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Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 www.elsevier.com/locate/apthermeng A theoretical study of the thermal performance of thec.b.beggs@leeds.ac.uk (C.B. Beggs). 1359-4311/02/$ - see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 1 3 5 9 - 4 3 1 1 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 5 9 - 5 " id="pdf-obj-0-6" src="pdf-obj-0-6.jpg">

www.elsevier.com/locate/apthermeng

A theoretical study of the thermal performance of the TermoDeck hollow core slab system

P. Barton, C.B. Beggs * , P.A. Sleigh

School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Received 26 October 2001; accepted 17 April 2002

Abstract

The TermoDeck hollow core slab system is a versatile energy storage technique for controlling the en- vironment within large and medium sized buildings. It utilises the hollow cores within pre-cast concrete floor slabs as ventilation ducts to produce an environment which is thermally stable. Although many TermoDeck systems have successfully been installed in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and in other northern European countries, the thermal performance of the system is not fully understood. This paper presents the results of a theoretical study, using a numerical model, into the thermal performance of the TermoDeck system. In particular, the role of the bends in the system is investigated and the conclusion reached that their impact on overall heat transfer is minimal. It is also concluded that greater thermal attenuation is achieved by using a five-core pass system in comparison with a three-core system. 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: TermoDeck; Hollow core slab; Thermal storage; Fabric heat storage; Fabric energy storage; Pre-cast concrete; Heat transfer; Thermal performance

1. Introduction

The TermoDeck system was developed in Sweden [1] and has been used successfully in many locations throughout northern Europe. Recently in the United Kingdom (UK) a number of high profile TermoDeck buildings have been constructed, including the Elizabeth Fry Building at the

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-113-233-2303; fax: +44-113-343-2265/233-2265. E-mail address: c.b.beggs@leeds.ac.uk (C.B. Beggs).

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  • 1486 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

Nomenclature T air T surface T i;j h 1 A mm_ air temperature at node point
Nomenclature
T air
T surface
T i;j
h 1
A
mm_
air temperature at node point ( C)
surface temperature at node point ( C)
node point temperature ( C)
core convective heat transfer coefficient (W/m 2 K)
core surface area (m 2 )
air mass flow rate through core (kg/s)
specific heat capacity of air (kJ/kg K)
C p air
density
of air (kg/m 3 )
q air
v air
velocity of air (m/s)
diameter of core (m)
d core
l
k air
k slab
a
Re
Pr
Nu
Fo
Bi
dynamic viscosity of air (Pa s)
thermal conductivity of air (W/m K)
thermal conductivity of concrete slab (W/m K)
thermal diffusivity of concrete slab (m 2 /s)
Reynolds number
Prantl number
Nusselt number
Fourier number
Biot number
t
Dt
time (s)
time step (s)
Dx, Dy spaces steps (m)

University of East Anglia [2] and the Kimberlin Library Building at De Montfort University [3]. The TermoDeck system involves pushing ventilation air through hollow core tubes in pre-cast concrete floor slabs. It is an environmentally benign system which produces buildings which are thermally stable and comfortable without the need for any refrigeration. The TermoDeck system employs low air velocities (i.e. approximately 1 m/s) with the result that buildings using this system tend to consume little energy. For example, the Elizabeth Fry Building consumes very little energy; its average electrical energy consumption for 1997 was only 61 kW h/m 2 and its gas consumption was 37 kW h/m 2 [2], figures which are less than half of the targets values for good practice air conditioned office buildings in the UK [4]. In addition, it is perceived by its occupants to be a particularly comfortable building [5]. Although the TermoDeck system has been successfully employed in northern Europe, Australia and even Saudi Arabia, relatively little is known about its thermal performance. In particular, there appears to be confusion as to the influence of the bend section on the overall performance of the TermoDeck system [6–8]. The authors therefore developed a numerical model and undertook a study to investigate the thermal performance of various components of the TermoDeck system. This paper presents the results of this study.

