Researchers Focus on New Ways to Cool Hybrid and Electric Automobiles

New Ways to Cool Hybrid and Electric Automobiles

Purdue University and the Toyota Research Institute of North America have collaborated to come up with a new ways to cool hybrid and electric vehicles. Their new technology has put them in the running for the 2016 Research and Development 100 award. The Purdue research group National Science Foundation Cooling Technologies Research Center which was created in the late 1990’s and consists of various companies, government researchers and Purdue University scientists was able to figure out a solution to the heat generated by electric vehicles. Their research resulted in a smaller product that cools very efficiently.

Suresh Garimella who created the Purdue research center and serves as VP of Research as well as being recognized for his work as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering says the new technology is a result of collaboration with more than 40 companies with experts on making cooling technology smaller and more efficient. He also says that what he is most proud of is how many students pursuing degrees at Purdue have been able to take part in the research and work along the scientists and other experts.

History: Searching Ways to Cool Hybrid and Electric Automobiles

Toyota reached out to the Purdue research center 5 years ago looking to find a way to more efficiently cool the electronic equipment in hybrid and electric vehicles. Matthew Rau started working on the project while working towards his Ph.D and focused on “jet impingement technology”. Matt was able to work closely with researchers at Toyota at their Ann Arbor, Michigan location and he took what he learned and shared it with researchers at Purdue. The benefit of this collaboration is that people like Matt are able to get real life experience in the research field and not just work in the theoretical. Matthew Rau earned his Ph.D in mechanical engineering in 2016 and is working with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

The results of the Purdue center research is a high performing cold plate design with two operating phases that efficiently cools the equipment in hybrid and electrical vehicles. This system operates by sending the coolant to the equipment needing cooled via a cooling plate. The plates are meant to let the cooling liquid boil on them which means the cooling is faster and the cool temperatures are kept steady throughout the entire vehicle operating system. This is done with “jet impingement” which means that the flow of the coolant sends it over the hot areas of the vehicles which helps with transferring heat.

This cooling system is very small, about 2” in diameter, and can keep the electronic systems of hybrid and electric vehicles that operate at a 100 watts per cm squared (the same as the amount of heat created by 10 100 watt light bulbs in a single square centimeter). That is a pretty amazing! No other type of electronics including mobile phones or laptop computers are able to do the same thing. The quarter of a decade spent studying jet impingement is what allowed this development.

This new cooling system works better than previous attempts because the cold plate has a copper coating and pin like fins that allow the coolant to flow more efficiently and to get through to the part of the vehicle that needs to be cooled. There have been two patent applications filed for this technology and now another one has been filed for this specific discovery. Eric Dede and Shailesh Joshi are the scientists who are listed on the patent application and they are also listed on the Research and Development 100 application.

The center that helped develop this new technology has been recognized by several groups for their work. They were awarded the NSF Industry/University cooperate Research Center Award for Technological Innovation. An Indiana research and technology group gave the center almost $4 million to assist them with the development of this new cooling equipment for hybrid and electric vehicles. The center is in the running for the R&D 100 award which recognizes the 100 top new technological innovations of the year. This award is very highly prized among researchers. The center is proud of their work and their efforts to work with the private sector and government agencies that has led them to being nominated for this award.

The center has worked with close to 200 undergraduate and graduate students on this project. The students gain the benefit of participating in real life research that has a significant effect on the economy. This experience will be of great value to them when they go to look for work in the future.


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