Non-equilibrium condensation of water vapour in supersonic flows with shock waves

Chuang Wen, Nikolas Karvounis, Jens Honore Walther, Hongbing Ding, Yan Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The fluid flow and heat and mass transfer in a supersonic separator are not understood well due to the complicated interaction of the supersonic flow, swirling flow, phase transition and shock waves. In the present study, we develop a wet steam model to investigate the flow structure inside a supersonic separator with the co-existence of non-equilibrium condensation and shock waves. A study of the effect of the inlet subcooling and inlet saturation on the condensation behaviour is conducted to evaluate the performance of the supersonic separation with a focus on the shock wave. The numerical result shows that the degree of supersaturation of the water vapour can reach a maximum value of 4.28 within the designed supersonic separator and generate a peak nucleation rate of approximately 1021 kg m−3 s−1. The occurrence of the shock wave changes the equilibrium thermodynamic state, which leads to the re-evaporation of the condensed droplet. Higher inlet subcooling and inlet saturation not only shift downstream the position of the shock wave, but also induce an earlier condensation and higher liquid fraction. For the
present nozzle, when the inlet subcooling and inlet saturation are about 34 K and 0.28 respectively, the shock wave intersects the region of the intense nucleation process, the non-equilibrium condensation process is terminated due to the increase of the pressure and temperature downstream the shock wave. Stronger swirling flow results in non-uniform distribution of the static pressure and decreases the nucleation rate of water vapour. The high swirling flow with a maximum swirl velocity of 150 m/s weakens the liquid fraction by 25% compared to the no swirling flow. This indicates that it is important to balance the swirling flow and condensation process to achieve an efficient performance of the supersonic separator.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119109
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Wet steam
  • Condensing flow
  • Supersonic flow
  • Condensation
  • Shock wave
  • Swirling flow


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