Performance Optimization of Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger Using CFD

(20 votes, average 4.45 out of 5)
Category : Industrial Projects
Project Code : EDU-PRJ-PG-CFD-002
Project Subscribers : 17



Industrial Projects 6.5/10 Heat Transfer / Mechanical

Heat exchangers are devices that facilitate the exchange of heat between two fluids that are at different temperatures while keeping them from mixing with each other. Heat exchangers differ from mixing chambers in that they do not allow the two fluids involved to mix. Heat exchangers are manufactured in a variety of types, such as double pipe heat exchanger, compact heat exchanger, shell-and-tube heat exchanger, plate and frame (or just plate) heat exchanger, regenerative heat exchanger, etc.. Heat exchangers are also given specific names such as condenser and boiler, to reflect the specific application for which they are used.

Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

The most common type of heat exchanger in industrial applications is the shell-and-tube heat exchanger. As its name implies, this type of heat exchanger consists of a shell (a large pressure vessel) and a large number of tubes (sometimes several hundred) packed in a shell with their axes parallel to that of the shell. Heat transfer takes place as one fluid flows inside the tubes while the other fluid flows outside the tubes through the shell. Shell-and-tube heat exchangers are further classified according to the number of shell and tube passes involved.

Shell and tube heat exchangers are applicable for wide range of operating temperature and pressure. They have larger ratio of heat transfer surface to volume than double pipe heat exchanger and they are easy to manufacture in large variety of sizes and flow configuration. Shell and tube heat exchangers find widespread use in refrigeration, power generation, heating and air conditioning, chemical processes, petroleum, medical applications.


Efforts are being made to enhance the performance of shell and tube heat exchangers. At a given iteration, if the performance of the considered design is calculated to be unsatisfactory, a better performing design can be obtained by changing the design parameters in the right direction. For example, baffles are placed in the shell to enhance heat transfer.

Baffles are used for directing the flow inside the shell from the inlet to the outlet while maintaining effective circulation of the shell side fluid hence providing effective use of the heat transfer area. But even after installing baffles, the shell side flow still has a complicated structure due to the existence of baffles. Although it is relatively simple to adjust the tube side parameters, it is very hard to get the right combination for the shell side.

Single segmental baffle that is used in the present study is the most common baffle type. Baffle is provided with a cut (%) which is expressed as the percentage of the segment height to shell inside diameter. In general, baffle cut can vary between 15% and 45% of the shell inside diameter. This cut allows the fluid to pass through in parallel or counter flow direction. A number of baffles are placed along the shell in alternating orientations (cut facing up, cut facing down, cut facing up again, etc.) in order to create flow paths across the tube bundle (forming cross flow windows). The spacing between baffles determines the structure of the stream.

Factors affecting the Performance

For a given shell geometry, the ideal configuration depends on the baffle cut, the baffle spacing and the baffle inclination angle. Even after fixing the right baffle cut and baffle space, the performance can be still improved by varying the baffle inclination angle. Having lower inclination angle, increases the heat transfer at the cost of increased shell side pressure drop. On the other hand, increasing the angle beyond a value might result in reduced pressure drop, but with lesser heat transfer. So it is very important to have an optimum baffle inclination angle to give minimal pressure drop with maximum heat transfer.

Role of CFD in Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger Analysis

CFD techniques can be used both in the rating, and iteratively in achieving the optimum combination of baffle arrangement for the shell side. CFD is particularly useful during initial design steps, reducing number of testing of prototype and providing a good insight in the transport phenomenon occurring in the heat exchanger.

Learning and Skill Sets Required

The execution of this project demands the following theoretical knowledge:

