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NZ academics create game-changing 3D-printed heat exchangers

NZ academics create game-changing 3D-printed heat exchangers

Two University of Canterbury (UC) academics have come up with original technology to create high-performance heat exchangers, which could be a game changer in design and efficiency.

Professor Conan Fee and Dr Tim Huber have won one of five prizes in UC’s annual Tech Jumpstart competition, which awards $20,000 over six months to take innovative research towards commercial reality.

Using 3D-printing technology, the pair’s project offers new possibilities for motorsport, air conditioning and laptop processors where cooling can take place faster in radical new shapes while providing increasingly important reductions in weight.

The saving of space and weight – and therefore cost – will allow for smaller electronic devices, faster and more fuel-efficient vehicles, smaller footprints for home heating or cooling, and prevent laptops from overheating while placed on your lap.

Additionally, designs can be made in shapes that go beyond conventional cylindrical or rectangular shapes and can therefore be modelled for aerodynamics or to fit within unusual constrained shapes.

Professor Fee, Head of the University of Canterbury’s new School of Product Design, says the work is a great example of a cross-disciplinary research group that has involved chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

“This will facilitate the development of some promising technology that is expected to improve the efficiency of devices meant for heating or cooling,” he says.

“That includes smaller and lighter devices for electronics, giving racing cars a competitive advantage, provide for lighter aerospace vehicles, and smaller, more attractive heat pumps in homes amongst other things.

“The growth of 3D printing for new applications is exponential and it is stimulating a huge set of opportunities for new designs that were not previously possible. Our 3D-printed porous heat exchangers are an example of something that cannot be made by conventional technologies but is now possible, expanding our thinking and potentially growing innovation in New Zealand.”

The award will enable its inventors to employ research assistance over summer and allow use of a 3D printer to manufacture the designed structures from stainless steel or titanium.

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