Heat transfer, pressure drop, and flow pattern recognition during condensation inside smooth, helical micro-fin, and herringbone tubes

Jonathan A. Olivier, Leon Liebenberg, John R. Thome, Josua P. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a study of flow regimes, pressure drops, and heat transfer coefficients during refrigerant condensation inside a smooth, an 18° helical micro-fin, and a herringbone tubes. Experimental work was conducted for condensing refrigerants R-22, R-407C, and R-134a at an average saturation temperature of 40 °C with mass fluxes ranging from 400 to 800 kg m-2 s-1, and with vapour qualities ranging from 0.85 to 0.95 at condenser inlet and from 0.05 to 0.15 at condenser outlet. These test conditions represent annular and intermittent (slug and plug) flow conditions. Results showed that transition from annular flow to intermittent flow, on average for the three refrigerants, occurred at a vapour quality of 0.49 for the smooth tube, 0.29 for the helical micro-fin tube, and 0.26 for the herringbone tube. These transition vapour qualities were also reflected in the pressure gradients, with the herringbone tube having the highest pressure gradient. The pressure gradients encountered in the herringbone tube were about 79% higher than that of the smooth tube and about 27% higher than that of the helical micro-fin tube. A widely used pressure drop correlation for condensation in helical micro-fin tubes was modified for the case of the herringbone tube. The modified correlation predicted the data within a 1% error with an absolute deviation of 7%. Heat transfer enhancement factors for the herringbone tube against the smooth tube were on average 70% higher while against the helical micro-fin tube it was 40% higher. A correlation for predicting heat transfer coefficients inside a helical micro-fin tube was modified for the herringbone tube. On average the correlation predicted the data to within 4% with an average standard deviation of 8%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-623
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Refrigeration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Air conditioning
  • Condensation
  • Flow
  • Heat transfer
  • Micro-finned tube
  • Pressure drop
  • R-134a
  • R-22
  • R-407C
  • Refrigeration
  • Ribbed tubes
  • Smooth tube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering


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