of the unit may reach
1 more than 4.8 kW, which shows that the lunate channel has
Ts Z ðTsi C Tso Þ (9) strong heat transfer at small temperature difference in
compare to the annular or round channel [13], and the
designed bubble pump has strong elevating ability. The
5. Results and discussions volume flow rate elevated rich solution and water mass flow
rate with difference motive head for 19/32 combining tube
The operating parameters were driving temperature, diameters are plotted versus the driving temperature in
motive head and combining tube diameters. All the runs Figs. 4 and 5. The figures clearly illustrate that the flow rates
were conducted under vacuum condition (about 10 kPa). of elevated rich solution and water basically increase with
Here, the driving temperature specially refers to hot water driving temperature after the minimum driving temperature
temperature and the motive head is defined as the height of is reached. When the driving temperature is above 85 8C, the
the poor solution level in the channel as is illustrated at flow rates increase slowly. Because the slug flow may
Fig. 3. The influences of the major operational and design change to the annular flow at the outlet of the channel due to
parameters on distilled water yield, elevating solution the temperature increase. However, the void fraction inside
volume and the vapor mass fraction of the two-phase the channel is higher at the higher heat flux, the shortage of
mixture at the exit of test section will be discussed as
follows. 3.75
: h=68.2cm
Water mass flow rate (gs–1)

5.1. Influence of driving temperature 3.25 : h=57.5cm

: h=47.5cm
It was found that a certain minimum driving temperature
Tmin is required for the pump to operate. Before Tmin was
reached, the driving force was not sufficient for pumping
action. The minimum driving temperature depends on the 2.25
operating conditions and the dimensions of the pump 2.00
(combining tube diameters) and the system itself (motive 1.75
head). The minimum driving temperature shows an upward 1.50
tendency for lower driving head and for unsuitable
combining tube diameters. For the 19/32 combining tubes 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86
pumping action started around 68 8C, whereas for the 16/32
Driving temperature T(°C)
combining tubes a minimum driving temperature close to
76 8C was required. If the hot water temperature is at Fig. 5. Variation of water mass flow rate with driving temperature
75–85 8C, the system runs well. When the driving for different motive head.
820 L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822

0.23 fraction in the channel and at the exit of the channel are
h=68.2cm smaller. The amount of the water is equal to the amount of
0.21 h=57.5cm lifted solution times the vapor mass fraction at the exit of the
h=47.5cm channel, so the water mass flow rate depends on the vapor
vapor mass fraction

mass fraction and the amount of lifted solution. Contrarily,
if the driving force decreases due to a lower motive head and
0.15 the resistance of the mixture increases by a higher pump lift
0.13 at the same time, only a little solution is elevated into the
gas–liquid separator and the poor solution remains in the
0.11 pump for a longer time. Thus a larger amount of the heat
0.09 input into the bubble pump is utilized to heat the solution.
But less heat input is needed for heating the incoming
70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 solution and so the vapor mass fraction increases.
As the motive head is 475 mm, the elevating height is
Driving temperature T(°C)
1185 mm, which is about 2.5 times as high as the motive
Fig. 6. Variation of vapor mass fraction at exit of the pump with head. This clearly illustrates that the elevating capability of
driving temperature for different motive head. the bubble pump is very strong. If the operating temperature
is higher or the system pressure is lower, its elevating
solution upside the channel aggravates the heat transfer, capability will be further increased. This provides well
thus, the elevated solution decreases. foundation for the practical application of the bubble pump
Fig. 6 shows the variations of vapor mass fraction at the with lunate channel.
exit of the test channel with the driving temperature for
different motive head and for 19/32 combining tubes. It
5.3. Influence of combining pipe diameters
indicates that the trends of the variation of the vapor mass
fraction are somewhat similar to those of the water mass
Due to increasing contacting area between solution and
flow rate, whereas the increase of water mass flow rates is
wall at the corner of lunate channel, the heat flux increases
faster than that of the vapor mass fraction at the exit of the
greatly in the corner. At the same time, the corner of the
test at any motive head. For example the motive head is
lunate cross section provides artificial nucleation sites. It
57.5 cm, the water mass flow rate increases by 109% with
enhances the boiling heat transfer. When the bubbles
the driving temperature increasing by 10 8C, whereas the
departed from the wall and moved to wider passage, it
vapor mass fraction increases by 15%. As the higher driving
brings about the second flow in the channel. This greatly
temperature, the more heat input to the fluids and the more
promotes boiling of solution inside the TEST. Though
water is vaporized, correspondingly which means a higher
lunate channel increases frictional resistance, it is favorable
driving force developed by the bubble pump, thus more
to elevating solution due to enhanced heat transfer.
solution is pumped, however the vapor mass fraction
Therefore, it is very important to choose reasonable passage
increases with increase in driving temperature with less
area. It is observed from the experimental results that the
5.2. Influence of motive head
Rich solution volume flow rate(mls–1)