  • Fluid Dynamics: CFD is based on Fluid Dynamics equations. Heat exchangers involves movement of both shell side fluid and tube side fluid. It is very important for student to be comfortable with governing equations of fluid dynamics to do CFD simulation and interpretation of CFD results.
  • Fundamentals of Heat Transfer: In most engineering problems especially heat exchangers, we are often interested in the rate of heat transfer, which is the topic of the science of Heat Transfer. Heat transfer in a heat exchanger usually involves convection in each fluid and conduction through the wall separating the two fluids. So the knowledge of different modes of heat transfer is very important while analyzing Heat Exchangers. In the analysis of heat exchangers, it is convenient to work with an overall heat transfer coefficient U that accounts for the contribution of all these effects on heat transfer. So in addition to the fundamental concepts, the student should be comfortable with determining overall heat transfer coefficient in heat exchangers, and logarithmic mean temperature difference (LMTD) for some configurations.
  • CFD Fundamentals: CFD Fundamentals is studying about the governing physical equations, and how the fluid flow problems are solved on computers using numerical methods, the backbone of any CFD code. Students who use commercial CFD software to complete their project works, often refer to user’s manual or tutorial guide, to make a choice of numerical technique, or turbulence model, or the type of boundary condition to apply. But most of the tutorial guides let them down, by not providing sufficient explanation of the theoretical background and justification for using a particular numerical scheme for the given problem. So, knowing the fundamentals of CFD becomes very important in the process of using CFD as a tool for design analysis.

The execution of this project demands the following CFD software skills:

  • ANSYS ICEM CFD: This is pre-processing software that can be used for Mesh generation, which is nothing but a discrete representation of the geometry. Also, ANSYS ICEM CFD has advanced CAD/geometry readers and repair tools to allow the user to do the CAD cleanup work. In this project, ANSYS ICEM CFD will be used to do CAD cleanup of the Heat Exchanger CAD model and generate a hybrid mesh i.e., unstructured tetrahedral mesh in the volume and prism mesh near the walls to resolve boundary layer. So, the knowledge of the software GUI, CAD tools, and meshing tools in ANSYS ICEM CFD is important to take up this project.
  • ANSYS FLUENT: This is a simulation tool that contains the broad physical modeling capabilities needed to model flow, turbulence, heat transfer etc. This simulation software allows one to predict, the impact of design on the fluid flow and heat transfer or vice versa. Also, it has post-processing tools to extract simulation results and understand them. In this project, a steady incompressible flow with heat transfer will be simulated to predict the overall performance of the heat exchanger using ANSYS FLUENT. So, a knowledge on the software GUI, solver set-up, turbulence models, fundamentals of heat transfer modeling (conduction and convection), visualization techniques, are compulsory to work on this project.

Necessary LearnCAx Courses

Students opting for this project will have to go through online courses suggested by the LearnCAx mentor. This is to learn the required skillsets before starting the project work. Following are the two LearnCAx courses required to execute this project.

The access to these courses will be provided to the student as a part of the mentoring program and the validity of access exists till the project completion. 

Project and domain specific knowledge is not included in these courses. The courses are designed to teach CFD methods in-general. The application of knowledge acquired through these courses to this specific project has to be done by student. During project execution stage, mentor will guide student to apply the course(s) knowledge for executing the project. Some of the project or domain specific training might not be directly covered in above courses. Mentor will provide necessary guidance to students about from where they can acquire the project specific knowledge.

Who can take the project ?

  • Complexity Level -  7.5/10 (0-Low; 10-High)CFD simulation of the shell and tube heat exchanger involves both flow and thermal analysis using ANSYS FLUENT. It also involves CAD repairing of the CAD model to extract the CFD domain and generating an unstructured tetrahedral mesh with prism mesh near the wall to resolve boundary layer. Considering the geometry complexity, expected mesh count and the physics involved, the project falls under moderate complexity level.
  • Project Level - M.E./M.Tech./M.S.Generally, any Flow problem that involves additional physical models like Heat transfer models, Multiphase models, Rotating machinery related models, Dynamic mesh models, etc…, we consider it as M.E. level project. In this project we are simulating a 3D steady incompressible turbulent flow with energy transfer inside a heat exchanger of hybrid mesh. So, the level of the project is best suited for the post graduate students.
  • Duration - 5 MonthsAssuming the student can spend 2-3 hours of time per day and considering the amount of work involved in both learning (2.5 months) and working (2.5 months) on the project, we feel this project can be completed in 5 months. This duration might vary based on the amount of dedicated time, the student spends on the project work.

Benefits for students

Your academic project is one of the most important aspects of your degree. It is so important that it always decides what’s going to be next for you. Let it be higher studies or industrial job, the whole career path is based on the project work. With fierce competition powered by a rapid change in the world economy, every graduate/post-graduate is fighting a tough career battle today in the job market. All students look for an initial breakthrough in their careers and each one of them requires a good educational qualification complemented with a good project work.

