Thermohydraulic Engineering of Plate-Fin Surfaces for Heat Exchangers Subject to Required Dimensions


This paper presents a design approach for plate-fin heat exchangers, where secondary surfaces are engineered with the aim of achieving fixed block dimensions. Surface engineering refers to the determination of the surface geometrical parameters that produce a desired heat transfer and pressure drop performance. Through surface engineering, the exchanger dimensions, such as length, width and height, can be considered as a design objective in heat exchanger design along with the heat duty and the pressure drop. Simple secondary surfaces such as triangular and rectangular fins are considered in this work. The approach is demonstrated using a case study, and various scenarios are analysed.

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Total surface area (m2)

Ac :

Free flow area (m2)

Afr :

Frontal area (m2)

AR :

Aspect ratio

ar :

Rectangular fin base (m)

at :

Half the triangular fin base (m)

br :

Height of rectangular fin (m)

bt :

Height of triangular fin (m)

Cp :

Heat capacity (J/kg K)

dh :

Hydraulic diameter (m)


Correction factor of the log mean temperature difference

Fin :

Fin density (number of fins per inch)

Fpitch :

Fin pitch (m)


Thermal contribution fraction

Fth :

Fin thickness (m)

Fthh :

Horizontal thickness of fin at folding (m)

Fthv :

Vertical thickness of fin at folding (m)


Friction factor

fs :

Ratio of secondary surface area to total surface area


Exchanger height (m)


Heat transfer coefficient (W/m2 K)


Hypotenuse for triangular surfaces (m)


Colburn factor (StPr2/3)


Thermal conductivity (W/m K)


Exchanger length (m)


Mass flow rate (kg/s)

Nps :

Number of passages per stream


Prandtl number

Pth :

Plate thickness (m)

Pw :

Wetted perimeter (m)


Heat load (kW)


Fouling factor (m2K/W)


Reynolds number


Stanton number


Temperature (°C)


Thermal contribution

Tc :

Temperature of cold steam (°C)

Th :

Temperature of hot steam (°C)


Overall heat transfer coefficient (W/m2 K)

VT :

Total heat exchanger volume (m3)


Exchanger width (m)

1 :

Side 1

2 :

Side 2

C :

Cold side

D :

Design value

H :

Hot side

In :

Inlet conditions

Out :

Outlet conditions

T :

Target value

α :

Total surface area of one side of the exchanger to total exchanger volume (m2/m3)

β :

Surface area of one side to the volume of that side (m2/m3)

ΔP :

Pressure drop (kPa)


Logarithmic mean temperature difference (K)

δ :

Plate spacing (m)

η f :

Fin temperature effectiveness

η o :

Overall surface temperature effectiveness

θ :

Half the value of the characteristic angle for triangular surfaces (°)

k :

Thermal conductivity (W/m K)

μ :

Viscosity (kg/m s)

ρ :

Fluid density (kg/m3)

σ :

Ratio of free flow area to frontal area


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Correspondence to Martín Picón-Núñez.

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García-Castillo, J.L., Vizcaino-García, F. & Picón-Núñez, M. Thermohydraulic Engineering of Plate-Fin Surfaces for Heat Exchangers Subject to Required Dimensions. Process Integr Optim Sustain 4, 135–147 (2020).

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  • Compact heat exchangers
  • Plain-fin surfaces
  • Thermohydraulic design
  • Pressure drop
  • Exchanger dimensions