19 d1/d2=16/32
The motive head is a very important operational
parameter for the bubble pump. Because the height 17
(1660 mm) of exit port of the rich solution is fixed, the
variation of the motive head is achieved only by increasing 15
or decreasing the amount of poor solution in the liquid
container. It can be observed from the Figs. 4–6 that a higher 13
motive head leads to a higher solution volume rate and a
lower vapor mass fraction at any driving temperature, and 11
vice versa. But water mass flow rate is almost invariable
with the variation of the motive head. The increase in the
solution volume flow rate is caused by the increased driving
force due to a increased motive head and by decreased 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88
flowing resistance of the two-phase mixture resulting from a
Driving temperature T(°C)
lower pump lift. At the same time, the convective heat
transfer regime and the subcooled boiling regime in flow Fig. 7. Influence of the combing pipe diameters on the rich solution
channel are longer and correspondingly the vapor mass volume flow rate.
L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822 821

3.70 2100

heat transfer coefficient k(W.m–2.K)

h=68.2cm d1/d2=19/32
3.45 2000
d1/d2=16/32 h=68.2cm
d1/d2=19/32 1900 h=57.5cm
Water mass flow rate(gs–1)

2.70 1600
2.45 1500
1.70 1100
25000 29000 33000 37000 41000 45000
70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 heat flux q(W.m–2)
Driving temperature T(°C)
Fig. 10. Heat transfer coefficient vs heat flux for various motive
Fig. 8. Influence of the combing pipe diameters on the water mass
flow rate.
force decreased, which can weaken heat transfer and
elevating efficiency and the minimum driving temperature elevating capability. Our experiments show that the 19/32
to start circulation is strongly dependent on the combining combining tubes is reasonable for solution elevation
tubes diameters. For example, the elevating effect of d1/d2Z purpose.
19/32 is the best and its required minimum driving
temperature is about 68 8C. Then the elevating effect of
5.4. Characteristics of boiling heat transfer in lunate
d1/d2Z16/32 is better and its required minimum driving
temperature is closely 76 8C. Finally that of d1/d2Z22/32 is
the poorest, it is difficult to sustain continuous flow through
The characteristic of narrow channel heat transfer
the system and the experimental date are difficult to be
enhancement is correlative with the narrow channel boiling
recorded. The Figs. 7–9 illustrated the effect of d1/d2Z
heat transfer mechanism. The nucleate boiling heat transfer
16/32 and d1/d2Z19/32. The smaller area of flowing
mechanism in the lunate channel mainly includes the thin
channel results in an increasing heated area but meanwhile
film beneath deformed bubbles evaporation mechanism, the
results in an increasing friction greatly, consequently the
bubbles disturbing mechanism and natural convective
pump elevating capability decreased. The larger area of
flowing channel results in an decreasing heated area per unit mechanism.
solution, the vapor mass fraction inside the channel The heat transfer coefficient has been plotted against the
decreases at the same heat input, the thermosyphon driving heat flux in Fig. 10. The figure clearly demonstrates that heat
transfer coefficient increases with increase in heat flux,
0.13 which may be attributed to the change heat transfer
h=68.2cm mechanism above-mentioned contribution to heat transfer
0.12 d1/d2=16/32 due to bubbles behaviors in the channel, vapor mass fraction
d1/d2=19/32 and two-phase flow regime change with the heat flux
Vapor mass fraction

0.11 changing.
The flow regime is mainly bubbly flow in the channel at
0.10 lower heat flux. The most of bubbles are isolated sphericity
or slightly flattened. The thin film evaporation mechanism to
the heat transfer is retarded. The enhancement of heat
transfer is weakened.
The flow behavior is mainly slug flow in the channel with
the heat flux increasing. The bubbles diameter increase, the
bigger bubbles are formed due to aggregating one another.
70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86
The bubble-groups are badly deformed due to the wall
flattening. The thin film evaporation mechanism exerts
Driving temperature T(°C)
adequately. At the same time, the bubbles disturbing
Fig. 9. Influence of the combining pipe diameters on the vapor mass mechanism are also enhanced. So the narrow channel heat
fraction at the exit of the bubble pump. transfer enhancement is intensified.
822 L. Zhang et al. / International Journal of Refrigeration 29 (2006) 815–822

Because of the complexity of boiling heat transfer, Acknowledgements

there is not a theory that can fully interpret the mechanism
of boiling heat transfer. Furthermore, the mechanism of The authors are grateful to the State National Science
boiling heat transfer in the narrow channel is more Foundation of China for the financial support to the project
complex, it is very difficult to obtain a theoretic result. of 50176036 and 50276048.
Thus, using the experimental data of 19/32 combining
tube, a regression analysis of the data resulted in the
following correlation for the average heat transfer
K0:65 0:58
k Z 128h q (10)
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