An experimental investigation was performed to study the heat transfer and pressure drop characteristics of refrigerant R-134a boiling in a chevron-patterned brazed plate heat exchanger (BPHE) at low mass flux. The heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop characteristics are analyzed in relation to varying mass flux (30–50 kgm−2s−1), saturation pressure (675 kPa and 833 kPa), heat flux (0.8 and 2.5 kWm−2), and vapor quality (0.1–0.9). The two-phase pressure drop shows a strong dependence on mass flux and significant saturation temperature drop at high mass flux. The two-phase heat transfer coefficient was both strongly dependent on heat flux (at vapor qualities below 0.4) and on mass flux (at vapor qualities above 0.4). There was also apparent dryout, as depicted by decreased heat transfer at high vapor qualities. These observations suggest that both nucleate and convective boiling mechanisms prevailed. Existing transition correlations however suggest that the experimental data is rather convection-dominant and not a mix of convection and nucleate boiling. The experimental data further strongly suggest the prevalence of both macrochannel and minichannel type flows. Several acknowledged semi-empirical transition criteria were employed to verify our observations. These criteria mostly support our observations that R-134a evaporating at low mass fluxes in a BPHE with a hydraulic diameter of 3.4 mm, has heat transfer and pressure drop characteristics typically indicative of macrochannel as well as minichannel flows. Disagreement however exists with accepted correlations regarding the prevalence of convective or nucleate boiling.

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