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

2. The TermoDeck system

1487

It is possible to cool buildings, without the use of refrigeration plant, by utilising night ven- tilation. Night venting involves flooding the building interior with cool outside air during the nighttime, so that heat accumulated by the structure during the daytime is purged. The cool structure can then be used to absorb heat from the room space by radiation and natural con- vection during the daytime and also to cool outside air as it enters the building. For night venting to be successful good thermal coupling must exist between the air and the mass of the building. The TermoDeck system achieves this objective well by ensuring a high degree of thermal contact between the air and the building mass by pushing ventilation air through the hollow cores in proprietary concrete floor slabs, as shown in Fig. 1. By forming perpendicular coupling airways between the hollow cores, it is possible to form a 3 or 5 pass circuit through which supply air may pass. During periods in which cooling is required, outside air at ambient temperature is blown through the hollow core slabs for as much as 24 h of the day. Overnight the slab is cooled to approximately 18–20 C, so that during the daytime warm incoming fresh air is pre-cooled by the slab before entering the room space. By exposing the soffit of the slabs it is also possible to absorb heat radiated from occupants and equipment within the space. The TermoDeck system achieves good heat transfer between the incoming air and the concrete slab by ensuring turbulent airflow through the hollow cores. This is achieved by using a core air velocity of approximately 1 m/s, which enables heat to be stored at a rate of between 10 and 40 W/ m 2 of floor area, depending on the air temperatures involved [1,9].

3. Finite difference model

In order to investigate the heat transfer mechanisms associated with the TermoDeck system, a two-dimensional numerical model was developed. The TermoDeck system relies on heat being

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 2. The TermoDeck system 1487

Fig. 1. The TermoDeck system.

  • 1488 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

exchanged between the air in the core to the concrete of the slab, through the interface which is the surface of the core. Heat is conducted radially through the concrete from this interface until it reaches the surface (top and bottom of the slab) or to where the temperature gradient becomes small––in the horizontal direction between cores. As the temperature difference between the cores is relatively low, the high heat capacity of the concrete means that it is possible to neglect the influence of adjacent cores. This means that a two dimensional model may be constructed that is, one that models flow along the core and vertically through the concrete. This is the form of the model used in the studies described in this paper. The model equations (which are presented below) were programmed using Microsoft Excel incorporating Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming code which enabled a great deal of flexibility to be introduced into the model. An explicit finite difference methodology was used to simulate variations in temperature at incremental slab lengths and depths over time. Transient analysis was performed for each case using a cyclic 24 h sinusoidal air temperature distribution at the inlet boundary and for the room. The model incorporated features to allow investigation of the effect of the convective heat transfer at the bend sections in the TermoDeck system and also the effect of changing the number of cores utilised. Because hollow core concrete slabs are manufactured in a range of geometries it was decided that the dimensions of the study slabs should correlate with those used in previous research [1,6–8,10,11], thus enabling published results to be utilised during the model validation process. Fig. 2 shows the geometry used in the study; the slab thickness was 270 mm and the core diameter was 180 mm. The length of the hollow cores was 4000 mm and the bends were assumed to have an equivalent length of 415 mm. The model utilised a regular spaced finite difference mesh with interlinking nodes in both the x (along the slab core) and y (vertically down through the slab) directions, as shown in Fig. 3. Although the heat transfer from core is radial preliminary numerical simulations showed this could be approximated well by plane conduction due to the small curvature of the core surface and the short distance to the boundary. With the assumption of constant temperatures in the upper and lower room spaces this meant that the system could be simulated by modelling heat transfer through one half of the slab depth, although the complete surface area of the core was used to take in to account all of the heat transfer.

1488 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 exchanged between the air

Fig. 2. Standard TermoDeck cross-section core geometry.

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

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P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 1489 Fig. 3. A section

Fig. 3. A section of the two-dimensional finite difference mesh.

