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A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat

exchanger using CFD

Amresh Gyanathan1
University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy

Effective cooling system design is important in the endurance event of the FSAE-A
competition. Research into sidepod design and radiator fan optimisation requires further
attention. To provide a further understanding on the aerodynamic effects of a sidepod
two investigations were performed using CFD. The first investigation identified that high
turbulence intensity levels created more uncertainty in predicting the radiator pressure
drops. Velocity of the airflow vary around bends in the sidepod. The airflow is
accelerated around the convex corners and decelerated around the concave corners.
Turbulence levels dissipate slower around convex corners. The deviation of radiator
pressure drops obtained using CFD from MUR's experimental results was more
significant if inlet flows were more turbulent. The second investigation illustrated that
high degrees of curvature in a sidepod may lead to internal flow separation. The latter
will occur if the diameter of curvature is too small or the separation length is too large.
Validating using data obtained from MUR may not be comprehensive, hence, raising the
importance for experimental testing to validate CFD results. RNG k- model proved its
resilience in all cases simulated. This thesis forms the foundation for future research and
design of sidepods in FSAE cars.


Background Information
A. Contribution to cooling system design
B. Sidepod and radiator flowfield discussion
C. Heat exchanger modelling in FLUENT
D. Turbulence modelling in FLUENT
III. Methodology
A. Effects of inlet turbulence
B. Effects of varying curvature
IV. Results
A. Effects of inlet turbulence
B. Effects of varying curvature
V. Modification & further results
A. Effects of inlet turbulence
B. Effects of varying curvature
VI. Verification & validation of results
A. Effects of inlet turbulence
B. Effects of varying curvature
VII. Extension to current work
VIII. Conclusion

FSAE-A = Formula Society of Automotive Engineers-Australasia

LTA (RSAF), School of Engineering & Information Technology. ZEIT4500/4501.

A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA




Computational Fluid Dynamics

Computer Aided Design
Original Equipment Manufacturers
Melbourne University Racing
Renormalized Group
Finite Volume Method
Pressure loss coefficient
Viscous inertial resistance factor
Inertial resistance factor

I. Introduction
The FSAE-A competition is organised annually for all competing universities in the Australasia region. The
Academy Racing team is a regular participant of this competition. In this competition there are several events
that allow judges to assess and rank teams accordingly. The endurance event is assessed by pushing the car to its
limits by surviving 34 laps of the autocross track. This event forms 35% of the overall score and is of paramount
importance for all competitive teams [1]. In the 2010 FSAE-A competition the Academy Racing team placed
7th overall and 8th in the endurance event [2]. To improve this score, further design considerations can be
implemented into improving the cooling system of the car. In the FSAE-A competition in 2010, cost
optimization of the cooling system was part of the cost judging criteria. This was included in the combined score
awarded to the participating teams. In the 2010 FSAE-A competition, Academy Racing's WS10 car achieved a
score of 71.2 out of 100 [2]. This result can also be further improved upon. Thus, improving the cooling system
design will be necessary to perform better at subsequent FSAE-A competitions. This project aims to provide an
understanding into the aerodynamic considerations associated with sidepod flows, thus, contributing in part to
the overall cooling system design for the Academy Racing team's car.

II. Background Information

A. Contribution to cooling system design
In a FSAE cooling system design, three main aspects are usually considered. The first aspect is identifying
the heat loss and generation coefficients for each component in the cooling system and integrating them in a
heating circuit. The rate of heat generation and loss of various components in the cooling system have to be
studied along with the coolant flow rates under different conditions. Test driving under adverse atmospheric and
lap conditions may be conducted to give a worst-case scenario that accounts for factors such as slipstream of
leading cars, enforced slow running at high engine power, etc. This test drive will provide the measurements for
a thermally stable lap of the race-circuit, whereby total engine heat generated in one lap is equal to the total heat
dissipated by the radiator in that same lap.
The second aspect is to study the heat transfer characteristics of the radiator. This has to be done by both
experimental testing and CFD analysis for more complex experimental procedures. data obtained from the
former will be used to validate the latter. Coolant of various operating temperatures, pressures and velocities are
also modelled to identify the heat transfer characteristics of the radiator.
The third aspect is the integration of a radiator into a duct and testing the aerodynamic performance of it.
The design of the duct will factor in considerations such as varying cross-section areas throughout the duct,
varying degrees of curvature of the duct, varying inlet and outlet sizes and their locations with respect to the
aerodynamic interaction with the rest of the car. Test data can be used to validate the CFD analysis of this
ducted flow. In motorsport, such ducts are often termed as sidepods and are either situated front-on (ram air
ducted) or side-on (side air ducted) [3]. This project produces an end state that contributes towards the design of
an FSAE cooling system. It should be noted that such a contribution is made in part of the aerodynamic study of
ducted heat exchanger flows; one of the aspects of the FSAE cooling system design.
B. Sidepod and radiator flowfield discussion
The FSAE car is a racing car of a rear engine design. As such, the best ways to fit the radiator with the rest
of the car would be to have it mounted above the engine or in front of the engine. However, having the radiator
at these two locations comes with severe disadvantages. For a radiator situated above the engine, there is an
absence of consistent flow of air through the radiator as the region just above the engine has negligible airflow
(dead-air). This results in ineffective heat dissipation by the radiator. Furthermore, if the radiator is located at
the front of the engine (i.e. side of car or front of car), the acceleration and deceleration of the car will disrupt
the flow in the cooling ducts, thus, making it more intermittent. This is due to the inertia of the moving coolant
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

