Optimization and Fabrication of Heat Exchangers for High-Density Power Control Unit Applications

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Virginia Tech

The demand for more power and performance from electronic equipment has constantly been growing resulting in an increased amount of heat dissipation from these devices. Thermal management of high-density power control units for hybrid electric vehicles is one such application. Over the last few years, the performance of this power control unit has been improved and size has been reduced to attain higher efficiency and performance causing the heat dissipation as well as heat density to increase significantly. However, the overall cooling system has remained unchanged and only the heat exchanger corresponding to the power control unit (PCU) has been improved. This has allowed the manufacturing costs to go down. Efforts are constantly being made to reduce the PCU size even further and also to reduce manufacturing costs. As a consequence, heat density will go up (~ 200 – 250 W/cm2) and thus, a better high performance cooler/heat exchanger is required that can operate under the existing cooling system design and at the same time, maintain active devices temperature within optimum range (<120 – 125 °C) for higher reliability.

The aim of this dissertation was to study the various cooling options based on jet impingement, mini-channel, ribbed mini-channel, phase change material and double sided cooling configurations for application in hybrid electric vehicle and other similar consumer products and perform parametric and optimization study on selected designs. Detailed experimental and computational analysis was performed on different cooling designs to evaluate overall performance. Severe constraints such as choice of coolant, coolant flow-rate, pressure drop, minimum geometrical size and operating temperature were required for the overall design. High performance jet impingement based cooler design with incorporated fin-like structures induced swirl and provided enhanced local heat transfer compared to traditional cooling designs. However, the cooling scheme could manage only 97.4% of the target effectiveness. Tapered/nozzle-shaped jets based designs showed promising results (~40% reduction in overall pressure drop) but were not sufficient to meet the overall operating temperature requirement. Various schemes of mini-channel arrangement, which were based on utilizing conduction and convection heat transfer in a conjugate mode, demonstrated improved performance over that of impingement cooling schemes. Impingement and mini-channel based designs were combined to show high heat transfer rates but at the expense of higher pressure drops (~5 times). As an alternate, mini-channel based coolers with ~1.5 mm size channels having trip strips or ribs were studied to accommodate the design constraints and to enhance local as well as overall heat transfer rates and achieve the target operating temperature.

A step by step approach to the development of the heat exchanger is provided with an emphasis on system level design. The computational based optimization methodology is confirmed by a fabricated test bed to evaluate overall performance and compare the predicted results with actual performance.

Additionally, one of the impingement based configuration (Swirl-Impingement-Fin) developed during the course of this work was applied to the internal cooling of a turbine blade trailing edge and was shown to enhance the thermal performance by at least a factor of 2 in comparison to the existing pin-fin technology for the conditions studied in this work.

Electronic cooling, Swirl-impingement-Fin, Jet Impingement, Ribbed Mini-channel, Automotive Application, Power Converters for HEV, Thermal Management, Turbine Blade Internal Cooling