The model equations used are those derived from standard heat transfer considerations of

conduction and convection. They incorporate the considerations of the heat capacities and re-

spective abilities to transfer heat within and between the air and concrete. Here we will present

only the final model equations in finite difference form, derivation of the equations and their finite

difference form can be found in many standard books on heat transfer, for example, [12].

The finite difference model incorporated Eqs. (1)–(4) to determine the temperature distribution

through the concrete slab and the air temperature variation along the length of the hollow core. In

these equations the subscripts i and j represent x and y nodal positions respectively. The super-

scripts n and n þ 1 signify the current and subsequent time step with current time defined as

t ¼ t start þ nDt . The core node air temperature was determined by using Eq. (1).

T air iþ1 ¼ T air i

h 1 AðT air i T surface i Þ

mmC_

p air

!

ð1Þ

The core surface temperature at the surface nodal points was determined by using Eq. (2).

nþ1

T

i;j

¼ Foð2T

n i;j 1 þ T i 1;j þ T

n

iþ1;j þ 2BiT i;jþ1 Þþð1 4Fo 2BiFoÞT

n

n

n

i;j

ð2Þ

These two equations incorporate a heat transfer coefficient, h 1 , to relate heat transfer at the

boundary between the core air and the concrete slab.

The interior node temperature at the nodal points was determined by using Eq. (3).

nþ1

T

i;j

¼ FoðT

n iþ1;j þ T i 1;j þ T i;jþ1 þ T

n

n

n

i;j 1 Þþð1 4FoÞT

n

i;j

ð3Þ

The slab surface temperature at the slab/room boundary was determined by using Eq. (4).

nþ1

T

i;j

¼ Foð2T

n i;jþ1 þ T i 1;j þ T

n

iþ1;j þ 2BiT room Þþð1 4Fo 2BiFoÞT

n

n

n

i;j

ð4Þ

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The Fourier number (Fo), Biot number (Bi) and convective heat transfer coefficient (h 1 ) are de-

fined as follows:

Fo ¼

aDt

  • Dx 2

ð5Þ

a is the thermal diffusivity of the concrete, which is the ratio of thermal conductivity to the heat

capacity.

Bi ¼

h 1 Dx

k slab

h 1 ¼

k air Nu

d

core

where

Nu ¼ 0:023Re 0:8 Pr n

Pr ¼

C p air l

k air

Re ¼

q air v air d core

l

ð6Þ

ð7Þ

ð8Þ

ð9Þ

ð10Þ

As the solution method for the model equations was explicit in time the solution is not uncon-

ditionally stable. It was necessary to choose a time step, Dt , sufficiently small to ensure stability.

The criterion used to ensure this was

Foð2 þ BiÞ 6

1

2

This expression implies a relationship between Dx and Dt as well as thermal properties of the air

and concrete.

3.1. Validation of the model

The model was validated by comparing the results it produced with those published by Willis

et al. [11]. Willis’s data, comprised boundary condition data for the core inlet air temperature,

together with core surface and outlet air temperatures for a 3 day experimental period. Willis’s

inlet air temperature data was modified slightly to create a sinusoidal diurnal temperature dis-

tribution, and was applied to the model. Fig. 4 shows a direct comparison between core air

temperatures published by Willis et al. and core air temperatures generated by the two-dimen-

sional model for a three-core pass through a TermoDeck slab. The slab and air temperature data

shown is for the third day of continuous operation and represents a situation where thermal

stabilisation has been achieved.

The results produced by the model corroborate those published by Willis et al. with the model

producing peak core outlet air temperatures that were within 0.2 C of Willis’s data and a core air

temperature range that was within 0.65 C of the experimental values. These results confirm that

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1491

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 1491 Fig. 4. Comparison between
P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 1491 Fig. 4. Comparison between

Fig. 4. Comparison between results achieved by the two-dimensional model and Willis et al. for the third day of operation.

the developed methodology provides a good correlation with the actual behaviour of the

TermoDeck slab operating under the conditions applied.