Knowing CFD software is one important aspect for being CFD engineer, but using the CFD software for solving complex industrial problem is must when it comes to paving your path for career as CFD engineer. 

Working on this project will not only give you knowledge of CFD simulation of Shell and Tube heat exchangers, but it will also give you enough confidence to solve general heat transfer problems using CFD. This project experience will boost your academic profile and make it suitable for companies looking for CFD engineer with Thermal analysis expertise. Work experience on this project will open an opportunity for students in industries like process, power generation, HVAC industries.

Following are few in-built benefits you will get when working on this project:

  • Opportunity to work on challenging project of Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger analysis
  • Opportunity to present project work and get reviews from industry experts
  • Project certification done by industry
  • Opportunity to learn non-technical aspects of project execution followed in industry
  • Opportunity to sharpen the domain expertise and shape future career path

This project is to be executed using ANSYS ICEM CFD and ANSYS FLUENT software. When it comes to solving heat transfer problems, ANSYS FLUENT is one of the best choices for industries. Working on this project will give you exposure to ANSYS FLUENT heat transfer modeling and will open large number of opportunities in industry.

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Project Details

Mentor Project Details

A shell and tube heat exchanger design with respect to heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop is to be investigated using CFD. The heat exchanger consists of a shell (a large pressure vessel) and a bundle of tubes inside the shell. A set of segmental baffles with a specified baffle cut (%) and spacing are placed along the shell in alternating orientations with cut facing up and cut facing down, in order to create flow paths across the tube bundle. This study aims at optimizing shell side design by varying the five different baffle inclination angle from 0° to 20° for fixed flow conditions.  

Objective of the Study

The objective of this CFD study is to investigate the impacts of various baffle inclination angles on fluid flow and the heat transfer characteristics of a shell-and-tube heat exchanger, using CFD. An optimum baffle inclination angle is desired to give minimal pressure drop with maximum heat transfer. The CFD simulation will be carried out for 5 different baffle inclination angles varying from 0° to 20° and the results i.e., pressure drop and temperature rise, will be compared to find out the optimum shell design.

Project inputs to be shared with students

LearnCAx discussed with the CCTech team to extract the inputs required for the execution of this project. These inputs will be shared with the students before they start the project work. Following is a brief information on the project inputs and how to use them. 

Geometry: Student will receive a CAD model of the shell and tube heat exchanger in .IGES or STEP format. This can be imported in ANSYS ICEM CFD and with few hours of CAD clean-up, the CFD domain can be extracted. The baffle details, including the baffle cut and baffle spacing, will be provided through scaled drawings. Using these dimensions and with the help of geometry creation tools in ANSYS ICEM CFD the baffles can be included in the shell side domain of heat exchanger.

  • Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger – CAD Model in .IGES or STEP format
  • Baffles Details – Baffle Cut (%) and Baffle Spacing (indicates no. of baffles)

Material properties: The material properties of both shell side and tube side the working fluids will be provided to the students in a tabular format. This includes both flow as well as thermal properties namely density, kinematic viscosity, specific heat capacity, thermal conductivity of the fluids at respective operating temperatures, in SI units. Solid material of the tubes, shell and baffles along with their thermal properties will also be provided. These values can be used directly in ANSYS FLUENT‘s material properties dialog box. All the properties can be assumed to be constant and not varying w.r.t temperature.

  • Density
  • Viscosity
  • Specific heat Capacity
  • Thermal Conductivity

Flow & Thermal Conditions: The flow & thermal conditions are required to define boundary conditions in ANSYS FLUENT. Flow rate of shell side fluid and tube side fluid and their inlet temperatures will be provided. An assumption of both the outlets are open to atmosphere is valid in this case. The shell wall is insulated and does not lose any heat to the atmosphere.

  • Shell & Tube Inlet  : Flow rate and Temperature
  • Shell & Tube Outlet : Open to atmosphere

Expected deliverable from student

After completion of the project, set of deliverables has to be submitted to LearnCAx and CCTech. These deliverables include details project report and necessary software files. Following are the details of these deliverables. These deliverables will be used to review the quality of work done based on which grading and certification will be done.