failing to accelerate or decelerate in time. This leads to other problems associated with intermittent pipe flows
(e.g. cavitation of coolant, coolant backflow, etc.). Sidepods are designed to overcome these problems. The
design of sidepods will be able to provide a dedicated air intake for heat dissipation of the radiator [4].
Radiator efficiency is affected by the pressure variation across it. This is in turn determined by the velocity
of the airflow through it. The sidepod has an overall pressure difference between the ends (i.e. inlet and outlet).
This pressure difference varies during different external flow conditions. If there is a pressure drop large enough
across the sidepod, then there will be a flow velocity through the radiator that maximises its heat dissipation. If
the pressure difference across the sidepod is not large enough, there will be inadequate airflow through the
radiator. To overcome this, a radiator fan can be modelled to provide the necessary airflow through the radiator
in all stages of operation. The radiator fan provides the necessary driving force by creating a pressure gradient
that pushes or pulls airflow through the radiator even in adverse situations. [5] states that equation 1 can be used
to compute the pressure drop across the radiator solely by considering the pressure loss coefficient, k L, and
normal airflow velocity on radiator surface, v.
It is found that a large kL value and a large increase in airflow velocity from the inlet of the sidepod to the
plane surface of the radiator produce the best cooling performance [6]. The latter can be achieved by intelligent
optimisation of the sidepod geometry by creating regions that speed up the airflow. [6] also states that the inlet
of the sidepod should not be made to be of a converging nature. This is to prevent the generation of backflow
and vortices upstream of the sidepod and flow separation on the exterior near the inlet of the sidepod. The speed
of natural airflow at the inlet of the sidepod is limited by the velocity of the race car along the autocross track. In
a typical track, the front velocity of the car is not expected to exceed 100 km/h, owing to the lack of straights in
the track [7]. As such the airflow at the inlet of the sidepod does not exceed 30 m/s, and hence, is
incompressible. This allows for commonly known equations (i.e. steady flows, Bernoullis equation &
continuity equation) to be used and model the airflow of a FSAE sidepod.
Sidepods often have varying degrees of curvature and cross-section areas to allow for optimised airflow
through the radiators. By varying the inlet, duct and outlet geometries of the sidepod, the internal airflow can be
studied and used to a design engineers advantage [5]. To achieve best cooling performance, a higher air mass
flow rate into the sidepod has to be obtained. However, from the perspective of vehicle aerodynamic drag, a
minimum amount of airflow should be diverted from the main flowfield around the car into the sidepod [8]. [8]
also mentions that considerations have to be made for outlet geometries of sidepods to prevent the loss of
downforce on the car. Outlet airflow design should also be considered as this airflow must not increase the
pressure of the low pressure region underneath the car to an unacceptable level.
The free-stream natural airflow entering a FSAE car sidepod is disturbed by several effects. One of them is
the turbulence generated from the rotation of the front wheels. The front wheels of the car of the Academy
Racing team are situated just to the front of the inlet of the sidepod. The effect of a rotating wheel on the inlet
turbulence of a side-pod varies with the velocity at which the free stream airflow is acting on the rotating wheel
[9]. This leads to a variety of inlet turbulence generation at the inlet. This can be modelled in ANSYS FLUENT
and further details can be found in the turbulence modelling section.
C. Heat exchanger modelling in FLUENT
The Academy Racing team uses a Borland Racing radiator used previously in the Formula Ford race cars.
No data for this radiator or other similar types of radiators within the same class could be obtained readily from
OEM. This means the only way to obtain heat transfer and pressure loss coefficients would be from the
experimental testing of the Borland radiator. From this testing, we can identify the pressure loss coefficient, k L,
and heat loss coefficient, h. Using equation 1, the pressure variation can then be estimated for a variety of
velocities. A quadratic curve of best fit can then be used to model the pressure variation distribution to be
analysed for porous media parameters. Section of the ANSYS FLUENT user guide recommends the
use of two equations, 7-2 and 7-25 of the user guide (reflected here as equations 2 and 3 respectively) [10].
These two equations, when combined, culminate in equation 4. In these equations, S i represents the momentum
source term, n represents the radiator thickness,
represents the viscous inertial resistance factor and C2 is
the inertial resistance factor. The coefficients found from the quadratic curve of best fit can now be used to find
and C2, which are used as inputs for the porous media region.
| | )
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