As well as to demonstrate that the model can simulate known data, it is also important to

ensure that solutions obtained are as accurate as possible using the equations chosen. The usual

procedure is to increase the number of nodes in the model until solutions with an increased

number of nodes change little. From this the minimum number of nodes required can be deter-

mined. This procedure was carried out for this study with the conclusion that using a node spacing

(equal in x and y directions) of 25 mm gave only a 0.05% difference between solutions with 12.5

mm spaced nodes. It meant that five nodes would be placed in the concrete enough to give a

temperature profile through the slab. All test were subsequently run with the 25 mm node spacing.

4. Bend study

Having demonstrated the viability of the model under sample operating conditions a para-

metric study was undertaken to assess the relative impact of various components of the Termo-

Deck system. The study utilised both steady state and transient temperature profiles to analyse the

behaviour of the slab and to provide data which could be compared with that produced by

previous research.

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There is some uncertainty as to the effect that the bend sections in the hollow core have on the

overall performance of the TermoDeck system. Previous researchers [6–8] have suggested that

because of increased turbulence, the heat transfer coefficient experienced at the bends is much

greater than that for the straight sections. Ren and Wright [8] suggests that the heat transfer

coefficient in this region is approximately 50 times that for the straight sections, whilst Winwood

et al. [6,7] states that the bend heat transfer coefficient is approximately 15 times that of the

straights. Despite the wide discrepancy between these figures, no additional research has been

published to corroborate either value. Consequently, it was decided to undertake a study using the

model described above to assess the influence that the bends have on the performance of the

TermoDeck system.

The model representation of the TermoDeck system is illustrated in Fig. 5. In this study it was

assumed that air flowed through a continuous straight tube. However, where bend sections

1492 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 There is some uncertainty

Fig. 5. A simplified representation of the TermoDeck effective core length.

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1493

Fig. 6. Steady state analysis of a three-core pas system incorporating a bend heat transfer factor
Fig. 6. Steady state analysis of a three-core pas system incorporating a bend heat transfer factor of 50.

occurred in the system the heat transfer coefficient for the ‘straight’ representing the bend was

increased by a multiplication factor. In this way it was possible to analyse the effect of the bends

on the core air and surface temperatures along the length of the core and thus determine their

relative influence upon the overall behaviour of the system.

Fig. 6 shows the effect that the bend sections have on core surface air temperatures for a three-

core pass TermoDeck slab under steady state conditions. It is assumed in the system shown that it

is operating in cooling mode and that the heat transfer coefficient at the bends is 50 times greater

than that for the straight cores. The air velocity through the core is assumed to be 1 m/s, with the

heat transfer for the straight core sections calculated as 5.29 Wm 2 K. The core inlet air tem-

perature is maintained at 28 C and the room air temperature at 20 C. The bend length is 415 mm

and the straight core lengths are 4000 mm each.

From Fig. 6 it can be seen that although the bends have a large impact on core surface tem-

perature, they have relatively little influence on the overall air temperature drop achieved by the

TermoDeck system. Fig. 7 shows the results of a more detailed analysis in which bend heat

transfer coefficients are multiplied by a range of factors (i.e. 10, 25, 50). The results indicate

that if the bend multiplication factor is small (e.g. 10), the core surface temperature at the bends

will be relatively low, due to the lack of heat transfer to slab. If the multiplication factor is large

(e.g. 50), the heat transfer rate will be greater and thus the core surface temperature will in-

creased. In contrast to the core surface temperature, variation of the bend heat transfer coefficient

has negligible impact on core air temperature, with the air temperature range at the bends being

approximately 0.2 C.

Fig. 8 shows the transient effect of the heat transfer coefficient at the bends. The external air

temperature used in the analysis is based on meteorological data obtained for Heathrow, London.

