It’s been hot in London this past week – we’re expecting a high of 33C or 90F+ today (despite my living here for a few years I still don’t understand Celsius and often find myself doing mental arithmetic to convert the figures to Fahrenheit). Now I’m lucky because I get to drive to/from work in an air-conditioned car but I feel for my fellow London commuters who use the Tube (the underground) in this heat. The first line was opened back in the 1860s and the network has expanded to carry more than 5+ million people around London. Unfortunately (and as far as I know), with the exception of the Jubliee line (the newest line) none of the underground trains have air con so it gets hot in there. And to make matters worse, the Tube wasn’t originally designed to ferry so many people (a game of sardines anyone?) so the combination of heat, humidity and overcrowding is not something I relish and avoid at all costs.
Hot weather was probably not on the forefront of the minds of the designers of this system because back in the 1800s temperatures on the average were a lot lower than what we experience now. If you’re curious to see how much lower, then check out this short animated movie representing the predicted temperature rise through to 2100. You’ll have to scroll down half-way down the page to the section titled Climate Change Projections. BTW these predictions were made by the Met Office in England which is responsible for all matters relating to weather forecasts. Anyway, we know that modern life has contributed to global warming so it stands to reason that any activity that reduces our impact on the planet while helping businesses create better products, faster and less expensively has got to be a good thing.
While we often hear about simulation and its role in improving product performance, we rarely talk about the impact of simulation on planet earth. With the help of simulation, design engineers can create products that not only perform better, but they do it more efficiently. Increased efficiency results in a lower demand for resources such as raw material and electricity. So it’s easy to see how it can have a significant impact on the environment.
Many companies have proven that it can be done. One such company is Bronswerk Heat Transfer BV which designs and manufactures air-cooled coolers that are used as process coolers in the oil and gas as well as chemical industries. They have become the supplier of choice for companies such as Shell, Exxon Mobil, Bayer, Philips, Unocal and Texaco. Their fans range from 2 to 10 meters in diameter and cool heat exchangers which are also extremely large – often as big as a building. While designing a new generation of these industrial cooler systems and fans, the engineering team at Bronswerk faced a difficult challenge: to develop a new cooler and fan and make them as quiet as possible to meet stringent environmental standards. To further complicate the matter, the new fan design needed to cope with a wide range of environmental (wind gusts and building interference), fluids and pressure conditions.
The company used CAD-embedded CFD software to develop new air-cooled coolers and innovative fans with the potential to make an enormous impact in industries requiring a “greener” solution. While traditionally such apparatus has a thermodynamic efficiency of up to 60%, their new designs based on the new fan achieve up to 80% efficiency. The potential energy savings worldwide can be staggering as their product can save 15% of the electricity it uses. These savings could result in 20% savings in generation capacity in Holland alone over the course of 10 years. “Our challenge was to develop the quietest cooler system. The added efficiency was an additional and unexpected huge benefit. Sometimes when you want to improve something you can’t just improve it a little bit. You need a large improvement to breakthrough into uncharted territories” said Guus Bertels, a Senior Engineer at Bronswerk.
Wow… now that is cool. If you’d like to read more about Mr. Bertel’s project, please follow this link.
Until next time,