| | )
The FSAE team from MUR has performed experimental testing on their car radiator (similar class of
radiators) and have obtained a fourth-order polynomial fit for their results as shown in figure 1 [6]. Seeing that
the operating range of a FSAE race car exceeds a forward velocity of 5 m/s, This polynomial fit was then
compared for a larger velocity range to ensure that it would follow a similar trend to the experimental results.
This extrapolation of kL is found in figure 2.
From figure 2, it can be seen clearly that for
Figure 2. Extrapolation
Figure 1. Fourth order
velocities after 6 m/s the fourth-order
polynomial fit for kL from
of polynomial.
polynomial fit does not follow a similar trend
as the experimental results. In order to obtain
a curve of best-fit that adheres to the trend of
the experimental data, a power-law model
was used. This model is found in equation 5.
This was substituted into equation 1 and a
series of loss coefficient values, kL, were
plotted against the normal velocity. These
Figure 4. Plot of
Figure 3. Power-law model
quadratic curve of best-fit
for kL versus velocity
and this is expressed in equation 6. This
using cftool function in
showing conformal to trend
quadratic expression is modelled to a 95%
obtained from experimental
confidence level using a MATLAB function
called cftool. The coefficients of equations 6
were then compared with those obtained from
equation 4 to find
and C2, which will
then be used as the porous media inputs. This
comes from assuming that the radiator is
fitted tightly around the walls of the sidepod,
such that all airflow must flow through the
radiator, that the operating pressure was
assumed to be at 101 325Pa (1 standard
atmosphere) and that kL observed the same
trend for all velocities. Figure 3 shows the
power law approximation of kL versus velocity, while figure 4 shows how p is modelled via the cftool
Figure 5. Coarse mesh showing
upstream (green), radiator (blue) and
downstream (pink) zones.

D. Turbulence modelling in FLUENT

The surroundings of the sidepod is exposed to turbulent
flows. Turbulence intensity captures the level of turbulence
in such flows. It represents the ratio of the root-meansquare of velocity fluctuations to the mean flow velocity
[11]. Airflow through a FSAE car sidepod resemble that of
a low speed flow through large pipes. As such, the
turbulence intensity of such a flow normally does not
exceed 5% [12]. Additional consideration should also be
Figure 6. Sliced section of mesh showing
made for the external turbulence generated by the front
upstream, radiator and downstream zones
wheels and ground effects around the sidepod inlet when
having a conformal mesh.
performing CFD analysis. Sidepods have varying degrees
of curvature depending on the design requirements. As
such, a turbulence model that is most suitable for high
curvature flows is chosen. The RNG k- model was found
to be most suitable for such flows [13]. Despite the
effectiveness of the RNG k- model for high curvature
flows, a backup model will be considered as a precaution
when the former fails to provide a solution that converges
to an acceptable value. It is also recommended that the realizable k- model is more resilient for flows
undergoing high mathematical constraints [14][15]. This model will be used when the RNG k- model fails.

A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

III. Methodology
A. Effects of inlet turbulence
It is evident that sidepod inlet turbulence and velocities vary during different stages of the
autocross/endurance events. Hence, it was pertinent to conduct an investigation into the airflow effects of
varying sidepod inlet turbulence intensities and velocities. Pressure variations, velocities and turbulence
intensities were measured for various regions downstream of the sidepod. A general design of a sidepod was
created from CATIA and mesh in ANSYS. Adopting the FVM, the initial coarse mesh created had 36, 960
nodes and 34, 338 elements. Figures 5 and 6 show this mesh created and a cut section through the mesh.
Consideration was made to
Figure 7. CAD model (left) designed with S-bend and CAD sketch
ensure that the different zones
(right) showing how the S-bend was varied.
of the mesh were conformed to
having identical faces along
zone interfaces. This promoted
better solution convergence
rates and more accurate results.
After which, the mesh was
imported into FLUENT. The
inlet conditions of the sidepod were varied
Figure 8. Table of parameters used for varying cases.
according to four different velocities (5, 10, 20,
30 m/s) and turbulence intensities (1, 3, 6, 10
Diameter of
Inlet turbulence Inlet velocity No. of
%) respectively. Temperature variation across
curvature (mm)
length (mm)
intensity (%)
the duct was not measured and as such no pre400, 500, 600
100, 200
1, 10
20, 30
formulation of temperature related coefficients
was necessary. The sidepod pressure variations were not measured, as the results obtained from the CFD
simulations will show that the conditions that were simulated were of an internal flow nature without any
external influences. External influences are crucial in dictating the pressure drop across the sidepod.

