ARRS will (co-)finance TCCbuilder research project

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The Public Research Agency of the Republic of Slovenia (ARRS) will finance a basic science project entitled TCCbuilder: An open-source simulation tool for thermal control circuits. The project was selected together with 12 other projects of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering UL.

The project concerns the development of World’s first numerical tool for simulation of new thermal management principles, analogous to electronic devices, which aim to solve the increasing demand for high energy efficiency, optimal performance and ultrahigh power density of micro- and power-  electronics, energy conversion processes and devices.

The traditional way of thermal management concerns basic principles of heat transfer applied via heat radiation, conduction and convection. In relatively large systems, extended surfaces, heat pipes, phase change fluids, fans, or hydraulic circuits are applied. However, the ever-improving knowledge on nano- to microscopic systems brings substantially higher power densities, with potentially transient,  fluctuating or migrating hot or cold spots, and thus new requirements for thermal management.

With the improving knowledge in solid state physics and material science, new fundamental principles in thermal sciences have been discovered, which can lead to tuneable thermal properties of materials. Both, the solids and fluids can be tailored into different types of thermal control elements: thermal conduits, thermal resistors, thermal switches, thermal regulators, thermal diodes and thermal capacitors. These elements can manage heat in a manner analogous to how electronic devices control electricity. They can store, block, rectify, guide and control the intensity of heat flux or its direction. By combining these elements into integrated circuits new thermal management principles can be established in different applications, from thermal management of energy conversion devices in space,

sensors and detection systems, devices which deal with thermally sensitive biological tissues, to energy conversion and thermal energy storage systems, including the power train. In the most straightforward direction of applications, thermal control elements (TCEs) and circuits represent an important part of future’s thermal management of (micro)electronic devices and systems. However, our understanding of thermal control elements is at the very beginning, and the thermal control circuits have not been yet developed.

To develop thermal circuits toward realistic applications, the knowledge on potential materials, mechanisms, and coupling phenomena is strongly required. To bring the existing and new knowledge into realistic devices, it is indispensable to develop the World’s first open source numerical tool for simulation and evaluation of thermal control elements and thermal control circuits, before they can be tested in real environment. The main goal of this project is to develop such open source numerical tool with constantly updated library of materials or composites (their properties), and TCEs (their features), as well as with the possibility to form, design and evaluate thermal control and thermal logic circuits. Because of the broadness of the research field, the first version of the tool will be dedicated to numerical analysis of potential solid-state refrigeration systems, heat pumping and power generation on a small scale, and solid-state thermal management of power- and micro-electronic devices. The tool will be developed in a manner that will enable later upgrading with other types of systems, such as (micro)fluidic thermal management systems, micro-cooling and heat pump systems based on gases or liquids. Therefore, later versions of the tool are expected to enable much larger spectrum of potential applications.

The tool will represent a ground basis for the evaluation of transient and steady state features of newly tailored designs. It will serve as a solid foundation for researchers dealing with thermal management, as well as a platform that will connect researchers from different fields (e.g. material science, chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering, solid state physics). Each user will be able to add characteristics of their TCEs into the tool’s library to share experiences and gained knowledge with others.