An understanding of ejector flow phenomena for waste heat driven cooling
Little, Adrienne Blair
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In an attempt to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, a variety of research initiatives has focused on increasing the efficiency of conventional energy systems. One such approach is to use waste heat recovery to reclaim energy that is typically lost in the form of dissipative heat. An example of such reclamation is the use of waste heat recovery systems that take low-temperature heat and deliver cooling in space-conditioning applications. In this work, an ejector-based chiller driven by waste heat will be studied from the system to component to sub-component levels, with a specific focus on the ejector. The ejector is a passive device used to compress refrigerants in waste heat driven heat pumps without the use of high grade electricity or wear-prone complex moving parts. With such ejectors, the electrical input for the overall system can be reduced or eliminated entirely under certain conditions, and package sizes can be significantly reduced, allowing for a cooling system that can operate in off-grid, mobile, or remote applications. The performance of this system, measured typically as a coefficient of performance, is primarily dependent on the performance of the ejector pump. This work uses analytical and numerical modeling techniques combined with flow visualization to determine the exact mechanisms of ejector operation, and makes suggestions for ejector performance improvement. Specifically, forcing the presence of two-phase flow has been suggested as a potential tool for performance enhancement. This study determines the effect of two-phase flow on momentum transfer characteristics inside the ejector while operating with refrigerants R134a and R245fa. It is found that reducing the superheat at motive nozzle inlet results in a 12-13% increase in COP with a 14-16 K decrease in driving waste heat temperature. The mechanisms of this improvement are found to be a combination of two effects: the choice of operating fluid (wet vs. dry) and the effect of two-phase flow on the effectiveness of momentum transfer. It is recommended that ejector-based chillers be operated such that the motive nozzle inlet is near saturation, and environmentally friendly dry fluids such as R245fa be used to improve performance. This work provides critical methods for ejector modeling and validation through visualization, as well as guidance on measures to improve ejector design with commensurate beneficial effects on cooling system COP.