Thermoelectric couples are solid-state devices capable of generating electrical power from a temperature gradient (known as the Seebeck effect) or converting electrical energy into a temperature gradient (known as the Peltier effect). Thermoelectric coolers, being solid state devices, have no moving parts which makes them inherently reliable and ideal for cooling components in a system sensitive to mechanical vibration. The ability to use TECs to heat as well as cool makes them suitable for applications requiring temperature stabilization of a device over a specified temperature range.

SINDA/FLUINT (Ref 1-7) is the NASA-standard heat transfer and fluid flow analyzer for thermal control systems. Because of its general formulation, it is also used in other aerospace specialties such as environmental control (ECLSS) and liquid propulsion, and in terrestrial industries such as electronics packaging, refrigeration, power generation, and transportation industries.

This paper describes revolutionary advances in SINDA/FLUINT, the NASA-standard heat transfer and fluid flow analyzer, changing it from a traditional point-design simulator into a tool that can help shape preliminary designs, rapidly perform parametrics and sensitivity studies, and even correlate modeling uncertainties using available test data.

Thermal analysis is typically performed using a point design approach, where a single model is analyzed one analysis case at a time. Changes to the system design are analyzed by updating the thermal radiation and conduction models by hand, which can become a bottleneck when attempting to adopt a concurrent engineering approach. This paper presents the parametric modeling features that have been added to Thermal DesktopTM to support concurrent engineering. The thermal model may now be characterized by a set of design variables that are easily modified to reflect system level design changes.

Thermal engineering has long been left out of the concurrent engineering environment dominated by CAD (computer aided design) and FEM (finite element method) software.  Current tools attempt to force the thermal design process into an environment primarily created to support structural analysis, which results in inappropriate thermal models. As a result, many thermal engineers either build models “by hand” or use geometric user interfaces that are separate from and have little useful connection, if any, to CAD and FEM systems.