B. Effects of varying curvature

A second investigation was performed to explore the effects of varying sidepod duct curvature on the
velocity flowfield and pressure variations along the sidepod. With this, a generic design was created using
CATIA similar to the first investigation. In this sidepod design, an S-bend was included upstream of the design
before the airflow reaches the radiator. The dimensions of the
Figure 9. Longitudinal section plane
S-bend include the curvature diameter, which was varied for
creation using FLUENT plane tool.
400mm, 500mm and 600mm, and displacement length, which
was varied for 100mm and 200mm. This setup can be found
in figure 7. It can be seen that the smaller the diameter of
curvature, the tighter the S-bend will be. This will cause
further complications in airflow and will create more
distinctive velocity, pressure and turbulence intensity
variations along the sidepod. The displacement length
determines if the airflow flows through a sharp bend over a
longer distance or a shorter
Figure 10. Velocity magnitude (left) and absolute pressure (right)
contour plots for the case of 30 m/s and 10 % velocity and
As with the first investigation,
turbulence intensity respectively.
a FVM mesh was generated
conformity. During the meshing
phase, an initial coarse grid mesh
was performed to gather a
generalised understanding of the
flowfield properties through the
sidepod. This would then provide the basis for a refined mesh generation to further elaborate the results obtained
from the coarse mesh. The mesh was then imported into FLUENT and the approach taken to set up the controls
and parameters is similar to that of the previous investigation. The sidepod inlet conditions were varied as
shown in figure 8. As with the first investigation, temperature effects and the overall pressure differences were

A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

IV. Results
A. Effects of inlet turbulence.
Upon compiling the results of the simulations, the absolute pressure values were found to vary across the
entire cross-section. This comes about due to the presence of velocity changes throughout the interior of the
sidepod. A longitudinal section was taken along the length of the sidepod and along the length of the crosssection face. Figure 9 shows how this longitudinal section was created. Using this longitudinal section, contour
plots of velocity magnitudes and absolute
Figure 11. Turbulence intensity contour plots at different
pressures were found. These are
locations of the sidepod. Sidepod outlet (left-most), radiator
expressed in figure 10. It can be seen in
outlet (2 from the left), radiator inlet (3 ), cross-section plane
figure 10 that the velocity increases
at bend (2 from the right) and sidepod inlet (right-most) are
around the convex (inner) corners and
reflected. The convex corner of the cross-section plane is
decreases around the concave (outer)
located at the bottom, while the concave corner is located on
corners. This can be likened to a
meandering river where the flow of the
water is always fastest on the inside of a
bend owing to the path of least flow
principle can be applied. This leads to a
lower static pressure in the regions of
Figure 12. Velocity contour plot for the cases of
curvature diameter=500mm, inlet velocity=30m/s,
turbulence intensity=10%.Left plot shows the case for
separation length=100mm, right plot shows for
separation length=200mm.

Figure 13. Velocity contour plots for the case of curvature

diameter=400mm, inlet turbulence intensity=10%, inlet
velocity=30m/s. Left plot shows the case of 100mm
separation length while the right plot shows the case for
the 200mm separation length.

