A wide variety of industries have some type of heat transfer mechanism in their operating systems. The particularities vary according to the category of each one, whether they belong to the energy, chemical, transport, agriculture or a long etcetera.
These heat exchangers are used as an energy efficiency resource, avoiding wasting the temperatures that are generated at certain times in some processes and consequently, reducing fuel consumption in the execution of subsequent stages that also require heat.
3D printed heat exchangers
Being a component of such a transversal scope within the industries that today operate around the world, a compact and efficient heat exchanger can contribute positively in the costs and yields associated with the production cycles.
In addition, considering the global trends of turning towards a more sustainable economic and industrial model, any solution that helps reduce the consumption of fossil fuels inevitably attracts attention, by meeting a growing need.
Researchers from the University of Illinois, using topology optimization and metal 3D printing – something unknown and / or not very accessible in past periods – designed a new type of ultra-compact and high-power heat exchangers.
The challenge proposed by this team is the renewal of a technology that has remained without major innovations for decades. As a result of their study, the researchers were able to develop an innovative system that works considerably more effectively and efficiently, they say, but requires the support of specific software tools and design methods to manufacture.
With the support of the Faculty of Engineering of the house of studies that hosted this research, the team developed software tools for the creation of new designs of heat exchangers, printed in 3D.
“We developed shape optimization software to design a high-performance heat exchanger”, noted William King, professor of mechanical sciences and a co-author of the study. “The software allows us to identify 3D designs that are significantly different and better than conventional designs”, added, being consulted by the University of Illinois.
The system presented by this team, whose graphic representation accompanies this article, is based on a tube contained within another, following a principle similar to that of the heaters present in some buildings for drinking water or space heating.
To apply this principle on a reduced scale, suitable for the needs of the industry, the researchers designed an internal fin system for the cubes that can only be obtained by 3D printing.
“Our optimized heat exchanger has approximately 20 times more volumetric power density than a current state-of-the-art commercial tube-in-tube device”said Nenad Miljkovic, associate professor of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering and a co-author of the study.
An article that presents the main observations of this study, together with the proposed model, was published in the journal Joule.