2.52 - Modelling and Approximation of Thermal Processes

Course Information

This page is divided into several sections:

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Course Description

During AY07-08, 2.52 is offered as a 6-unit H-level subject. The prerequisite for this course is 2.51 or an equivalent undergraduate course in heat and mass transfer (note that 2.006 is not sufficient).

2.52 focuses on teaching students how to model thermal transport processes in typical engineering systems such as those found in manufacturing, machinery, and power production. Simplified modelling techniques and experimental interfacing are included. The course is divided into successive modules that cover basic modelling tactics for particular modes of transport, including steady and unsteady heat conduction.

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Textbook Information

Any comprehensive heat transfer textbook should be sufficient.

One such book is A Heat Transfer Textbook by Lienhard and Lienhard (2005), which is available without charge in pdf format.

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Class Requirements and Grading Policy


Homework will be distributed in parallel with the lectures. The assignments will apply to the material covered in the lectures and are essential to learning that material. They will involve theory, modelling, and design exercises. Solutions to the problems will be distributed throughout the term. It is strongly recommended that you do all of the homework yourself. Some of these problems will also be worked during class, prior to the final date for the remainder of the homework set; those problems will be identified in class.


There will be one exam held during the regular class time in the regular classroom. The exam will cover material from both the lectures and the homework assignments and will be open book unless otherwise announced.

Term Project

A term project will be assigned, focusing on the application of thermal transport principles to an example drawn from a real research or consulting problem. Use of numerical methods to solve complex heat-transfer problems will be encouraged where appropriate. A more detailed description of the project will be handed out during the term.

Students will work in teams of two. You will compose a short report indicating the approximate characteristics of your final design. You should feel free to explore any type of design solution that will achieve the required aims. An appendix to the report should include sample calculations and a list of approximations. Late reports will be severely downgraded. Each team will make a 10 minute presentation of its work at the end of the term.

The report's grade will be based on (not necessarily in this order):

Grading Policy

Grades will be based on the exam (40%), homework and participation (25%), and the term project (35%). Please note that although no points will be deducted for not participating in class discussions, students can gain as much as an extra 5% for class participation. Class participation is strongly encouraged.

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Conduction Simulation and Computational Resources

2.52 will not be using FEM packages this semester. The following information is provided as a resource to those students who are interested in the use of numerical methods to solve complex problems in conduction heat transfer.

Numerical tools can be very useful when confronted with issues like multidimensional or transient conduction, irregular geometries, internal heat generation and varying boundary conditions, which are representative of "real-world" problems. One example of such a code is ADINA, which performs finite element analysis of conduction problems. ADINA is a general purpose FEM code, capable of handling structural analysis, fluid flow and heat transfer problems. The ADINA-T module solves two and three dimensional, steady and unsteady conduction problems. The ADINA package includes on-line manuals.

Three tutorial files on using ADINA are available for download:

Another computational tool that is available is MATLAB; one of the "toolboxes" in MATLAB is a graphical menu-driven solver of partial-differential equations. The PDE toolbox can be started by typing "pdetool" at the prompt in MATLAB. The PDE toolbox has a graphical user interface and performs finite element analysis of 2-D time dependent partial differential equations.

MATLAB and PDE toolbox are on Athena. Both include online documentation. A 30 page booklet titled Matlab on Athena is available from the Copy Technology Center in the basement of Building 7. Manuals for each package are available in Athena public clusters or from The MathWorks, Inc. In addition, MATLAB has an excellent built in help system. If you are familiar with MATLAB but not with the PDE toolbox, you can look at these simple instructions for the PDE toolbox.

During the course of the semester we may post some numerical files in the course locker. These can be obtained by copying them directly from the directory http://web.mit.edu/2.52/mfiles

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