Figure 14. Turbulence intensity contour plots along

longitudinal sections at 10% inlet turbulence intensity and
30m/s inlet velocity. Top left plot is for the case of D=400mm,
L=200mm; bottom left is for the case of D=400mm,
L=100mm; top right is for the case of D=500mm, L=200mm;
and bottom right is for the case of D=600mm, L=200mm.

higher velocities and vice versa. The

values of static pressure outweigh
those of dynamic pressure (a function
of the square of velocity) and hence,
this leads to the absolute pressure
contours as shown in figure 10. Figure
10 shows the contour plots for the
specific case of 30 m/s and 10% inlet
velocity and inlet turbulence intensity
respectively. This can be used to a
cooling system designers advantage
by re-orientating the radiator to
receive faster oncoming airflow across
most of the cross section. Moreover,
figure 10 shows insufficient grid
resolution near the boundary layer
region at the sidepod walls. This will
be rectified in the modifications
section where a refined grid mesh will
be used.
Figure 11 shows the turbulence
intensities at various cross-sections for
the case of 10% inlet turbulence
intensity and 30 m/s inlet velocity.
Using FLUENT plane tool, a crosssection profile was created at the bend
closer to the radiator. Figure 11 also
incorporates this profile with that of
the sidepod inlet, radiator inlet,
radiator outlet and the sidepod outlet.
From this figure, the progressive
variation in turbulence intensities
downstream from the sidepod inlet can
be observed. From figure 11, it can be
found that the turbulence intensity
started off at 10% at the sidepod inlet.
By the time the flow reaches the crosssection plane, it has dropped to a

A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

maximum of 8% and a minimum of 6.5%. These values continually decrease across the radiator and through the
aft section behind the radiator component. It is also observed that there is a higher value of turbulence intensity
closer to the concave corner (i.e. the region of lower velocity). This also means that the regions of higher
velocities have a lower value of turbulence intensity. In a sidepod, the radiator can be aligned to receive a higher
velocity flow rate and lower turbulence intensities. It has also become evident that the turbulence dissipation
rate nearer to the walls is much greater than
Figure 15. Absolute pressure (left) and velocity
further away from the walls as shown in figure
magnitude (right) contour plots along the
longitudinal section.

Figure 16. Turbulence intensity profile for the case

of 30 m/s inlet velocity and 10% turbulence
intensity. Left picture represents the filled contour
plot along the longitudinal section, while right
picture represents the filled contour plot across
the cross-section plane at the bend before the
radiator. For the cross-section plane, the convex
corner is at the bottom. For the longitudinal
section, the sidepod inlet is on the right.

Figure 17. Table of

coarse and refined
grid element numbers.
D400 L100
D400 L200
D500 L100
D500 L200
D600 L100
D600 L200

Coarse Refined
Elements Elements

B. Effects of varying curvature.

The velocity contour plot for specific cases
are shown in figure 12. In this figure, for the
case of the longer S-bend separation length, we
can see that a larger proportion of the airflow at
the concave corner closest to the radiator section
is coloured in blue. This increase in the thickness
of slow moving fluid could also be due to flow
separation from its streamlines. Figure 13 shows
how this effect is more pronounced with higher
degrees of curvature.

Taking a look at the turbulence intensity

levels along the longitudinal section of the
sidepod yields results that help prove the
existence of flow separation from its streamlines.
Figure 14 shows several cases in which it is
suspected that airflow separation occurs on the
second concave corner of the S-bend. Observing
all turbulence intensity results, it was found that
for a smaller curvature diameter in the S-bend it is easier to obtain airflow
separation in the second concave corner of the S-bend. This is because for a
smaller curvature diameter the maximum S-bend separation length before
airflow separation occurs is reduced, as a smaller curvature diameter leads to a
tighter bend. The maximum S-bend separation length will prove to be useful in
the conceptual design process of the cooling system in a FSAE competition car.
Furthermore, the turbulence intensities for all cases are found to be higher and
more resilient along convex corners. This is proven in the first corner of the Sbend that the airflow negotiates around for all cases. However, it must be noted
that these levels of turbulence intensities are mild in comparison to those of the
flow separation nature.

Figure 18. Velocity contour plots for curvature

diameter of 500mm at 10% inlet turbulence
intensity and 30m/s inlet velocity. Left plot
shows the case for 100mm separation length,
while the right plot shows the case for 200mm
separation length.

Paying closer attention to the inlet edges on all

cases reflected in figure 14, there is a spike in the
turbulence intensity levels. This can be attributed to
the design of the sidepod geometry to resemble a
curved fillet at the inlet edge. This has caused the
cross-section area to be converging to a minor extent,
thus causing small scale turbulence forming as
vortices [8]. The sensitivity of these vortices can be
seen here on a small extent; however, this may have
more serious consequences if the inlet cross-section
area converges to a greater extent. This should also
be an important consideration in cooling system


