Computational Analysis of Laminar Natural Convection in Rectangular Enclosures of Different Aspect Ratios with Different Heating Conditions

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the ASME 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE2012)






Natural convection in rectangular enclosures is found in many real-world engineering applications. Included in these applications are the energy efficient design of buildings, operation and safety of nuclear reactors, solar collector design, passive energy storage, heat transfer across multi-pane windows, thermo-electric refrigeration and heating devices, and the design-for-mitigation of optical distortion in large-scale laser systems. A common industrial application of natural convection is free air cooling without the aid of fans and can happen on small scales such as computer chips to large scale process equipment. The enclosure phenomena can loosely be organized into two large classes: (1) horizontal enclosures heated from below and (2) vertical enclosures heated from the side. In addition to temperature gradient convection strength within the enclosure can vary due to the existence of heat sources with different strength.

Numerical simulations are conducted for free convective flow of air with or without internal heat generation in two-dimensional rectangular enclosures of different aspect ratios. The objective of this numerical study is to investigate the effects of external temperature gradient, internal heat generation and aspect ratio (AR) of enclosure (ratio of the length of the isothermal walls to their separation distance), in free convective laminar flow of a fluid. Two-dimensional rectangular enclosures of different aspect ratio (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) with two adiabatic side walls and isothermal bottom (hot) and top (cold) walls are considered for the first configuration. Whereas for the second configuration, two adiabatic top and bottom walls, isothermal left side (cold) and right side (hot) walls are considered. Two principal parameters considered for the flow of fluid are the external Rayleigh number, RaE, which represents the effect due to the differential heating of the isothermal walls, and the internal Rayleigh number, RaI, which represents the strength of the internal heat generation. The effect of external temperature gradient and aspect ratio on natural convection has been observed by varying the value of external Rayleigh number (RaE) equal to 2×104, 2×105, and 2×106 and keeping the internal Rayleigh number constant (RaI = 2×105). Similarly, the effect of internal heat generation and aspect ratio on natural convection has been observed by varying the value of internal Rayleigh number (RaI) equal to 2×104, 2×105, and 2×106 and keeping the external Rayleigh number constant (RaE = 2×105). Significant changes in flow patterns and isotherms have been observed for all cases. Also the variation of average heat flux ratio (convective heat flux/corresponding conduction heat flux) along the hot and cold walls, and the convection strength have been calculated for all cases. It is found that the aspect ratio has a significant effect in fluid flow and heat transfer in the enclosures. The average heat flux ratio and the strength of convection increase with aspect ratio as the enclosure shape changes square (AR = 1) to shallow (AR > 1).