Thermal finite element analysis of complex heat sinks using open source tools and high-performance computing
Keywords:Firedrake, Finite element method (FEM), Python, Heatsink, Heat transfer, HPC
The modeling of heat transfer phenomena in thermal systems has been extensively explored in industry and academia by using the finite element method (FEM) with commercial software. However, when the thermal problem introduces complexities in geometry and physics, the availability of licenses for high-performance computing could represent a limitation to achieving results in a reasonable time. Hence, finite element analysis (FEA) using open-source software (OSS) becomes a prominent candidate in this case. Therefore, multiple open-source tools are integrated into this work to solve the heat transfer equation, including conduction, convection, and radiation. Several geometrically complex heat sinks commonly used in the electronics industry are considered application examples. The performance of parallel computing is assessed in terms of processing time. The finite element solution engine is built by implementing the energy balance equations in their weak formulation in Firedrake, using its solver PETSc, the mesh generator GMSH and the post-processor Paraview, thus creating a fully OSS-based Python framework. Finally, the results are verified with commercial software for different case studies, and its potential to be extended to other fields of engineering is evident.
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