V. Modifications & Further Results

A. Effects of inlet turbulence.
Modifications were made to the coarse mesh to enable a more accurate modelling of fluid properties at the
near wall regions. A refined grid mesh was then created with 134, 595 nodes and 316, 569 elements with
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

inflation at the near wall regions of

the mesh. Figure 15 produces the
absolute pressure and velocity
magnitude variations along the
longitudinal section of the
sidepod. The velocity magnitude
profile shows a much smaller
boundary layer thickness than that
in figure 10. This proves that the
refined mesh resolved the solution
at the near wall regions to a good
level. Similar trends are observed
in figures 10 and 15,
Figure 20. Turbulence intensity contour plots along longitudinal sections at 10%
where the velocity of
inlet turbulence intensity and 30m/s inlet velocity. Top left plot is for the case of
the airflow is greater
D=500mm, L=100mm; bottom left is for the case of D=600mm, L=100mm; top
right is for the case of D=500mm, L=200mm; and bottom right is for the case of
pressure is lower at the
D=600mm, L=200mm.
convex corners and
vice versa.
Figure 19. Velocity contour plots for curvature diameter of 600mm
at 10% inlet turbulence intensity and 30m/s inlet velocity. Left plot
shows the case for 100mm separation length, while the right plot
shows the case for 200mm separation length.

Figure 16 shows
along the longitudinal
section and the crosssection at the corner
closest to the radiator.
This general variation
is similar to that
obtained for the coarse
mesh in figure 11.
However, it must be
noted that the turbulence intensities at the boundary layer of the regions varies slightly when compared to figure
11. Figure 16 depicts a more accurate solution where the turbulence region of influence affected by the
boundary layer is of a smaller proportion of the overall cross-section of the sidepod. Furthermore, from the
longitudinal section contour plot of turbulence intensity, it can be found that the convex corners of bends seem
to reduce the dissipation rate of turbulence as the turbulence intensities appear to be more resilient in the two
convex corners of the sidepod. This means that if the cooling system designer orientates the radiator to receive a
higher velocity flow rate in this specific sidepod geometry, then the radiator will also be subjected to more
inconsistent pressure drops across it due to the lower turbulence dissipation. Further optimisation studies can be
conducted to discover the right levels of turbulence that is acceptable for efficient radiator performance.
B. Effects of varying curvature.
The mesh created was inflated around the wall regions to ensure sufficient grid resolution to reflect these
modifications. Figure 17 shows the coarse and refined mesh grid elements. This shows how well resolved the
refined grid is.
The claim that flow separation occurs for longer separation lengths is again proven in figure 18 where the
velocity contour plots for the longitudinal sliced section is compared for the curvature diameter of 500mm.
From this figure, it is obvious that flow separation occurs at the claimed location of the second concave corner
in the S-bend. Figure19 shows the same situation for 600mm curvature diameter. It can be found here in figures
18 and 19 that the velocity increase is greater for smaller curvature diameter, thus increase the likelihood of flow
separation in the region of the second concave corner. This also suggests that the critical separation length of an
S-bend is reduced for a smaller curvature diameter in order to prevent flow separation. Figure 20 shows the
turbulence intensity contour plots for all four cases shown in figures 18 and 19. Figure 20 further proves the
above statement. In figure 20, the red region is larger for the case of the 500mm curvature diameter than that of
the 600mm curvature diameter. This means that the flow separation is greater in the S-bend of the smaller
curvature diameter. The inlet turbulence due to the slightly converging cross-section areas is also shown in
figure 20.
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

Figure 21. Maximum and minimum

radiator pressure drops estimated by
Richardsons extrapolation.

VI. Verification & Validation of Results

A. Effects of inlet turbulence.

As observed earlier, it can be found that the results differed
for the coarse and refined grid mesh cases. With any CFD
analysis it is important to perform the Richardsons extrapolation
to provide a grid-independent solution to the results obtained. In
this case, the grid-independent solution to the pressure drops
across the radiator can be estimated. These estimated values can
be found in figure 21. In this case, the Richardsons
extrapolation to the second order was used because of the two
different levels of mesh grids used. Equations 7 and 8 determine
how the grid-independent values were estimated using
Richardsons extrapolation. Using these values the variation of
the radiator pressure drops with respect to turbulence intensities
Figure 22. Radiator pressure drops versus inlet turbulence intensity for
different inlet velocities.
illustrated in figure 22. In
equation 7, SF represents
property to be estimated,
while S1 and S2 represent
the coarse and refined
grid values of the property
already found. In equation
8, N1 is the number of
elements used in the
coarse mesh, while N2 is
the number of elements
used in the refined mesh.
( )

