Joule heating is an important phenomenon to capture in the design of many power electronics products and components. It is the physical effect of current passing through an electrical conductor and converting to thermal energy, causing heating. Increasing temperatures in the conductor material can impact the overall efficiency of the components or even be harnessed.
Simulating Joule heating is necessary for numerous industry applications where resistive heating is a common artifact, whether that is intentional or unintentional. For intentional usages such as electric heaters and soldering irons, Joule heating analysis is necessary to optimize the heat output of the device.
More commonly, however, the increase in temperature from converting electrical energy into thermal is an unwanted effect that could decrease the overall efficiency of components. Examples include busbars and wiring in power electronics, where the efficiency drops with the inverse of increasing temperature.
A similar effect is observed in batteries that have an ideal operating temperature range. Above this, the battery performance and lifetime begin to degrade. Other common components like fuse blocks and resistors are also impacted by Joule heating.
Joule Heating Analysis in SimScale
Simplified approaches to Joule heating analysis included adding dissipated power as a power source on the electronic components. The dissipated power was based on hand calculations, approximated, and could not robustly handle situations where the current density was not uniformly distributed, including:
With the new features introduced in SimScale, users can now explicitly define the key Joule heating parameters, variables and output key metrics to base design decisions on.
Joule Heating Simulation Setup
A case of an electrical inverter used in race cars is used to demonstrate the new Joule heating features in SimScale. The image below shows the 3D geometry of an inverter that is liquid-cooled using a water and glycol mix with a flow of 3 L/Min.
The model contains various MOSFETS and capacitors with electrical load and current of up to 70 Amps RMS continuous load. The twelve MOSFETS for 6-phase AC current supply are each modeled with 18.5 W applied to them.
We have used the materials database in SimScale to apply conducting materials and coolants that can be parameterized to evaluate material properties if needed.
Read more here.