Dirt on the heat exchanger surface inhibits the heat transfer properties and necessitates frequent cleaning,
thus becoming a costly affair for companies. Researchers are working on a new energy-saving coating that might solve the problem.
Researchers in the fields of surface chemistry, surface structuring and biofouling are teaming up with industrial partners to develop energy-saving coatings for heat exchanger surfaces that may
last up to four times longer than normal.
Fouling on heat exchangers involves the gradual build-up of undesired materials of diverse origin – microorganisms such as bacteria, organic matter and inorganic minerals – on surfaces that are in contact with liquid.
This layer of dirt on the heat exchanger surfaces inhibits the heat transfer properties and necessitates frequent cleaning, thus becoming a costly affair for companies.
Conventional solutions cannot handle the heat
Conventional antifouling coatings used in marine installations are unsuitable for heat exchanger applications because they are so thick that they reduce the heat transfer efficiency to an unacceptable level.
The aim of the new research project is to develop a new genre of antifouling coating technology for heat exchanger applications without compromising heat transfer efficiency. Due to the complex types of fouling matter, the coating chemistry will be optimised to incorporate anti-adhesive, anti-scaling and anti-microbial properties.
Good for the pocket and the environment
Developing antifouling solutions for heat exchangers in water installations will not only provide a competitive advantage for industrial partners, but will also lead to significant financial and energy savings for many industries that use heat transfer processes. Such savings are expected to apply to maintenance and energy costs in particular.
The researchers believe that the proposed coating technology could achieve a three- to four-fold decrease in maintenance time without compromising the heat transfer property. This means dramatic financial savings for companies while the reduced energy consumption benefits the environment as well.
Knowledge for the future
The project will also include systematic studies of mineral fouling on metal surfaces to gain a fundamental new understanding of the phenomenon. The new knowledge will be published in scientific papers and will also be included in future teaching material.
“It’s important to save energy and money, but it’s just as important for us to make knowledge available for future generations,” says Assistant Professor Joseph Iruthayaraj.