By DE Editors
Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
Engineering whitepapers seldom make good reading over a cup of eggnog during the holiday break. They’re often formulaically written, told in a dry, witless tone devoid of personality or color. But the one from Mentor Graphics titled “Beer Fridge: A Personal Journey” by Robin Bornoff is a departure from the rest. It follows the odyssey of a curious engineer who was determined to find out why a mini-fridge couldn’t keep its contents properly chilled. The star detective that came to the author’s rescue wasn’t Sherlock Holmes. It was Mentor Graphics’ FloTHERM software.
The origin of the paper–a series of blog entries that first appeared on Mentor Graphics’ blog–explains the light-hearted narrative style. “My boss, Roland, relocated from Germany to the UK a couple of years ago and has taken to life in England with alacrity he bought a little fridge which has been busy ever since cooling the beer that everyone has been too polite to drink. A few weeks ago it stopped working,” so begins the story.
The author, an inquisitive (and probably unpaid) detective, looked into the case and soon identified the culprit: the “thermoelectric cooler (TEC) that had given up the ghost.” Not satisfied with just pointing his accusatory finger at the guilty party, he decided to search for ways to get a better chill.
Using FloTHERM’s CFD (computational fluid dynamics) tools, the author ran a series of simulations, producing airflow and thermal results that were just as colorful as the Union Jack draped over the dismantled fridge. In his vigorous pursuit, the author left no stone unturned–or, rather, no side unturned. At one point, he pondered, “So, how would you get the cold to better spread around the inside of the fridge? Maybe turn the fridge upside down to get the cool air to dump down and spin the air inside the fridge around?”
This led him to investigate the internal average air temperature of the fridge in several orientations: upright, on its side, and upside down. The wisdom he gained gave him not only a better understanding of how mini-fridges work but also an excuse to purchase more beer. He proclaimed, “The point is that such small fridges are not designed to be empty You’d have thought that by clogging up the insides of the fridge with pesky cans of beer you’d cripple its thermal performance. As someone once said of Simon Cowell ‘O, how wrong you are’ ” Bornoff’s findings, summed up in a numerical expression, ran as follows: FloTHERM + Beer Fridge Design = 35% energy savings.
For fireside reading over the holidays, Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, still ranks as a top choice. But if you’re expecting company and need to ensure your guests are not forced to suck down lukewarm beer, Mentor Graphics’ “Beer Fridge” whitepaper should be on your virtual bookshelf too. (It comes in PDF, making it easy to upload to the Kindle Fire or Nook you may receive as a gift.)