Liquids take heat off power systems

The European Commission has invested £5.5m in UK-led research on nanoparticle-containing liquids that could improve the cooling capabilities of power systems without adding new components to existing system designs.

The NanoHex project will develop and commercialise nanothermal fluids, which are liquids that contain nanoparticles. The specific nanoparticulate materials make the fluids extremely efficient for heat transfer applications. The NanoHex consortium consists of academics and industry figures, including Siemens and Birmingham University.

The technology is expected to find applications in trains, electric vehicles and renewable power. Project coordinator David Mullen, from anoHex’s lead partner, Northumberland-based Thermacore Europe, said the main challenge will be to demonstrate the ability to scale up the production of nanofluids, which have currently only been developed for small lab experiments.

’Instead of only producing a few litres, we will be able to produce hundreds,’ he added.

Yet Mullen said it will be key to demonstrate there will be industry demand for these fluids. The NanoHex team will initially target the use of nanofluid coolants for data centres and high-performance electronics.

’We are targeting IGBT cooling, which is used in electric trains for example,’ he added. ’These are electrical switches that generate a lot of heat. We’re hoping to be able to replace traditionalcoolant with nanofluid coolant and enhance its performance.’

Mullen said the European Commission’s funding of the NanoHex consortium’s 3.5-year project shows its confidence that nanotechnology will open up industry opportunities for Europe.

’The European commission has recognised that the upscaling of nanotechnologies whether it is coolant or other nanotechnology is an important aspect of furthering the technology,’ he said.