  • 1494 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1494 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 Fig. 7. Steady state

Fig. 7. Steady state analysis illustrating the effect of varying bend heat transfer factors upon core air and slab core surface temperatures.

1494 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 Fig. 7. Steady state
1494 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 Fig. 7. Steady state

Fig. 8. Transient analysis for three-core pass TermoDeck operation with bend heat transfer factors of 1 and 50.

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1495

The room air temperature was assumed to exhibit a sinusoidal form which lagged behind the

external temperature by two hours and which had a range from 22 to 24 C. The nodes in the two-

dimensional model were initially all set at 19 C. From Fig. 8 it can be seen that a bend heat

transfer factor as high as 50 has negligible impact on core air temperature over the 24-h period.

4.1. Core utilisation study

Although most applications utilise a three-core pass, the standard TermoDeck geometry en-

ables five cores to be utilised. There has been little published research on the effect of varying the

number of cores utilised. A study was therefore undertaken to investigate the effect of increasing

the number of cores utilised. This study assumed the standard TermoDeck geometry, with 4000

mm core straights, with bends having an equivalent length of 415 mm. For five-core operation, the

total distance travelled by the air prior to discharge was 21.66 m, and for a three-core regime the

distance was 12.83 m.

Winwood et al. [6] investigated the impact of both three- and five-core operating regimes. Fig. 9

replicates results published by Winwood et al. for core air temperature prior to discharge from

both three- and five-core pass systems.

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 1495 The room air temperature
P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 1495 The room air temperature

Fig. 9. Three- and five-core TermoDeck operation (Winwood et al. data).

  • 1496 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1496 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499 Fig. 10. Results of

Fig. 10. Results of the two-dimensional model for three- and five-core operating regimes.

Fig. 10 shows results obtained from the two-dimensional model using meteorological data for

Heathrow. It was assumed in the simulation that the bend heat transfer coefficient multiplication

factor was 50. The core air temperatures stated are those prior to discharge from the slab when

utilising either a three- and five-core operating regime.

Comparison between Figs. 9 and 10 reveals similarities between the modelled data and the

results published by Winwood et al. Both graphs show that the five-core regime reduces the peak

core air temperature by approximately 0.7 C compared with the three-core regime. In addition,

there is a phase shift of 60–100 min. The use of five-cores reduces the exiting air diurnal range by

about 1.5 C compared with the three-core regime.

5. Discussion

While the bend study assumes an enhanced heat transfer coefficient in the core bend sections as

demonstrated by other researchers [6–8,11], it contradicts the findings of Willis et al. [11], who

concluded that the majority of thermal transfer occurred in the bend sections with relatively little

occurring along the straights.

Figs. 6 and 7 indicate that the influence of the bends on air temperature is minimal. It is in the

straight core sections that the majority of the heat transfer takes place. The air temperature drop

across each the bend section varies between 0.2 and 0.5 C depending on the location of the bend

in the system and the heat transfer coefficient used in the model, while the overall temperature

drop through the slab is nearly 4 C. This observation can be explained as follows:

P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

1497

The surface area of the bends is relatively small in comparison with the area of the straight core

sections. Consequently, most of the heat transfer will take place in the straights, despite the fact

that the heat transfer coefficient at the bends is much greater than that experienced in the

straights.

It is evident from Fig. 7 that (when operating in the cooling mode) the temperature of the con-

crete core surface at the bends increases dramatically as the heat transfer coefficient increases.

This is because more heat is being transferred to the concrete than can be conducted away; so

the surface temperature increases. However, as the surface temperature increases, so the rate of

heat transfer decreases, because the temperature differential between the air and the concrete

surface decreases.

Therefore, the assumptions made by Willis et al. [11] regarding the dominance of the bend heat

transfer mechanism appear unjustified. Indeed, the modelled results suggest that even a bend heat

transfer multiplication factor of 50 has little impact upon overall slab performance.

