Hawaii Patent of the Month – July 2022

Plate-fin heat exchanges are designed using plates and finned chambers to transfer heat between fluids. The plates and fins are stacked to separate the hot and cold streams while the fins increase the heat transfer area. While these designs have many advantages, they are costly in terms of manufacturing and materials. This cost limitation means they are only used when there would be some economic advantage from the reduced size. Otherwise, most will use a shell and tube heat exchanger instead.

Makai Ocean Engineering, Inc., experts in marine pipes and Ocean Thermal Energy (OTEC), have developed a plate heat exchanger which overcomes these disadvantages while still achieving incredible performance. The design removes the need for frames, using spacer bars between stacked plates to create alternating layers for fluid passage.

Their design is an ultra-compact thin foil heat exchanger which has a series of stacked plates made from two-foil sheets bonded together. The specific bonding locations create fluid flow passages between the foil sheets. Each foil sheet is between 0.001 and 0.01 inches thick, creating incredibly small plates for heat exchanging. Through testing, the company has found this design can achieve more heat transfer per cubic meter as compared to a conventional plate heat exchanger. The alternating layers of plates also create a self-sufficient internal support structure which resists compression and provides stability. Between reduced costs, improved efficiency, and greater stability within a smaller size, this design is sure to bring plate heat exchangers to a wider set of applications.

Founded in 1973, Makai is a diversified ocean engineering company based in Hawaii. Their core technical areas include submarine cables, ocean energy and marine pipelines, and subsea technologies such as underwater vehicles, buoys, communications systems and general marine engineering and R&D.

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