A radial flow heat exchanger (20) having a plurality of first passages (24) for transporting a first fluid (25) and a plurality of second passages (26) for transporting a second fluid (27). The first and second passages are arranged in stacked, alternating relationship, are separated from one another by relatively thin plates (30) and (32), and surround a central axis (22). The thickness of the first and second passages are selected so that the first and second fluids, respectively, are transported with laminar flow through the passages. To enhance thermal energy transfer between first and second passages, the latter are arranged so each first passage is in thermal communication with an associated second passage along substantially its entire length, and vice versa with respect to the second passages. The heat exchangers may be stacked to achieve a modular heat exchange assembly (300). Certain heat exchangers in the assembly may be designed slightly differently than other heat exchangers to address changes in fluid properties during transport through the heat exchanger, so as to enhance overall thermal effectiveness of the assembly.
This invention was made with Government support under Grant No. DE-FG02-93ER81537 awarded by the Department of Energy and Contract No. NAS5-33228 awarded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Government has certain rights in this invention.