An experimental investigation on liquid methane heat transfer enhancement through the use of longitudinal fins in cooling channels

Manuel de Jesus Galvan, University of Texas at El Paso


In the past years, hydrocarbon fuels have been the focus of attention as the interest in developing reusable, high-performing liquid rocket engines has grown. Liquid methane (LCH4) has been of particular interest because of the cost, handling, and storage advantages that it presents when compared to currently used propellants. Deep space exploration requires thrusters that can operate reliably during long-duration missions. One of the challenges in the development of a reliable engine has been providing adequate combustion chamber cooling to prevent engine failure. Regenerative (regen) cooling has presented itself as an appealing option because it provides improved cooling and engine efficiency over other types of cooling, such as film or dump cooling. Due to limited availability of experimental sub-critical liquid methane cooling data for pressure-fed regen engine design, there has been an interest in studying the heat transfer characteristics of the propellant. For this reason, recent experimental studies at the Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have focused on investigating the heat transfer characteristics of sub-critical CH4 flowing through smooth sub-scale cooling channels. In addition to investigating smooth channels, the cSETR has conducted experiments to investigate the effects of internal longitudinal fins on the heat transfer of methane. To conduct the experiments, the cSETR developed a conduction-based thermal concentrator known as the High Heat Flux Test Facility (HHFTF) in which the channels are heated. In this study, a smooth channel and three channels with longitudinal fins all with cross sectional geometries of 3.2 mm x 3.2 mm were tested. The Nusselt numbers ranged from 70 and 510, and Reynolds numbers were between 50,000 and 128,000. Sub-cooled film-boiling phenomena were discovered in the data pertaining to the smooth and two finned channels. Sub-cooled film-boiling was not observed in the channel that had the fins with the highest height. Film-boiling onset at Critical Heat Flux (CHF) was correlated to a Boiling Number (Bo) of approximately 0.1 for the channels studies. Convective Nusselt number follows predicted trends for Reynolds number with a wall temperature correction factor for both the boiling and non-boiling regimes.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering

Recommended Citation

Galvan, Manuel de Jesus, "An experimental investigation on liquid methane heat transfer enhancement through the use of longitudinal fins in cooling channels" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1564672.