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Optimization of configurations to enhance

heat transfer from a longitudinal fin exposed

to natural convection and radiation

Pinar Mert Cuce* and Erdem Cuce

Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology, University of Nottingham, University Park,
NG7 2RD Nottingham, UK

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In the present work, a computational fluid dynamics analysis has been carried out for analysing heat
transfer from a longitudinal fin with step change. For the aforementioned problem, heat is transferred
by conduction through the fin along its length and dissipated from the fin surface via natural
convection to the ambient and thermal radiation to the surrounding. For a given volume or mass, the
total amount of heat dissipated from the fin surface, fin effectiveness and fin efficiency have been
determined for two novel fin profiles and the results have been compared with that of conventional
rectangular fin (CRF). Numerical calculations have been carried out for five different cases. It has been
concluded that novel fin configurations dissipate more heat and produce higher fin efficiency than the
CRF profile. The rectangular fin with single-step change has been found to be the most efficient fin
profile in terms of maximum heat loss and fin efficiency. The optimum fin dissipated 3.4% more
heat and provided 2% higher efficiency than the CRF profile. Some recommendations have been made
about the potential application areas of proposed fin configurations.
*Corresponding author: Received 16 October 2012; revised 10 December 2012; accepted 21 January 2013

1 INTRODUCTION Kraus [2] presented a comprehensive review of fin technology

for over six decades. The optimization of fins is of vital import-
Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that deals ance, since the volume and the weight of the devices increase
with the generation, consumption, conversion and exchange of and the costs of production rise when fins are used. The opti-
thermal energy between physical systems. Thermal energy is mization process is generally based on two approaches: one is to
transferred from one system to another by various mechan- minimize the volume or mass for a given amount of heat dissi-
isms, namely conduction, convection and thermal radiation. pation and the other is to maximize the heat dissipation for a
Each heat transfer mechanism has a unique phenomenon so is given volume or mass [3, 4]. Kobus and Cavanaugh [5] pre-
expressed by characteristic rate equations. It is possible to en- sented a theoretical model for predicting the optimum profile of
counter any application of heat transfer in every moment of a pin fin of least material with a variable convective heat transfer
daily life. Heat transfer is a very broad scientific field, and coefficient. They observed that a parabolic fin uses a lower
hence, numerous studies are carried out every year on various volume of material to achieve the same heat dissipation rate. A
specific areas of heat transfer science. Among the popular genetic algorithm was proposed by Fabbri [6] in order to opti-
topics that are extensively studied all over the world, heat mize the thermal performances of finned surfaces. Yeh et al. [7]
transfer from extended surfaces (fins) stands out with its wide investigated the optimum spacings of longitudinal fin arrays in
concept and rapidly developing applications. forced convection theoretically. Four different fins in arrays such
Fins are extensively used to enhance the rate of heat transfer as rectangular, convex–parabolic, triangular and concave–para-
from a hot surface especially in thermal engineering applications bolic fins were taken into consideration in the analysis.
where cooling is required. Besides the traditional applications, Mueller and Abu–Mulaweh [8] experimentally determined
such as internal combustion engines, compressors and heat the temperature distribution along a fin cooled by natural con-
exchangers, fins also prove effective in heat-rejection systems in vection and radiation and they compared the measured data
space vehicles and in the cooling of electronic components [1]. with model results. They showed that the heat loss due to

International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies 2014, 9, 305– 310

# The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (
by-nc/3.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial
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doi:10.1093/ijlct/ctt005 Advance Access Publication 13 February 2013 305
Mert Cuce and Cuce

radiation is typically 15220% of the total. Thus, radiation has a different ambient temperatures and various illumination inten-
significant effect on the optimization of fins. Azarkish et al. [9] sities up to one sun under a solar simulator. Experimental
investigated the geometry optimization of a longitudinal fin results indicated that energy, exergy and power conversion effi-
with volumetric heat generation in order to maximize the heat ciency of the PV cell considerably increase with the proposed
loss for a given volume of the fin. The effects of the base tem- cooling technique. An increase of 20% in power output was
perature, the convective heat transfer coefficient, the surface achieved at a radiation of 800 W/m2.
emissivity and the volumetric heat generation on the fin profile, The objective of this paper is to investigate the performance
temperature distribution along the fin length and the fin effi- of fins with novel configurations under the influences of
ciency were analysed numerically in their study. Malekzadeh natural convection and radiation. Two unique fin profiles illu-
[10, 11] presented the differential quadrature element method in strated in Figure 1, namely rectangular fin with single-step
order to maximize the rate of heat transfer for any volume of change (RFSSC) and rectangular fin with double-step change

