An optical measurement method for two-phase flow pattern characterization in microtubes has been utilized to determine the frequency of bubbles generated in a microevaporator, the coalescence rates of these bubbles and their length distribution as well as their mean velocity. The tests were run in a 0.5 mm glass channel using saturated R-134a at 30 °C (7.7 bar). The optical technique uses two laser diodes and photodiodes to measure these parameters and to also identify the flow regimes and their transitions. Four flow patterns (bubbly flow, slug flow, semi-annular flow and annular flow) with their transitions were detected and observed also by high speed video. It was also possible to characterize bubble coalescence rates, which were observed here to be an important phenomena controlling the flow pattern transition in microchannels. Two types of coalescence occurred depending on the presence of small bubbles or not. The two-phase flow pattern transitions observed did not compare well to a leading macroscale flow map for refrigerants nor to a microscale map for air-water flows. Time averaged cross-sectional void fractions were also calculated indirectly from the mean two-phase vapor velocities and compared reasonably well to homogeneous values. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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