Project Report

The report should be in word format and expect to provide the project details starting from the problem description, validation case details & results, CFD domain, meshing details, solution strategy, solver set-up, results, and conclusion at the end. An overview of the expected content is provided below.

Introduction: A brief introduction to the project domain along with the need for the study is expected in this section.

Project Overview: In this section, explain in detail about the project or the problem and also specify the objective of the problem.

  • Validation Case Details: As we don’t have any experimental results to compare CFD results for our project, we need to validate our solution methodology by doing validation case study for which experimental results are available. So the details about the reference paper, problem definition, geometry, mesh, solver setup, results, and the learnings from the validation study are to be provided in this section.
  • CFD Domain: Student can add images of the given CAD model and baffle details and show the CFD domain after cleanup and geometric operations for all three cases. Any assumptions related to geometry need to be mentioned explicitly with proper justification.
  • Meshing: Provide details about the type of mesh used, cell count, mesh quality, images of surface mesh and cut plane showing volume mesh.
  • Boundary Conditions: Material properties of the working fluid and the solid, the type of boundary used to specify the flow and thermal boundary conditions at inlets, outlets, and walls can be added under this section. 
  • Solver Set-up: Details about the turbulence model, Heat transfer models, shell conduction option (if used) and numerical discretization schemes used to capture the physics should be provided.
  • Results: This section of the report may have details of convergence, machine run time, and most importantly the CFD results. Results include both qualitative and quantitative. 
    • Qualitative Results: Temperature contours on the tubes and baffle surfaces, velocity path-lines of fluid particles released from shell side inlet, velocity, temperature and pressure contours plotted on the volume cut sections.
    • Quantitative Results: Pressure drop across the domains, temperature rise and drop across the domains, overall heat transfer coefficient, outlet temperature Vs baffle inclination angle plot, shell side pressure drop Vs baffle inclination angle plot.
  • Conclusion: Finally end the report with a summary or conclusion of the result analysis.

Files to be submitted

All the necessary files related to this project are to be submitted to the company for their future reference. This includes both ANSYS ICEM CFD and ANSYS FLUENT associated files, as listed below.

  • Geometry : .tin file
  • Mesh : .uns file
  • Simulation : .cas and .dat files , for all cases


Mentor Project Mentor

LearnCAx mentor program connects Students, Mentors, and Industrial/University Projects together. Through this unique program, we give an opportunity for students to work on challenging projects offered by industry or assigned by your university. Main aim of LearnCAx mentor program is to give all necessary knowledge and guidance to students, so that they can work on challenging projects. For success of this program, it is very critical for students to understand how this program works, what is role of LearnCAx mentor, and what is role of student.

To get an overall idea about LearnCAx mentor program, visit Overview and How it Works? articles.

Every project has different challenges and requires specific domain expertise. LearnCAx has team of mentors. Every mentor has expertise in CFD and large work experience in executing industrial projects. They have developed domain experts in specific domain by executing industrial project in the domain for more than 5 years. When you enroll for LearnCAx mentor program, you get a dedicated mentor. Mentor is decided based on the project definition and required expertise. 

The complete LearnCAx mentor program is based on the theme of “Learn – Try – Execute”. This is student centric approach, where it is expected that student would learn and acquire all required knowledge, try the knowledge on simple problems and then execute the project. LearnCAx mentor is a guide/mentor who will be with student during every phase, let it be learning or executing the project. Mentor will provide all required guidance to student enrolled for this program. 

Following are the few responsibilities of LearnCAx mentor:

  • To check if project is feasible using CFD or not
  • To design the learning path for students which will include required courses and domain knowledge
  • Guide student to break the project into intermediate stages
  • Guide student to make required assumptions and simplify the problem
  • Guide student during their learning phase
  • Guide student during the project execution phase
  • Review the project work at regular intervals
  • Review project work and provide feedback

Our main focus is to give student a working experience on challenging project. Student will execute all the stages of project by acquiring required skill sets. Mentor will provide necessary guidance. Following are few things LearnCAx mentor will not do:

  • Provide customized training specific for the assigned project
  • Work on any of the project execution stage including meshing and simulation
  • Prepare the project report/presentation


Mentor Project Certification

About Company Offering this Project

This is an industrial project offered by Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (CCTech). CCTech is a venture started by a group of IITians and industry professionals with extensive experience in CAD/CFD application, development, and testing. The average experience of a CAD/CFD professional at CCTech is more than 6 years. Members of the advisory board and principal consultants are specialists in various applications of CAD/CFD, empowering CCTech to handle complex CAD/CFD problems.

