This work experimentally studied the convective heat transfer characteristics of a novel nanostructured heat transfer fluid: “Ethanol/Polyalphaolefin(PAO) nanoemulsion fluids” flowing through a heat exchanger made of twelve circular minichannels. Ethanol/PAO nanoemulsion fluid is a thermodynamically stable system formed by dispersing ethanol into a mixture of PAO and surfactants, in which the ethanol added inside forms self-assembled nanodroplets of tens of nanometers in diameter. These ethanol nanodroplets can serve as pre-seed boiling nuclei at elevated temperature. The Reynolds number was varied between 140 and 1200 to maintain the entire range of flow regime remained at laminar flow for both single- and two-phase convective heat transfer experiments. Pure PAO was also tested under same conditions and used as baseline data for comparison.
It is found that: for single phase flow, there is no significant increase in Nusselt number of Ethanol/PAO nanoemulsion compared to that of PAO fluid in laminar flow regime. However, when the nucleation of ethanol nanodroplets inside the nanoemulsion fluid was initiated, it showed a substantial increase in heat transfer coefficient compared to that of PAO fluid: a 75% enhancement can be achieved under current test conditions. While its mechanism is not completely clear yet, it is believed that such an effect is likely related to the latent heat carried by ethanol bubbles, as well as the increased turbulence and mixing generated during the two-phase flow of nanoemulsion which can increase the heat transfer rate.