Scaling in polymer tubes and interpretation for use in solar water heating systems

Yana Wang, Jane Davidson, Lorraine Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


An experimental study of the growth of scale on copper, nylon 6,6, semiaromatic high temperature nylon, polypropylene, polybutylene, and Teflon tubes exposed to hard water is presented. Results provide qualitative information on the scaling of polymer tubes in nonisothermal, flowing conditions expected in heat exchangers and solar absorbers. The 89-cm-long tubes were placed in tube-in-shell heat exchangers. The tubes were exposed to flowing water for 1660 h, a 1120-h pretreatment phase using tap water adjusted to supersaturation of about 2 and p H of 8, followed by a 540-h acceleration phase using tap water with an adjusted total calcium concentration of 4 × 10 -3 M, and a pH of 9. Flow rate was 4 cm/s. A 50% propylene glycol solution at 60°C was maintained on the shell side of the heat exchanger. Sections of the tubes were removed periodically to determine the extent of scaling. Results include scanning electron microscope images of the tube surfaces before and after exposure to the flowing water, x-ray diffraction to determine the crystalline phase content of the observed deposits, and chemical analysis to estimate the mass of calcium carbonate per unit surface area. A model of the scaling process is presented to help interpret the data. The data show conclusively that polymer tubes are prone to scaling. With the exception of nylon 6,6, the scaling rate on the polymers is about the same as that on copper. The nylon 6,6 substrate appears to enhance scaling. The enhancement is attributed to hydrolysis of the substrate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-14
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Solar Energy Engineering, Transactions of the ASME
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005


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