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the fin under the effects of convection and radiation. Arslanturk (RFDSC), have been analysed in terms of the total amount of
[12] presented one-dimensional thermal analysis and optimiza- heat loss, fin effectiveness and fin efficiency, and the results
tion of annular fins with a uniform cross section. Performance have been compared with that of a conventional rectangular
and optimization analysis of radiating fins with a step change in fin (CRF). Optimum fin geometry has been analysed in order
thickness was proposed by Arslanturk [13]. Homotopy perturb- to maximize the heat dissipation from the fin to the ambient
ation method was used in order to obtain the fin temperature for the same volume of the fin and fin length. Computational
profile. Recently, Cuce et al. [28] utilized homotopy perturb- fluid dynamics software FLUENT [21] has been used for the
ation method to determine the performance parameters of con- heat transfer analysis. The accuracy of the numerical results has
vective straight fins and they have developed an analytical been verified by the finite difference method (FDM).
expression for the fin effectiveness.
In recent years, intensive applications of fins in renewable
energy technologies have been observed to improve their overall 2 MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS
efficiencies [29, 30] as well as the optimization works [31, 32].
Especially in photovoltaic systems, many attempts have been The general form of the energy equation for an extended
made to keep cell temperature as low as possible via passive surface under the influences of natural convection and radi-
cooling. It is well documented in literature that efficiency of ation is given as follows [22]:
photovoltaic cells decreases dramatically with increasing cell    
temperature so cooling them with cost-effective modifications d2 Tf 1 dAc dTf 1 h dAs
þ  ðTf  T1 Þ
such as heat sinks (series of fins) may be considered a key point dx2 Ac dx dx Ac k dx
to enhance maximum power output [14–19]. Cuce et al. [20]  
1 dAs 1s 4
presented a detailed experimental study of the effects of passive  ðTf4  T1 Þ
Ac dx k
cooling on performance parameters of photovoltaic cells. In the
study, an aluminium heat sink was used in order to dissipate ¼0 ð1Þ
waste heat from the photovoltaic cell. The dimensions of the where x is the direction of heat transfer, Tf is the fin tempera-
heat sink were determined considering the results of a steady- ture at any x; Ac is the cross-sectional area of the fin, h is the
state heat transfer analysis. The experiments were carried out for heat convection coefficient of the ambient air, k is the thermal

Figure 1. Fin configurations investigated in the study: (a) CRF, (b) RFSSC and (c) RFDSC.

306 International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies 2014, 9, 305– 310

Optimization of configurations

conductivity of the fin, As is the surface area measured from performances of particle swarm optimization and the genetic
base to x; T1 is the ambient temperature, 1 is the emissivity algorithm on the geometry design of longitudinal fins. Their
coefficient of the fin and s is the Stefan – Boltzmann constant design has aimed at maximizing heat transfer rate for a given
(5.67  1028 W/m2 K4). For the prescribed problem, Ac is volume. They have concluded that particle swarm optimization
constant and As ¼ Px, where P is the fin perimeter. From this was at least three times more efficient than genetic algorithm
point of view, with dAc =dx ¼ 0 and dAs =dx ¼ P, Equation (1) [24]. Kang [26] has investigated the optimization of a triangu-
reduces to lar fin with variable fin base thickness, using a two-
dimensional analytical method. The influence of fin base
d2 Tf Ph P1s 4 4 height and fin base thickness on the temperature in the fin has
 ðTf  T1 Þ  ðT  T1 Þ¼0 ð2Þ
dx2 kAc kAc f been analysed. Apart from the current literature, the present
The boundary conditions that are required to obtain the tem- work deals with novel fin configurations to maximize heat dis-

