Common Types of Heat Exchangers on Ships and Their Key Applications

Blog | December 1st, 2022

Ships utilise many devices to ensure that they can operate optimally while on the waters. One of the devices they utilise is a heat exchanger.

A heat exchanger is a device that aims to reduce the temperature of a medium. It carries out this function by transferring the temperature of the involved medium to another while being separated by a wall-like or solid membrane structure. The surface area of the structure helps minimise the medium’s flow resistance. The heat exchanging function of the heat exchanger may be done between liquid and liquid, liquid and gas, gas and liquid, and many more.

To date, ship owners can maximise different types of heat exchangers depending on their intended applications. Here are some types of heat exchangers on ships.

Shell and Tube Type Heat Exchanger

This type of heat exchanger is characterised by a shell accompanied by several tubes. The tubes of this heat exchanger serve as the place where the liquid to be cooled flows, while the secondary liquid moves over the tube inside the shell. The shell is integrated with two end plates and is enclosed with water chambers. The tubes are then locked in the tube plate through bell mouthing and expansion. The coolers can be single-pass or double-pass.

The shell and tube type heat exchanger is best used for propulsion plants, auxiliary power generation systems, starting air systems, fuel and injection systems, refrigeration systems, air conditioning systems, and freshwater systems.

Plate-Type Heat Exchanger

The plate-type heat exchanger, alternatively, is comprised of thin corrugated plates that are joined parallel together. Their structure generates a cavity for the fluid to flow inside it. The plate’s alternate sides then carry two varying fluids that can carry out heat transfer. This type of heat exchanger may be expensive to install, but its maintenance cost is cheaper than its shell and tube type counterpart. It also has higher efficiency and can withstand high pressure.

Its plates are made from metals sealed from each other with nitrile rubber joints. The first and last plates are known as the innermost and outermost plates. The corrugations of the plates create turbulence in the flow of the fluids, which allows more efficient heat transfer.

A plate-type heat exchanger can be useful for propulsion plants, auxiliary power generation systems, and freshwater systems.

Plate-Fin Heat Exchanger

A plate-fin heat exchanger has a similar design to a plate-type heat exchanger. It, however, boasts fins to effectively increase system efficiency. These fins are often made from an aluminium alloy so that the heat transfer efficiency can be higher. This material also helps the whole heat exchanger to be lighter. This type of heat exchanger can be efficient. However, it requires higher installation and maintenance costs.

Different fins can be found on this heat exchanger. Offset fins are fins integrated into this heat exchanger that is often fixed perpendicular to the flow direction. Straight fins, alternatively, are fins integrated into parallel to the flow direction. Wavy fins are fins fixed in curvature form, allowing them to increase the heat-exchanging effect. This heat exchanger can be utilised for auxiliary power generation systems.

These are only some of the most common heat exchangers used in ships. To know more about heat exchangers, you can contact us at Wildon Engineering.

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