The results of the core utilisation study corroborate the work of Winwood et al. [6]. The study

found that the passage of air through 5 cores, compared with a three-core pass, ensured a greater

residence time and promoted thermal interaction with a greater proportion of the slab mass. The

use of five-cores appears to reduce the exiting air diurnal range by about 1.5 C compared with

the three-core regime. This is consistent with heat exchanger theory; the use of five cores increases

the residence time of the air within the TermoDeck slab and so aids progression towards thermal

equilibrium between the core airflow and the core surface temperature. In other words, the core

air temperature further approaches that of the slab surface temperature the longer the residence

time.

One other interesting observation, which consistently occurs across all the studies quoted

above, including those which are specifically the subject of this paper, is the time-lag or phase shift

which occurs between the peak outside air temperature, the peak core surface temperature, and

the peak temperature of the air leaving the TermoDeck slab (see Figs. 4, 8, 9 and 10). This

phenomenon occurs because of the thermal storage effect of the concrete slab. Even though the

temperature of the air entering the slab may be falling the slab surface temperature will still

continue to rise, albeit at a reduced rate. Consequently, the temperature of the air leaving the slab

will continue to rise for some time after the outside air temperature has peaked. The phase shift

effect becomes more pronounced the longer the air pathway. From Fig. 10 it can be seen that

phase shift increases markedly if a five-core pass is used instead of a three-core pass.

During the various studies described above it was observed that the inclusion of a periodic

room temperature heavily influenced the behaviour of the TermoDeck slab. This was because the

room air temperature influenced the surface temperature of the underside of the slab and thus

affected the rate of conduction through the concrete. In turn, the air supply temperature to the

space directly influenced the room air temperature. Consequently, there is a thermal time-lag

between the supply and room temperatures. The thermal lag associated with the room air tem-

perature is dependent upon the extent to which thermal mass is present. For example, a thermally

lightweight room will respond rapidly to changes in the supply air temperature, with the result

that the thermal time-lag is minimised. By comparison, thermally massive rooms, such as those

incorporating a TermoDeck system, tend to attenuate and delay peak internal temperatures

because heat is absorbed by the building structure. In the transient studies it was decided to

  • 1498 P. Barton et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering 22 (2002) 1485–1499

incorporate a 2h room temperature phase shift (see Figs. 8 and 10) into the model. A 2h thermal

lag was used in the analysis because rooms incorporating TermoDeck slabs are thermally stable

and have a large thermal capacity.

One of the limitations of the two-dimensional model is that it ignores the thermal behaviour of

the room space, with the result that the room air temperature must be assumed. In reality, the

supply air temperature and the thermal capacity of the space would determine the room air

temperature. Because the room air temperature dominates the resultant core air temperature

profile it is important to ensure that the room air temperatures used in the analysis are realistic.

However, there is strong evidence [2,3,5] that buildings using the TermoDeck system have a

thermally stable environment and therefore it can be safely assumed that the room air temper-

ature range will be relatively small.

6. Conclusions

The two-dimensional finite difference model presented here effectively simulated the thermal

performance of a TermoDeck system and produced results consistent with previous research, and

therefore proved to be a useful analysis tool. From the studies undertaken using this model it is

possible to draw following conclusions:

The TermoDeck slab attenuates supply air temperatures, thereby ensuring a thermally stable

internal environment. The longer the air passage, the greater the dampening effect on the air

diurnal temperature range. Consequently a five-core pass system will achieve greater thermal

attenuation than a three-core system, and thus should promote a more thermally stable internal

environment.

The hollow core bend sections have a minimal effect on overall heat transfer within the Termo-

Deck slab. This finding contradicts past research which suggested that the bend sections dom-

inated heat transfer in the TermoDeck system.

Room air temperature has a strong influence on core air temperature. Variations in room air

temperature are however not likely to be great, since the use of TermoDeck tends to produce

a thermally stable environment.

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