CCTech has always taken new challenges in terms of problem complexity and project time lines. It has successfully carried out various projects in high speed aerodynamics, HVAC of automobile, data center cooling, analysis of automobile defrost and ventilation ducts, volute design for pump, fluidized bed simulation, soot formation in IC engines etc.

This project is offered by CCTech’s CFD consultancy division. CFD consultancy division offers design, analysis and optimization services for various industries and successfully completed more than 100 projects. With its quality of work and capability of handling challenging project, CFD consultancy division is one of the preferred choices for many industries including automobile, heat exchanger, and control valve manufacturers, oil & gas design and consultancy firms. Working on this project will give you an opportunity to work with expert engineers in the CFD consultancy division and it would be unique learning experience. To know more about the company, visit

Assessment Process

This project will go through two levels of assessment. The first level of assessment will be done by project mentor. Second level of assessment will be done by review panel from Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Company offering this project). The assessment process is designed to make sure that a student has gone through all the necessary learning and project execution stages. The assessment process is also designed to grade the project work for quality of work done by student.

Project mentor’s assessment is a continuous monitoring process. The assessment process is designed to make sure that student executes each and every stage of project successfully with desired output and learning. Project mentor will do assessment at following stages:

  • Learning done by student to make sure that student has acquired skills to execute the project
  • Literature survey and problem understanding by student to make sure that student has understood the complexity of project and knows the execution path
  • Geometry and meshing techniques used to make sure its quality
  • Simulation and methods used to make sure that it will satisfy the objective of simulation
  • Project report review and presentation to make sure that the project objectives are satisfied

After completion of project, the final assessment and review will be done by team from Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd. The review will be done based on the project report submitted by student. The project work will be graded based on following criteria

  • Aim and objective of the simulation work done by student
  • Geometry and physics simplifications done by students and its validity
  • Meshing method used, cell count and its quality
  • CFD models, boundary conditions used and its validity
  • Agreement of CFD results with data available with CCTech
  • Simulation results and student’s interpretation about the results


After successful completion of the project, student will get a certificate issued by Centre for Computational Technologies Pvt. Ltd. This industrial project certificate will add a great value in student’s profile and will lay a foundation for their career in CFD domain.

Student’s project work will go through a rigorous review process set by CCTech. A review team will grade students work and assign grading out of 10. CCTech will give a project completion certificate with acquired grade to the student.


Mentor Project FAQ

1. Will you provide literature for validation during the project?

The mentor will guide the student on various important aspects required for literature collection and also provide sample literature pool. But it is expected that the student will carry out extensive literature survey during the project.

2. Will I get project completion certificate from LearnCAx or the company?

You will get the certificate from the company. You can appear for a test and get course completion certificate separately from us. This is independent of the project completion.

3. Why there is cost associated with this project?

Although this project is offered by industry, there is need of courses and dedicated mentor to guide the student throughout project journey. The total cost has two components, one the cost associated with required LearnCAx courses and cost associated with guidance provided by mentor. Some part of the total cost is also for continuous assessment and project certification.

4. You have mentioned that the project is for ME or MTech or MS students. I am a BE or undergraduate student, can I do this project?

Ideally this project is for ME/MTech level students. If you are a BE student you will need more time than the mentioned project duration. If you are interested in the project and have 8 months to an year to work on the project then you can consider this project.  

5. We are a group of 3 to 4 students. Can we as a group work on this project?

No. This project is for a single individual only. A group of student cannot take this project.

6. As a undergraduate or BE student can I do this project individually?

Yes. If you are an undergraduate or BE student having interest and appropriate time and background required for this project you can take this project. But you will need to do this project individually and not in group. Also as this is a ME level project, you should expect that it will be challenging at BE level. A BE level student must have at-least an year to work on the project.


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