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perature distribution along the fin are sipation from the fin for a given fin volume and length.
The research problem consists of five different cases and
Tf jx¼0 ¼ Tb ð3Þ
 each case includes a constant volume of fin and fin length. A
dTf  simplified description of the fin configurations analysed in the
 kAc ¼ hAc ðTf ðLÞ  T1 Þ þ 1sAc ðTf ðLÞ4  T1
Þ ð4Þ
dx  x¼L study is illustrated in Figure 2. The dimensional parameters are
given in Table 1. Fin length ðLf Þ; width of fin ðwf Þ and fin
where L is the fin length. Hence, using the temperature dis- volume ðVf Þ have been taken as 100 mm, 50 mm and1.5 
tribution,Tf ðxÞ, the amount of heat transferred from the entire 1025 m3, respectively. For five different fin profiles, tempera-
fin, qtot , can be determined as follows: ture distribution, total amount of heat loss, fin effectiveness
ð and fin efficiency of RFSSC and RFDSC have been calculated
qtot ¼ ½hðTf ðxÞ  T1 Þ þ 1sðTf ðxÞ4  T1
Þ dAs ð5Þ and the results have been compared with that of the CRF. The
aim of the research problem is to find optimum design of fin
where Af is the total fin surface area including the tip. The fin profile to produce the maximum heat loss in a specified
efficiency and the fin effectiveness are determined by the fol- volume and length of fin.
lowing Equations:
¼ e ð6Þ
h¼ ð7Þ
where qwofin is the heat transfer rate that would exist without
the fin and qmax is the maximum heat transfer rate that can
occur. qwofin and qmax are calculated as follows:

qwofin ¼ hAc ðTb  T1 Þ þ 1sAc ðTb4  T1

Þ ð8Þ
qmax ¼ hAf ðTb  T1 Þ þ 1sAf ðTb4  T1
Þ ð9Þ

It is well known that questions for the existence of the solution

to boundary value problems are quite difficult, and actually,
there is no general theory about it. However, there is compre-
hensive literature on individual cases [23]. FLUENT, which is
based on finite volume method, is highly recommended in
heat transfer science because of its accuracy and reliability. In Figure 2. Schematic of the fin configurations with dimensional parameters
investigated in the study.
the study, for a specific case, results obtained from FDM have
been compared with FLUENT results and excellent agreement
has been observed. Hence, the existence of the solution has Table 1. Dimensional parameters for five different cases.
been understood.
Case l1 l2 l3 l4 l5 l6 t1 t2 t3 t4 t5 t6 [mm]

1 100 50 50 30 40 30 3 2 4 2 3 4
3 RESEARCH PROBLEM 2 100 40 60 40 20 40 3 2 4.5 2 3 4
3 100 25 75 20 30 50 3 2.5 4.5 2.3 3.5 4
4 100 20 80 25 30 45 3 2.5 5 2.5 3 3.9
Azarkish et al. [24, 25] have presented some studies of opti- 5 100 30 70 20 25 55 3 2.7 3.7 2 4 4.5
mization of longitudinal fins recently. They have compared the

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Mert Cuce and Cuce

4 VERIFICATION OF THE NUMERICAL to enhance the maximum power output. The photovoltaic cell
temperature can be calculated as follows [26]:
NOCT  20
The accuracy of the FLUENT results has been tested via FDM Tpc ¼ T1 þ G ð16Þ
for a specific case (Case 1, CRF). First of all, the ultimate form
of the energy equation has been expressed in terms of finite where Tpc is the photovoltaic cell temperature (8C) and G is
differences as follows: the illumination intensity level (mW/cm2) . In Equation (16),
NOCT is the nominal operating cell temperature and it is
Tfi þ1  2Tfi þ Tfi 1 Ph P1s 4 4 defined as the temperature reached by open-circuited cells in a
 ðTf  T1 Þ  ðT  T1 Þ ¼ 0 ð10Þ
Dx2 kAc i kAc fi module under the conditions of G ¼ 800 W/m2 , T1 ¼ 208C

