Thermal engineering is a sub discipline of mechanical and chemical engineering that deals with the mechanism of heat transfer and energy conversion. Based on the laws of thermodynamics, thermal engineering is an important part of manufacturing any machine. Thermal engineering is a fairly new branch of engineering and so are the problems expected to be solved by this branch. Below are the few modern problems that are trying to find solutions in thermal engineering
Energy conservation and efficiency
The global energy demand is expected to increase, and energy conservation and improvement in efficiency are considered to be important means of controlling the demand
of energy. Some of the newer innovations required are development of new generation heat exchangers, recouperators, etc. that use advanced technologies, development of advanced thermal energy, storage technologies, promotion of promising industrial/ manufacturing opportunities, and exploration of ways to increase efficiency of thermal-power generating plants.
Creating zero energy buildings
With continued trends for indoor environment there are significant opportunities for thermal engineers not only to improve personalized human comfort in buildings and to reduce energy consumption, but also at the same time to take advantage of the outdoor environment, climate and availability of solar energy. This includes architectural heating and cooling design features of “zero energy homes” and environmentally / energy efficient buildings.
The conversion of solar radiation into electricity has been dominated by solar thermal power generation and photovoltaic (PV). Photovoltaic cells are deployed widely, mostly as flat panels, whereas solar-thermal electricity generation relies on optical concentrators and mechanical engines. Here, we focus on the latter method, because it requires important input from thermal engineers, such as storage of thermal energy.
Enabling of renewable energy technologies
Recently, significant progress has been made in improving thermoelectric materials, but the application of thermoelectric in large-scale renewable energy conversion has not been demonstrated and remains a challenge. The humanity is facing significant challenges in meeting the energy needs for the growing population, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources and reducing CO2 emissions. Thermal engineers can help us come up with long term sustainable energy solutions.
Combining thermal sciences and nano technology
Nanoscale heat and mass transport at different interfaces is an important scientific and engineering challenge remaining to the explored. Heat transfer in small scale, ultrafast heat transfer, nano / microscale thermal radiation, experimental heat transfer on micro- and nanoscale are some additional challenges.
Energy is the most basic underlying entity in the world and many of the modern challenges need an innovation from thermal sciences for the world to be a better place to live in.