Frontiers in Energy

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 20–42

Revolutionizing heat transport enhancement with liquid metals: Proposal of a new industry of water-free heat exchangers

Feature Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11708-011-0139-9

Cite this article as:
Li, H. & Liu, J. Front. Energy (2011) 5: 20. doi:10.1007/s11708-011-0139-9


Water is perhaps the most widely adopted working fluid in conventional industrial heat transport engineering. However, it may no longer be the best option today due to the increasing scarcity of water resources. Furthermore, the wide variations in water supply throughout the year and across different geographic regions also makes it harder to easily access. To address this issue, finding new alternatives to replace water-based technologies is imperative. In this paper, the concept of a water-free heat exchanger is proposed and comprehensively analyzed for the first time. The liquid metal with a low melting point is identified as an ideal fluid that can flexibly be used within a wide range of working temperatures. Some liquid metals and their alloys, which have previously received little attention in thermal management areas, are evaluated. With superior thermal conductivity, electromagnetic field drivability, and extremely low power consumption, liquid metal coolants promise many opportunities for revolutionizing modern heat transport processes: serving as heat transport fluid in industries, administrating thermal management in power and energy systems, and innovating enhanced cooling in electronic or optical devices. Furthermore, comparative analyses are conducted to understand the technical barriers encountered by advanced water-based heat transfer strategies and clarify this new frontier in heat-transport study. In addition, the unique merits of liquid metals that could lead to innovative heat exchanger technologies are evaluated comprehensively. A few promising industrial situations, such as heat recovery, chip cooling, thermoelectricity generation, and military applications, where liquid metals could play irreplaceable roles, were outlined. The technical challenges and scientific issues thus raised are summarized. With their evident ability to meet various critical requirements in modern advanced energy and power industries, liquid metal-enabled technologies are expected to usher a new and global era of water-free heat exchangers.


heat exchanger liquid metal water resource heat transport enhancement coolant thermal management process engineering energy crisis chip cooling 

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cryogenics, Technical Institute of Physics and ChemistryChinese Academy of SciencesBejingChina
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of MedicineTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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