The maximum radiator pressure drops for 20 m/s
inlet velocity seem to show a 12Pa (2.5% of results)
fluctuation for varying inlet turbulence intensities,
while the minimum pressure drops hardly fluctuate. It
can also be seen that for the 10 m/s inlet velocity case,
that a 3% inlet turbulence intensity causes the largest
radiator pressure drop difference across the surface of
the radiator. To verify that these results are accurate
given, we can use the initial approximation (equation
6) obtained for the radiator pressure drops using the
cftool function in MATLAB. The radiator pressures
obtained from the Richardsons extrapolation were
plotted together with those obtained from figure 4.
This is represented in figure 23. In figure 23, only the
maximum pressure drops and maximum velocities across the radiator surfaces was taken into account as it was
difficult to obtain information on the minimum velocities due to the presence of boundary layers in the contour
Figure 23. Verification of results obtained from
CFD analysis with approximated quadratic
curve from equation 6.

From figure 23, it is obvious that the results obtained from CFD follow the same trend as the curve of best fit
from equation 6. However, it can be seen that the estimated results tend to deviate to a greater extent away from
this curve at higher intensities. This shows that at higher levels of sidepod inlet turbulence it may be more
difficult to accurately determine the radiator pressure drops. This may cause some concern for the cooling
system design as sidepod inlet flows are often subjected to large amounts of turbulence. Therefore, it is
necessary to account for this with a factor of safety when considering the external pressure drops across the
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

Figure 24. Table of radiator

pressure drops for the gridindependent case.
D400 L100
D400 L100
D400 L100
D400 L100
D400 L200
D400 L200
D400 L200
D400 L200
D500 L100
D500 L100
D500 L100
D500 L100
D500 L200
D500 L200
D500 L200
D500 L200
D600 L100
D600 L100
D600 L100
D600 L100
D600 L200
D600 L200
D600 L200
D600 L200

Radiator pressure drop (Pa)
Inlet Conditions Maximum
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s
1%, 20m/s
10%, 20m/s
1%, 30m/s
10%, 30m/s

radiator so that no extra surprises are encountered during the

endurance/autocross events in the FSAE-A competition.
To validate these data sets, experimental testing will have to
be conducted. It is difficult to obtain existing radiator
performance specifications from OEMs and hence, validating
these results with existing radiators will not be possible at this
stage. Possible experimental testing will include creating a similar
geometry sidepod test piece, with an embedded radiator inside it,
and testing it in a wind tunnel, or extracting data from actual
radiator performances, pressures and velocities measured via
probes during track runs and dry lap runs. Should a different class
of radiators be used for experimental testing, the CFD analysis
conducted here will have to be performed again with the
appropriate loss coefficients obtained.

Figure 25. Radiator pressure drops varying with curvature diameter

for various inlet flow conditions using the grid-independent results.

Figure 26. Scatter plot of grid-independent

maximum radiator pressure drops with verified
curve fitted from equation 6.

B. Effects of varying

Richardson's extrapolation
was conducted as in the first
investigation to obtain the
grid-independent solutions to
the radiator pressure drops.
Using equations 7 and 8, a
table of the grid-independent
radiator pressure drops was
compiled and is shown in
figure 24. From figure 24, the
effects of varying curvature
diameter on the values for
radiator pressure drops were
once again compared and are
shown in figure 25. Only the
maximum radiator pressure
drops were considered as it would be difficult to
approximate the lowest free-stream velocity normal
to the radiator cross-section due to the presence of
boundary layers and airflow separation. From
figure 25, it is also found that the radiator pressure
drops decrease for most cases with increasing Sbend separation length. This supports is similar to
the results discussed earlier.

As with the first investigation, the simulated

pressure drops are tallied against the quadratic
curve-fit obtained from equation 6. This is
important as it determines the accuracy of the CFD
simulations with compiled data from real-life
testing by MUR. Figure 26 shows this relationship.
It is found that all of the scatter plot points fell
above the fitted curve, with some of these points
varying as much as 21.7%. The mean percentage variation from the fitted curve was found to be 12.9%. One
possible reason that could contribute to this deviation is the method in which MUR obtained their experimental
results. MUR may have only obtained the results based on the static pressure drops across the radiator but failed
to include the effects of dynamic pressure losses. However, there is no way of confirming this as MUR has not
stated their experimental methodology in their report. One way of finding out if equation 6 includes both static
and dynamic pressure losses, would be to perform an experiment of the two investigations covered in this thesis
using both pitot and static pressure probes, and then conduct a CFD analysis of the two investigations. As with
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

all CFD analyses, real-life validation is essential and hence, a full experimental procedure of this investigation is
recommended in order to completely validate the obtained CFD results.

