There are two significant effects of inerts on the condensation of vapors. The first is the effect on the temperature-composition profile which determines the fraction condensed as a function of temperature. As material condenses the vapor phase composition becomes richer in air and it becomes more difficult to condense the remaining methanol. The second effect is to add a mass transfer resistance as the vapor near the liquid film is depleted of the condensing component, resulting in a radial composition profile. Chapter 16 of “Process Heat Transfer” (Hewitt, Shires & Bott) provides a good treatment of condensation in the presence of an inert gas. If done correctly the amount of excess surface can be minimized.
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