Thermal control elements in caloric technologies

date: 16.12.2019

category: Sporočila za javnost


Fast-developing electronics and information technology pose growing challenges in the management of heat transfer, heat flow direction and heat flux. The last one is particularly important in many energy conversion technologies and processes. In addition to classic heat transfer, which has been upgraded with micro-systems in recent decades, a special domain of transport phenomena started developing in the last decade dealing with mechanisms and processes that enable the control of heat flux and controlled heat flow direction. This field of science, which began to be developed at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, no more than ten years ago by the Laboratory for Refrigeration and District Energy (, is called Thermal control elements or Thermal circuits. The vast majority of such elements is based on principles deriving from the physics of condensed matter, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microfluidics. The main elements that may be used to control heat flow are analogue to electrical elements, i.e. thermal switches, thermal diodes, thermal regulators and thermal transistors. The main task of thermal control elements is, therefore, fast and efficient interruption or set-up and increase of heat flux or a change of its direction.

The use of thermal control elements, particularly thermal switches and thermal diodes, is also interesting in caloric cooling, which has been another subject of research at the Laboratory for Refrigeration and District Energy (LAHDE) for over 10 years. Within the scope of the paper, an extensive review of global literature in that field of science has been made. The review encompasses a critical discussion of the developments made so far, while providing guidelines for further development of thermal control elements based on our rich experiences. The review is the first of its kind in the world in the specific field of caloric technologies. Its relevance is also substantiated by the fact that it was published in the highly cited Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews journal (IF 10.556).

The article is available free of charge until January 2020 at


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