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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rib-roughened heat and mass transfer enhancement in membrane-based energy recovery ventilators Sylvester, Alexander


Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) save energy by recovering sensible and latent heat from exhaust ventilation streams. They consist of compact channels in a cross- or counter-flow arrangement separated by moisture-permeable membranes. This work employs computational fluid dynamics with experimental validation to study angled rib mixing features to enhance heat and mass transport in membrane-based ERVs. The model simulates air-to-air heat and mass exchange between two rectangular ducts in a counter-flow arrangement. Local results from these simulations are used in a mathematical model to predict the effectiveness of a cross-flow ERV. The flow is steady and laminar. The channels are modeled with and without ribs for various channel aspect ratios and flow rates. Periodic inlet/outlet conditions are assumed for all cases to highlight the effect of the ribs. Ribs are either on the membrane surface or the opposite wall, however ribs on the membrane surface are the focus of this work due to their superior performance. Results show that the ribs increase the channel Sherwood and Nusselt numbers by a larger fraction than the corresponding increase in friction factor. The improvement is larger for sensible recovery than latent recovery because the membrane’s mass-transfer resistance is higher than its thermal resistance. For a typical commercial grade, counter-flow ERV, total effectiveness can be improved by over 10% for an equal pressure drop by adding ribs and slightly increasing the channel height. Mass-transfer and pressure drop results from the simulations were validated experimentally for channels with and without ribs using a commercially available membrane (dPoint Technologies). Ribs were either formed into the membrane surface or made as extensions of the channel wall. The experimental and simulation results agree with one another within the experimental uncertainty of the test apparatus and variability of the membrane permeability. Typically, ERV performance targets (recovery effectiveness, pressure drop) are met by varying the channel dimensions or number of channels. The work presented here indicates that angled ribs could be used instead, which would not require altering the ERV footprint or using extra materials.

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