The process of heat exchange between two fluids that are at different temperatures and separated by a solid wall occurs in many engineering applications. The device used to implement this exchange is termed a heat exchanger (HE), and specific applications may be found in space heating and air-conditioning, power generation, waste heat recovery, and chemical processing. Increasing heat transfer coefficient and making heat exchanger compact for various applications like in spacecraft, underwater vehicle, unmanned Ariel vehicle is one of the main challenges. Biologically-inspired design (or BID) has become an important and increasingly wide-spread movement in design for environmentally-conscious sustainable development. By definition, BID is based on cross-domain analogies; further, biologically-inspired approaches to design have a certain degree of openness to innovation. Compact heat exchanger can reduce the space and weight of any locomotives and spacecraft. Structural elements inspired from nature possess compactness and stability. Honeycomb structure allows minimize the spacing between cells which makes it possible to use thinnest possible metal boundary wall between two fluids. A rectangle structure can also do the same thing but it has less surface area, which will essentially decrease the volume of heat exchanger. Honeycomb structure provides high surface area to volume ratio which can be utilized to increase heat transfer coefficient of a heat exchanger and thus make compact system.
In this computational study, bio-inspired simple honeycomb structured and spiral finned honeycomb structured counter flow heat exchanger has been three dimensionally simulated using finite element methods in commercial software COMSOL. This work is used to reduce the weight of heat exchangers in steam reforming reactors. There is a good correlation when the fluid temperature is the same in all cells. There is also a good temperature gradient in the fluid owing to laminar flow. 3D modeling showed that a careful representation of the inlet is needed for realistic results. A tube-shell heat exchanger is also simulated using FEA in COMSOL. Spiral finned heat exchanger provides additional surface area in cost of pressure drop. The performance characteristics of honeycomb heat exchanger showed an increase in heat transfer rate with least vortex formation.