Can heat exchangers be made of plastic? – Faculty of Engineering and Architecture – Ghent University

Energy recovery is interesting, both for the economy and the environment. Therefore, heat exchangers can be found in all parts of the industry and in everyday life. But the price of traditional heat exchanger materials such as copper is rising, making the investment in heat exchangers less interesting.

One solution is the transition to cheaper materials, but there are not many options. Heat exchangers are typically used in high pressure and / or temperature applications, whether in combination with corrosive liquids. Since metals are not all equally resistant to these corrosive conditions, the possible use of polymers was investigated. Polymers often have good chemical resistance, but they show a low thermal conductivity.

“In my PhD, I investigated the potential of heat exchangers made of fiber-reinforced plastic,” says Joanna.

“The goal was to find suitable material combinations, to adapt the design of a classic heat exchanger to take advantage of the benefits of thermoplastic as much as possible and to determine the mechanical properties, especially the stiffness and strength of these materials,” Joanna continues. .

“As part of my PhD, I have researched various test methods for both short- and long-term studies to evaluate the performance of fiber-reinforced plastic heat exchangers,” explains Joanna.

“I realized a set-up to test a small prototype under realistic operating conditions, where the deformation could be measured very accurately. Furthermore, measurements have been optimized in standardized tests and a parameter study has been carried out via Dynamic Mechanical Analysis, to enable short- and long-term studies for heat exchanger materials. Finally, the detachment of short fibers in a polymer matrix has also been investigated, in preparation for the numerical modeling of such behavior, necessary for an even better understanding of the mechanical behavior of this material class, ”concludes Joanna.

Read a more comprehensive summary or the full PhD

PhD title: Experimental characterization of short fiber reinforced thermoplastic materials for use in heat exchangers: development of setups and methodology for testing sub-components, coupons and embedded individual fibers

Contact: Joanna Schalnat, Lode Daelemans, Wim Van Paepegem

Joanna Schalnat was born on September 13, 1990 in Hanover, Germany. From there, she moved to Dresden, Germany to study process engineering at Dresden University of Technology with a focus on wood and fiber material technology. As a side job, she took the opportunity to work for several PhD students. Her main task was to characterize the strength and stiffness of wood and wood composites, which motivated her to look for more options for mechanical testing.

Internship at Danzer in Kesselsdorf, Germany and SP in Borås, Sweden, gave her the opportunity to expand her knowledge of manufacturing and testing both laminates and composites and successfully completed her engineering education in 2016.

Having never been to Belgium before, she enthusiastically decided to join the research group Mechanics of Materials and Structures at Ghent University. Funded by the Compohex project and the Relicario project, she spent an amazing time in the mechanical lab learning about tests, composites, test setups, and the importance of teamwork. The results of this are presented in this thesis. During her studies, she contributed to scientific publications and participated in several international conferences.

Editor: Jeroen Ongenae – Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke

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