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Improved Desiccant Coatings for Heat and Water Vapour Transfer on the Matrix Surfaces of Air-To-Air Regenerative Wheels



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Air-to-air energy recovery wheels are now widely used in industry and buildings; however, the effectiveness of water vapor exchange in these regenerative wheels appears to be much lower than may be economically feasible. The purpose of this research is to investigate the feasibility of using agglomerated desiccant particle coatings to improve the performance of regenerative wheels used in HVAC air-to-air heat and moisture exchange and energy recovery applications. Desiccant particles coated on wheels lose most of their water vapor sorption capacity due to the method of coating. Desiccant agglomerates can be made by mixing starch, fine silica gel particulate, and water within an agglomerating device. The desiccant particle agglomerating process improves the desiccant mass transfer properties by increasing the overall surface area of desiccant particles; and also by creating a much rougher surface that can increase the likelihood of turbulent flow, and therefore, increasing the overall mass transfer rates. The industrial desiccant coating process involves submerging the desiccant into a coating agent and then applying this mix to the substrate or the matrix of the energy wheel. This process was improved in this research by ensuring the particles are applied after the coating agent is applied to ensure that the agglomerates or desiccant particles are not submerged by the coating material. Because testing energy wheels under steady state operating conditions has proved to be difficult, time consuming and costly in the past, a small parallel flow test cell is used to measure the transient response of coated substrate aluminum sheets after a step change in the inlet air humidity or temperature. Using a previously developed theoretical model, the time constants for these inlet step change responses are then used to predict the sensible and latent effectiveness of a regenerative energy wheel coated with the same agglomerated particles, which is rotated at a known operating speed and wheel face velocity. When the new desiccant coatings are used, it is shown that the latent heat effectiveness for a typical wheel could be up to 85%. It is found that the steady state air flow pressure drop readings for the test cell shows that agglomerated particles coated on the surfaces within the test cell implies some transitional turbulent flow behavior compared to similar substrate surfaces coated in a conventional manner with desiccant particles (e.g. up to 60% higher pressure drop at a channel Reynolds number of 300) in the same test cell. This implied enhanced turbulence flow friction factor in the test cell suggests a somewhat similar enhancement for increased mass and heat transfer coefficients for the test cell or coated wheel matrices. The transient results for humidity step changes for air flow through the test cell reveals that the adsorption and desorption response time constants are much larger for the agglomerated coated substrate surfaces than the conventional industrial coated surfaces. These data imply much higher moisture or latent heat effectiveness values for wheels coated with agglomerated particles. When the new desiccant coatings are used, it is shown that the latent heat effectiveness for a typical wheel could be better than 80% or 20% higher than currently available typical energy wheels. With improvements to the desiccant particle agglomerating process, desiccant coating process and particle coating and testing methods, this thesis shows that significant improvements may be practical for the design, testing and operation of regenerative heat and moisture exchange wheels.



desiccant, coating, agglomeration, silica gel, energy transfer, enthalpy wheel, desiccant wheel, energy wheel, HVAC



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering


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