Concerning fluid thermodynamics, heat transfer fluids can be either a liquid or a gas that takes part in transferring heat by acting as a crucial intermediary. The heat transfer fluid acts as a coolant on one side of the transferring process, and then transports and stores thermal energy, before providing heat on the other side of the process.
Today, heat transfer fluids are utilised in countless different applications and specialist industrial processes that require heating, cooling action or both, usually inside a closed circuit and within continuous cycles.
Simple examples of common heat transfer use involve a supply of cold water used to cool down a vehicle’s engine, so it does not become over heated during internal combustion, and a supply of warm water in a hydronic underfloor heating system that heats the pipes up, raising room temperatures to comfortable levels.
Different types of heat transfer fluids
The least expensive heat transfer fluid is water, making it a commonly used option when applicable. However, water does not have a broad operating temperature range. As a result, water is often mixed with other chemicals to enhance its operating capabilities, or an oil, synthetic oil, or glycol may be used to offer improved performance under extremely high or low temperatures.
Preferred characteristics of high-quality heat transfer fluids
Modern heat transfer fluids designed by leading manufacturers for use in process pipework are always formulated to provide several main functions. These include the efficient movement of either hot or cold thermal energy, directing it from one part of a specific process to another. Another key characteristic is minimal energy consumption required for pumpability. Effective thermal energy transfer along with low pumping-energy consumption can have a positive and direct impact on both return on investment and coefficient of performance.
Dependable heat transfer fluids should also provide the long-term preservation of system components, pipework and capital equipment. They provide this by offering protection against corrosion caused by galvanic activity and oxidation in systems prone to cavitation. Further chemical measures can sometimes be adopted that can reduce erosion.
Heat transfer fluids should also provide effective control of any biological activity present, which can severely impact heat transfer rates if left unchecked and lead to heightened risk of process contamination or human infection.
Finally, fluids must cause minimal impact to the environment in terms of biodegradability, production and toxicity to both human beings and the environment.