A plate-fin heat exchanger is prepared of layers of corrugated sheets alienated by flat metal plates, typically Aluminium, to generate a series of finned chambers. Separate hot and cold fluid streams flow through alternating layers of the heat exchanger and are enclosed at the edges by sidebars. Heat is transferred from one stream through the fin interface to the separator plate and through the next set of fins into the adjacent fluid. The fins also serve up to increase the structural integrity of the heat exchanger and permit it to withstand high pressures while providing an extended surface area for heat transfer.

A high degree of flexibility is current in plate-fin heat exchanger design as they can operate with any grouping of gas, liquid, and two-phase fluids. Heat transfer between multiple process streams is also accommodated, among a variety of fin heights and types as different entry and exit points available for each stream. The main four type of fins are: plain, which refer to simple straight-finned triangular or rectangular designs; herringbone, somewhere the fins are placed sideways to provide a zigzag path; and serrated and perforated which refer to cuts and perforations in the fins to augment flow allocation and improve heat transfer.

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