Cross Flow Heat Exchanger | Working of Cross-Flow Heat Exchanger

The cross flow heat exchanger is one of the most famous types of heat exchangers. This exchanger contains a series of parallel channels or tubes through which one fluid flows, while the other fluid moves across the channels or tubes in a perpendicular direction. This article explains the cross flow heat exchanger working, types, and applications.  

What is a Cross Flow Heat Exchanger?

A cross flow heat exchanger is a heat exchanger used to transfer heat between two fluid streams that flow perpendicular to each other. In this heat exchange, the fluid flow has a vertical direction.

Unlike a rotary heat exchanger, a cross-flow heat exchanger doesn’t transfer moisture. These heat exchangers also don’t have the risk of airstream short-circuiting.

The cross-flow heat exchangers are used in ventilation and cooling systems where heat needs to be shifted from one airflow to another. These heat exchangers usually consist of a thin metal panel made of aluminum. These panels are used to exchange thermal energy or heat.

Conventional cross-flow heat exchangers have square cross-sections. The thermal efficiency of the conventional cross-flow heat exchanger is from 40% to 65%.  If you need higher thermal efficiency (i.e., up to 75% to 85%), you may use a dual crossflow or counterflow heat exchanger.

A shell-and-tube heat exchanger is an example of a cross-flow exchanger. In his exchanger, one fluid move inside the tubes, and the other moves around the tube on the shell side. The fluid around the tube flows at a 90o angle compared to the fluid flow inside the tube.

These types of heat exchangers are most commonly employed in two-phase systems. Another example of this exchanger is a condenser used for a steam system. In this exchanger, steam flows through a tube in the shell side and converts into the liquid phase. During this process, the heat exchanger condenses a large amount of steam.

The shell and tube heat exchangers are available for all directions of the flows, such as the cross flow, counterflow, and parallel flow. The below-given diagram represents different flow directions in the shell and tube exchangers.

cross flow heat exchanger

The plate-fin heat exchanger is another example of cross-flow. The plate-fin exchanger has multiple fins placed between parallel plates, and the fluid flows by these fins. These fins increase the area of the heat transfer and increase the heat transfer rate. The fins have different designs like perforated, wavy, triangular, or rectangular.

Types of Cross Flow Heat Exchangers

The cross flow heat exchangers are used all over the world. These heat exchangers are divided according to the fins in the system. The cross-flow heat exchanger has the following two major types:

  1. Unmixed flow heat exchanger
  2. Mixed flow heat exchanger

1) Mixed Flow Heat Exchangers

The mixed cross-flow heat exchanger is also known as an unfinned heat exchanger because it has no fins (as shown in the below diagram).

In this heat exchanger, the fluid flows perpendicularly to the tubes and flows over the tubes in the shell side. In this type, the turbulent flow of the fluid can occur. This turbulence flow helps to increase the coefficient of heat transfer. It has a lower pressure drop than types of crossflow heat exchangers.

Read Also: Working of Plate Heat Exchanger

2) Unmixed cross-flow heat exchanger

The unmixed flow heat exchanger is also known as a finned heat exchanger because it has fins installed around the tubes to allow liquid to flow over the tubes. These fins help to increase the heat transfer rate as they increase the effective heat transfer surface area.

mixed and unmixed cross flow heat exchanger

However, these exchangers have a high-pressure loss in the system. In addition, these exchangers have high costs and weight due to the addition of fins.

Cross Flow Heat Exchanger Performance and Heat Transfer Rate

Logarithm Mean Temperature Difference (LMTD) uses to calculate the performance of the heat exchanger. You can increase LMTD to achieve higher performance. The heat transfer rate of the cross flow heat exchanger can be calculated by the below-given formula:

crossflow heat exchanger heat transfer rate

This formula is the same as the heat transfer rate for counter flow and parallel heat exchangers.

Design of Crossflow Heat Exchanger

The construction of the cross-flow heat exchanger allows the two fluids to move perpendicularly to each other. According to Bright Hub Engineering, this exchanger generally uses when one fluid is a gas while the other is a liquid.

cross flow heat exchanger design

For example, in a car radiator, upward and downward moving air cools the hot liquid that flows from side to side. This heat exchanger is also very ordinary in steam condensers, where liquids convert to gases at the end of the process.

Read Also: Type of shell & tube heat exchanger

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cross Flow Heat Exchangers

In a cross-flow heat exchanger, cold fluid and hot fluid flow vertically relative to one another. This is usually a convenient method to actually install the outlet and inlet ports in a small package. It is one of the most efficient designs than parallel heat exchangers.

According to the thermodynamic point of view, the cross-flow heat exchangers have more efficiency than the efficiencies of the counter-flow heat exchangers and parallel heat exchangers.

The crossflow exchangers have higher LMTD than parallel-flow heat exchangers. The cross-flow exchangers require less flow area than the parallel flow exchangers for a given flow rate and inlet and outlet temperatures.

Due to these reasons, parallel-flow heat exchangers are not widely employed in applications, and cross-flow exchangers are ideal. Therefore, these heat exchangers are the most commonly used exchangers as it is easier to supply outlet and inlet header connections in cross-flow.

These heat exchangers have a compact design. The multi-pass cross-flow heat exchanger has easy manufacturing than counter-flow and parallel heat exchangers.

Difference between Parallel flow, Counter flow, and Cross flow Heat Exchanger 

Crossflow Heat ExchangerCounter flow Heat ExchangerParallel flow Heat Exchanger
In the cross-flow heat exchangers, the two fluids flow perpendicular to each other.In the counter-flow heat exchanger, The tube-side fluid enters the exchanger at the opposite end of the shell-side fluid.In the parallel flow heat exchanger, fluids flow parallel to each other.
It requires less flow area.It requires a large flow area.It also requires a large flow area.
These exchangers have more efficiency than parallel and counter flow exchangers.The counter flow heat exchanger is most efficient than the crossflow and parallel flow heat exchangers. The parallel-flow heat exchanger is more efficient than the crossflow exchanger but less efficient than the counterflow exchanger.

Applications of Cross flow Heat Exchanger

  1. Crossflow heat exchangers are used in HVAC systems.
  2. These exchangers are used in different industrial machinery and processes to quickly cool engine oil or hydraulic fluids.
  3. They are also employed in the vehicle radiators to cool the engine coolant.
  4. Cross flow heat exchangers are most commonly used in different process industries, such as food processing plants, refineries, and chemical plants.
  5. This heat exchanger uses as a condenser in the steam system.
  6. They use in heat recovery systems to catch excess heat from one system and deliver it to another.

FAQ Section

What are the parts of the cross-flow heat exchanger?

  1. Plates
  2. Tightening units
  3. Pressure plate
  4. Support column

What are cross flow heat exchangers used for?

The cross-flow heat exchangers are used to transfer thermal energy from one fluid to another. It is most commonly employed in automobile radiators and refrigerators.

What are the examples of the heat exchanger?

The most common examples of heat exchangers are HVAC, condensers, superheaters, evaporators, economizers, air preheaters, and cooling towers employed in power plants.

What are the most common types of heat exchangers?

Read More

2 thoughts on “Cross Flow Heat Exchanger | Working of Cross-Flow Heat Exchanger”

  1. thanks and great article.

    you mentioned in your comparison table that the cross flow is more efficient than the counter flow heat exchanger. that make me feel little confused.
    all what we learned was the opposite.

    counter flow is the highest efficient
    then parallel flow
    lastly the cross flow

    can you please elaborate more with engineering examples and numbers to show the efficiency comparison.



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