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Equation 10 reduces to: and vwind ¼ 1 m/s. For G ¼ 5 suns ¼ 5000 W/m2, T1 ¼ 258C
and NOCT ¼ 648C, Tpc equals to 3008C. The base temperature
Tfiþ1 þ Tfi1 þ q2 þ q4  q3 Tf i4
Tfi ¼ ð11Þ of the fin may be taken to be equal to the cell temperature
2 þ q1
neglecting the thermal losses. The convective heat transfer coef-
where ficient and the thermal conductivity of the fin are assumed
constant in order to simplify the analysis. Thermal conductiv-
Dx2 Ph
q1 ¼ ð12Þ ity and emissivity of the fin material have been taken to be
q 2 ¼ q 1 T1 ð13Þ 237 W/mK and 0.2, respectively. Heat convection coefficient
has been taken to be 5:7 W/m2 K, considering no wind condi-
Dx2 P1s tions via Equation (17) [27]:
q3 ¼ ð14Þ
h ¼ 5:7 þ 3:8vwind ð17Þ
q 4 ¼ q 3 T1 4 ð15Þ
where vwind is the wind velocity (m/s). Figure 3 illustrates the
The Gauss – Seidel method can be used to determine tempera- temperature contours with a 3D view and compares the results
ture distribution of the fin. In this method, iteration is carried obtained from FLUENT and FDM for the temperature distri-
on until a convergence in an acceptable tolerance is achieved. bution of the CRF. As it is clear from the graph that there is
Although this approach will not work for all cases, it converges excellent agreement between the results, it has been concluded
for many ordinary differential equations derived from physical- that FLUENT can be easily used for the rest of the study due
ly based systems. On the other hand, the same case has been to its high accuracy.
analysed using FLUENT. Fin geometry has been constructed by
GAMBIT, which is a general-purpose pre-processor for compu-
tational fluid dynamics analysis. The temperature distribution
of the fin has obtained for steady-state conditions and the 5 RESULTS
results have been compared with that of the FDM.
The operating conditions of the prescribed fin configura- Figure 4 depicts the total amount of heat dissipation (Qf )
tions have been determined considering the characteristics of a from CRF, RFSSC and RFDSC for Cases 1– 5. First of all, it
concentrating photovoltaic system. It is well known in literature can be clearly said that step-change effect improves the heat
that the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell decreases dramatically loss from the fin for each fin configuration. Among all cases,
with increasing photovoltaic cell temperature. Therefore, it is RFSSC in Case 2 has been found the most appropriate fin
necessary to keep cell temperature as low as possible in order profile in terms of maximum heat dissipation. For this

Figure 3. Temperature contours of CRF (on the left) and comparison of computational fluid dynamics results with those of FDM.

308 International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies 2014, 9, 305– 310

Optimization of configurations

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Figure 4. Total amount of heat dissipation from the fin configurations for Figure 6. Effectiveness of fin configurations for different cases.
different cases.

Figure 7. The most efficient profile obtained for RFSSC in Case 2.

Figure 5. Efficiency of fin configurations for different cases.

configuration, 3.4% more heat has been transferred from the determined to be 44.84 and 47.07, respectively. Fin effective-
fin to the ambient in comparison with CRF. It has been con- ness is a good indicator of fin performance; however, for some
cluded that providing a double-step change in fin profile does specific applications like cooling of photovoltaic cells where
not make a major contribution to the heat transfer. In add- little enhancements in heat transfer is quite important, fin effi-
ition, the manufacturing process of RFDSC is more knotted ciency is considered to assess fin performance. From this point
than that of RFSSC. The most promising profile for RFDSC of view, it has been concluded that RFSSC in Case 2 illustrated
has been obtained in Case 5, where the fin has lost 3.0% more in Figure 7 is the most appropriate fin profile in terms of both
heat than CRF. The average amount of heat dissipation with maximum heat loss and maximum fin efficiency. It can be
RFSSC, RFDSC and CRF has been determined to be 26.01, easily integrated with photovoltaic cells to keep cell tempera-
25.88 and 25.31 W, respectively. ture as low as possible and hence obtain higher efficiency and
Fin efficiency and fin effectiveness of CRF, RFSSC and provide a considerable amount of energy saving on a large
RFDSC for Cases 1– 5 is illustrated in Figures 5 and 6, respect- scale. It can be concluded that the modified fin profiles
ively. The efficiency of the selected CRF has been determined provide better performance than the conventional fin profile
to be 0.87. On the other hand, the average efficiencies of the despite the same fin length and the fin mass used.
novel fin configurations have been found to be 0.890 and 0.887
for RFSSC and RFDSC, respectively. Similar to the results of
heat dissipation, the best performance has been observed for 6 CONCLUSION
RFSSC in Case 2 in terms of fin efficiency. CRF has provided
considerably higher fin effectiveness than the proposed fin con- In this paper, heat transfer from a longitudinal fin with step
figurations. This result has arisen from the fact that CRF has a change has been analysed using a Computational Fluid
notable lower fin base area than RFSSC and RFDSC as it dissi- Dynamics software, FLUENT. The amount of heat dissipation
pates comparable amount of heat to the novel fins. The from the fin, fin efficiency and fin effectiveness of CRF, RFSSC
average fin effectiveness of RFSSC and RFDSC has been and RFDSC have been determined for five different cases. It

International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies 2014, 9, 305– 310 309

Mert Cuce and Cuce

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