Moving mass while keeping heat stationary

Designing optimal self-similar structures for compact counter-current heat exchangers to reduce heating costs and greenhouse emissions.

The design of efficient exchange devices is an important problem in engineering and biology. In industrial settings a variety of heat exchangers are employed, such as plate, coil and counter-current devices. In nature, lungs, leaf venation and blood circulation networks have evolved to meet multiple physiological needs. A distinctive feature of the biological examples is their fractal structure, with branching and usually anastomosing geometries. The fractal design provides a large surface for exchange but within a compact volume.

In this project we design optimal heat exchangers for industrial and domestic use that incorporate the design efficiencies of their biological counterparts. We develop a theory that links efficiency to the geometry of the exchange surface and supply network. By crumpling the exchange area into a fractal surface, our designs can be optimized for volume as well as performance. They are especially suited to 3D printing because they are not load bearing.

Optimal heat exchangers increase the efficiency of industrial processes and reduce the cost and size of passive heat exchange in houses. The underlying theory also provides insights into respiration, which may help develop diagnostic tests for breathing disorders.

Moving mass while keeping heat stationary

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