An experiential learning module has been developed to better help students connect the theory with the hardware. Optimizing a refrigeration cycle requires the combination of thermodynamics, heat transfer, and engineering economics. At the end of the first semester of thermodynamics students developed a system model that connected the design variables to the total life cycle cost. A portable vapor-compression testing apparatus was brought into the classroom to demonstrate electronic data collection. Different fan speeds were used to simulate different heat exchanger areas by changing the overall heat transfer coefficient (U). Once a baseline data point, at a low flow rate, was collected, U was calculated based on the actual heat transfer surface area. Then as the flow rate was increased the overall conductance (UA) increased. Fixing the U value at its baseline value simulated larger areas. These larger areas were used to determine the optimum size of the heat exchangers in the system. Data were collected during the class time and then provided to the students for model validation and subsequent optimization.
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