In pure heat transfer, specifications of effectiveness, fluid properties, and flows enable calculation of the heat exchanger area. In the case of falling film absorption, a simultaneous heat and mass transfer governs the performance of the absorber. The exchange of mass across the liquid-vapor interface involves the generation of heat. The heat effects associated with the mass exchange increase the temperature, which affects the equilibrium state of the pressure and composition and in turn affects the mass. The falling film flow rate coupled to the physical properties of kinematic viscosity and surface tension govern the flow regime of a vertical falling film. Wavy-laminar, roll-wave laminar, and turbulent flows will develop convective contributions that can enhance the transfer of mass into the film.
The combined interaction of all these factors makes the absorption process very difficult to analyze and predict. A study of simultaneous heat and mass transfer was therefore conducted on a vertical falling film absorber to better understand the mechanisms driving the heat and mass transfer processes. Falling films are characteristically unstable, and a wavy-laminar flow was observed during the experimental study. The wavy flow further complicates the problem; therefore, only limited information is known about the temperature and concentration profiles along the length of the absorber that describe the local heat and mass transfer rates.
Hence, this study presents much-needed experimental data on the heat and mass transfer processes in the absence of heat and mass transfer additive. Absorption experiments were conducted in a mini-absorber test stand at various falling film flow rates, at various absorber pressures, and with various compositions of the binary salt solution. Thermographic phosphors were successfully used to measure the temperature profile along the length of the absorber test tube. These measures of the local variations in temperature enabled calculation of the bulk concentration along the length of the absorber. The bulk concentration varied linearly, from which one may infer that the concentration gradient in the direction of flow is approximately constant. The implication is that the mass flux, and therefore the absorber load, can be solved for by using a constant flux approximation.