VII. Extension of current work

It can be inferred that experimental validation is necessary to provide the real life data to check the fidelity
of CFD results. Without which, these results obtained cannot be confidently incorporated into the cooling
system design of the FSAE competition car. In order to conduct such experimental procedures, a wind tunnel
large enough to accommodate a scaled model sidepod is necessary to prevent the near-wall effects from
affecting the pressure and velocity results obtained. Moreover, careful consideration would have to be given as
to how much time the Academy Racing team can make do without the radiator component of their car. This
experimental procedure will have to be allocated to being conducted at times when the need for operating on the
car is low.
Apart from validating the two investigations performed in this thesis, a study into the effects of varying
outlet pressures should be included at both the experimental and CFD analytical levels. This is necessary as the
rotating wheels located just aft of the sidepod outlet causes extra interference and pressure variations that will
affect the pressure drops across the sidepod. In the CFD analysis component of this proposed project, a rotating
wheel can be modelled separately to understand the aerodynamic effects before using user defined functions to
model the sidepod outlet conditions. This will require extensive computational resources and hence, efficient
resource management is required.
It is proposed in this report that orientating the radiator at angle towards the oncoming airflow in a sidepod
with bends would be a wise option so as to obtain the fastest airflow velocities flowing across the radiator crosssection. A CFD optimisation study can be performed to discover the best angle of orientation to maximise
radiator cooling efficiency. Once this optimisation study is completed, it can be validated by experimentally
testing the best angle of orientation for the radiator.
Finally, it is also proposed that the effects of external flowfields on the internal flows of the sidepod be
studied. The experimental part of this study can be performed by placing pressure and velocity probes around
the vicinity of the radiator and sidepod as the car is test driven around a specified circuit that encompasses
varying forward speeds, engine power outputs and parts of the race-track. In the CFD analysis component of this
study, user defined functions may be used to model the external, inlet and outlet airflows. This will allow the
cooling system designer to use a simulated wind/gust model to predict several instances during a race lap. The
designer would then be able to obtain sidepod pressure differences and compare them with the radiator pressure
drops simulated to calculate the required pressure rise required by a radiator fan. Careful consideration should
be made in the resource management of this project as highly extensive computational requirements will be

VIII. Conclusion
After performing these two investigations, several issues have been brought to light. The prediction of flows
in a sidepod via CFD simulations becomes more difficult with greater turbulence intensity levels at the inlet and
outlet of the sidepods. This will lead to additional flow velocity perturbations that will either mildly speed up or
slow down the airflow on the radiator surface. Such variation in airflow velocities is often coupled with bends in
a sidepod. These bends will allow designers to completely exploit the increase in the velocity of normal airflow
on the radiator. Studying these bends is likened to that studying water flowing in a meandering river, and using
this analogy, designers can create the ideal bend with appropriate degrees of curvature to speed up slower
velocities as much as possible without causing flow separation in slower regions.
Turbulence intensities were identified to dissipate at a lower rate around convex corners and much faster
around concave corners. It was also observed that with increasing turbulence intensities at the sidepod inlet, the
deviation from experimentally derived data is more significant. For sidepods with an S-bend, it was found that
flow separation may occur if the curvature diameter becomes too small or the separation length is too large. If
the latter condition occurs, the pressure drop across the radiator will decrease. The resilience in the RNG k-
model was also seen in the two investigations where the realizable k- model was not required to be used in any
of the cases modelled. Experimental validation of the obtained results is crucial in assuring the designer that the
simulations had solved the right equations in the correct manner. Hitherto, there has been a lack of research into
sidepods for FSAE cars. Thus, this thesis will provide the groundwork for future research into sidepods and car
cooling system design for FSAE.
A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA

The author of this thesis would like to thank several people who throughout the course of this project who
provided great support and advice, without which the author would not have been able to successfully complete
this thesis. The author would like to thank the thesis supervisor, Mr Alan Fien, for his undying support and
efforts in assisting the former to overcome his obstacles faced during the various phases of the project. Alan
had, on several occasions, sacrificed his spare time to assist the author with his problems. The author would also
like to thank independent advisor, Dr John Young, who provided great levels of guidance with the CFD
component of this project.
The author would also like to thank Dr Warren Smith, PLTOFFs Paul Gardner and Alistair Weir for their
insights into the requirements of the Academy Racing team. The author also wishes to thank his undergraduate
friends from Singapore who assisted in running simulations and extracting useful data for this project. Lastly,
the author wishes to thank the Academy Racing team members for providing a great working environment and a
lively atmosphere whilst working with them.

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A study on the pressure variation in a ducted heat exchanger using CFD, UNSW@ADFA