Optimizing heat-absorption efficiency of phase change materials by mimicking leaf vein morphology

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Low efficiency of heat conduction and absorption is a key problem to restrict the application of phase change materials (PCMs). Foam metals, which work as random heat transfer networks, are often used to improve the thermal conductivity of PCMs. But further improvements are still required in engineering. Interestingly, random micro-channels also widely exist in natural heat and mass transfer systems (e.g., minor veins of leaves and blood capillaries) that always appear with ordered branching networks of macro-channels. But the ordered branching networks, which perform as efficient transfer networks, are rare in metal-foam-enhanced PCMs. Therefore, this work enhances the PCMs’ heat-absorption efficiency by constructing heat transfer networks mimicking leaf veins. Given the gap that there lack trusted design criteria to design the heat transfer networks, we propose an innovative optimization criterion mimicking the generating process of leaf veins. Combine the criterion with an original flexibility-oriented optimization framework, a generating design method is established. The optimization performance is discussed in point-area PCM structures. Compared with the metal-foam-enhanced PCM plate, the heat-absorption efficiency of the generating-based PCM plate is increased to 196.67% in concentrating heat from the PCMs, and the heat-absorption efficiency is also enhanced for more than 3.79 times in dispersing heat to the PCMs. With these improvements, the proposed method is applied in cooling high-power electronic devices which solves the overheating problem and prolongs the working time to 400.00%. Further applications can be expended to PCM-cooling systems, heat pump, collection and output of solar energy and waste heat, etc.

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Applied Energy

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