Thermal Design

Thermal design concerns the maintenance of proper temperature, typically within a building, structure, vehicle, or device. We will focus on a convenient and important example, that of buildings such as on the MIT campus. Our emphasis will be that of energy usage due to wintertime space heating; treatments of summertime cooling are in many ways similar.

This unit has the following objectives:

  • To understand basic principles governing heat flow.
  • To learn some types of wall and window construction typical of residential and light commercial building construction as they relate to heat (and also moisture) flow.
  • To understand the basic principles of thermography, the operation of a thermal infrared camera, and the use of thermal IR imaging in evaluating building heat loss.
  • To conduct an engineering study of the thermal performance of an MIT building.

There will be one in-lab practical exercise and an engineering report:

1. We will carry out a practical laboratory exercise in which we determine the heat flow characteristics of several types of construction. (PDF)

2. Each team will conduct and report on a Heat Loss Study of an MIT building or part thereof. (PDF)


Introduction to Thermal Design

Review of heat transfer. Conduction, thermal conductivity and the heat equation, practical insulation materials used in Civil Engineering. Convective heat transfer. Radiative heat transfer, the Boltzmann equation, emissivity and reflectance. Relationship of surface temperature to heat flux at surface.


Thermography; Principles and Operation of Thermal Infrared Cameras

Introduce the thermal IR camera (FLIR) and its operation, show examples of remote sensing studies in the thermal IR region, including heat loss of buildings; detection of 'buried' features in roads, walls, etc; identification of overheating components; target identification; etc.

Open lab, optional for both sections

Hands-on experience with camera hardware and software

13 Building construction methods as related to thermal behavior. Discussion of Laboratory Exercise, and of Heat Loss Study. IR cameras will be available to be signed out by teams at various hours beginning this week.

Each section constructs 'houses', connects instruments, begins experiment

Each team declares target of their Heat Loss Study

14 Brief discussion of Heat Loss Study, then special lab session for teams to measure various thermal quantities on the 'houses'. Regularly scheduled sections each have Open Lab, instructors available for consultation
15 Final Reports due, in-class presentations In-class presentations