Engineers have developed a technical device that is 10 times smaller than conventional, but 55% more efficient than the market-leading analogue. Details of the development are given in the journal Applied Thermal Engineering.

The efficiency of the system is related to the cubic shape of the surface. The heat exchanger sucks in water through a core dotted with tiny holes. The microstructure itself is made from a simple photopolymer using a sophisticated 3D printer. The resulting heat exchanger is a compact cube measuring 32.2 mm on each side and weighing only 8 g. The porosity is 80%.

X-ray computed tomography confirmed that the heat exchanger has no defects.

By passing water through the device, the researchers were able to demonstrate changes in the temperature of the liquid flowing through it from 10 to 20ºC. The flow rate ranged from 100 to 270 mm/min.

Experimental results show a 55% increase in heat exchanger efficiency compared to the thermodynamically equivalent, most efficient counterflow heat exchanger. At the same time, the prototype is only one tenth the size of a conventional device.

The development was carried out by an international team of scientists led by Dr. Shanmugam Kumar from the University of Glasgow.

“The ability to develop smaller, lighter, more efficient heat exchangers can help us develop refrigeration systems that require less power, for example, or high-performance engines that can be cooled more efficiently. We are interested in further development of this technology through future research,” the scientists say.

“We have been working for several years to find new applications for this type of micro-architectural 3D printed grids. We have already demonstrated how they can be used for applications such as recyclable high-performance batteries and the development of future smart medical devices such as prosthetics and braces,” said Dr. Kumar. “This latest work shows that we can use these gyroid array architectures to create a material with a surprisingly high surface area to volume ratio that is very heat transfer friendly.”