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ME EN 3650 - Heat Transfer Lab

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Fall 2016


A fin is an extended surface that is used specifically to enhance the heat transfer rate
between a solid and an adjoining fluid. There are several different general fin configurations,
including straight fins, which are extended surfaces attached to plane walls and annular fins that
are circumferentially attached to a cylinder.
As previously indicated, the primary interest when analyzing fin performance is a
determination of the enhancement of heat dissipation from a surface to the surrounding fluid. In
order to determine the heat transfer rate from a fin, the temperature distribution along the fin
must first be determined. The temperature distribution may be determined analytically if several
simplifying assumptions are made. For a circular fin, one-dimensional heat transfer in the
longitudinal (x) direction is typically assumed, even though heat conduction within the fin is
two-dimensional. The energy convected to the surroundings from any point on the fin must be
equivalent to the heat conducted to that point in the transverse (r) direction. However, since most
fins are thin, the temperature changes in the x-direction are much greater than those in the
transverse direction. Therefore, the temperature gradients in the radial direction may be assumed
to be negligible, and the analysis becomes one-dimensional. Additional assumptions include:
steady-state conditions, constant thermal conductivity, negligible radiation from the surface, no
heat generation within the fin, and that the convection heat transfer coefficient h is uniform over
the entire surface. With these assumptions, an application of the conservation of energy principle
to the straight fin of uniform cross section, shown in Figure 1, will result in an ordinary
differential equation that can be solved for the temperature in the fin.

T , h



Figure 1. Circular Fin

Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

The fin temperature at the base is T(0) = Tb while the surrounding fluid is at T. The
circular fin has a uniform cross sectional area Ac = pd2/4 and perimeter P = pd. With these
physical characteristics specified, the governing differential equation is
d 2 T hP T T = 0

d x2 k Ac


In order to simplify this equation, the dependent variable T is transformed by defining an excess
temperature q as

x T x T
Since T is a constant, dq/dx = dT/dx, and eq. (1) can now be written as
d 2 m 2 = 0
d x2


m2 hP



Equation (3) is a linear, homogeneous, second-order differential equation with constant

coefficients. The general solution has the form

x = C1 emx + C2 e mx


Boundary conditions must be utilized in order to determine the constants C1 and C2 in eq.
(5). One of the boundary conditions is a specified temperature at the base of the fin (x = 0).

0 = Tb T b

A second boundary condition results from the convection heat transfer from the fin tip.
An energy balance applied to a control surface about the tip indicates that the conduction to the
tip must equal the heat transferred by convection from the tip to the surroundings.

hAc T L T = k Ac dT


x= L

Equation (7) may be restated in terms of the excess temperature,

h L = k d

x= L

Substituting the general solution, eq. (5), into the boundary conditions, eqs. (6) and (8), gives the

b = C1 + C2
h C1 e mL + C2e mL = km C2 emL C1 e mL
Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

Equations (9) and (10) may be solved for C1 and C2. With the constants known, they may be
substituted into the general solution, which, after some tedious algebra, results in

= cosh m(Lx) + (h/mk) sinh m(Lx)

cosh mL + (h/mk) sinh mL


Equation (11) expresses the temperature of the fin as a function of the longitudinal
location. A typical temperature profile is shown schematically in Figure 2. With the temperature
in the fin determined, it is now possible to calculate the total heat loss from the fin. Note that the
heat transferred into the fin at the base equals the heat loss from the fin. Fourier's law applied at
the base gives

qf = qb = k Ac dT

= k Ac d
x= 0

x= 0

With the temperature distribution known, qf can then be evaluated, giving

qf =

hPk Ac b

sinh mL + (h/mk) cosh mL

cosh mL + (h/mk) sinh mL




Figure 2. Temperature Profile in the Circular Fin

Determination of the Heat Transfer Coefficient
The heat transfer from a circular fin can be determined by several means. An
experimental measurement of the heat entering the fin through the base could be used to
determine the fin heat transfer. Alternately, eq. (13) could be used, assuming the heat transfer
coefficient is a known quantity. Unfortunately, h is the most difficult of the parameters in the
equation to determine and is usually an unknown. Fortunately, a statistical method is available
that utilizes the experimental data for the temperature profile to determine the value of the heat
transfer coefficient.
The method of least squares is a statistical method that can be used to curvefit the
experimental data. The data represent the longitudinal position x and the corresponding
temperature (Ti or qi) at that position. To fit the "best" line through the data using the least
squares method, the sum of the squares of the residual errors Sr for all of the available data is
Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

minimized. The residual, or error, is the discrepancy between the measured data (qi/qb)exp and the
approximate value (qi/qb)theory predicted by the curvefit equation or modeling equation (eq. (11)).
The residual for each set of data (ei) is
# &
# &
ei = % i ( % i (
%$ b ('
% b '(
exp $


Since individual errors may be positive or negative, these terms may cancel when computing the
sum of the errors. To eliminate this problem, the sum of the squares of the residuals Sr is used to
assess total curvefit error.

Sr = ei2


i =1

The "best" fit to the data is obtained when Sr has a minimum value, which also
corresponds to the correct value of h. An iterative method is required to find the minimum Sr.
by selecting a value of h using an educated guess. Calculate (qi/qb)theory at each location
using eq. (11) and then use eqs. (14) and (15) to compute Sr. Call this Sr,old. Increment h, repeat
the calculations to determine a new value of Sr,new. Compute the difference Sr,new - Sr,old. The
minimum Sr is found when the sign changes between successive calculations of Sr,new - Sr,old. Note
that if the initial h increment is large, additional trials may be required with successively smaller
h increments to "home in" on the actual value of h. Figure 3 is an example plot of a possible
functional relationship between Sr and h.









h (W/m K)
Figure 3. Example of the Sum of the Squares of the Residuals as a Function of Heat Transfer

Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

This experiment was designed to demonstrate the concept of a fin as it relates to the heat
transfer field and to present a statistical method for the determination of a physical parameter
such as the heat transfer coefficient. Experience will also be gained in modeling the physical
situation, in the acquisition of data that characterizes that physical situation (and the judicious
use of same), and in the study of a one-dimensional approximation.
Experimental Apparatus
Three one-dimensional fins (circular rods) are provided for this experiment. Figure 4
details the fin dimensions, locations of the type T thermocouples, and fin materials. The distance
from the fin base to thermocouple 1 for the 12.7 mm (0.5 in) aluminum rod, the 25.4 mm (1 in)
aluminum rod, and the 25.4 mm (1 in) stainless steel rod is 4.76 mm (3/16 in), 7.94 mm (5/16
in), and 7.94 mm (5/16 in), respectively. All thermocouples are connected to an A/D unit and
temperatures are displayed using a LabVIEW program. The rods are attached to a stream chest,
which provides a constant-temperature energy source at the fin base.

Figure 4. One-Dimensional Fin Apparatus

The apparatus will be turned on before class to try to ensure that a steady-state condition
exists. Do not touch any of the rod surfaces or the steam chest and its cover. The lab TA will
make any required adjustments to the base temperature. Data acquisition is accomplished using
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University of Utah

LabVIEW software. The computer interface has been designed to 1) plot all temperatures as a
function of x, 2) list all temperatures in array format, and 3) include an on-screen button that
triggers a screen print for data recording (select number of copies before printing).
1. Select (or the Lab TA will assign) one of the 3 rods that you will use for this lab.
2. Record the readings from all 10 thermocouples along the rod, the base temperature, and the
ambient temperature. Confirm the repeatability of these measurements.
3. After an appropriate time interval, record all temperature readings again. These data should
validate the steady state condition.
4. Plot T (or q) as a function of x to verify that the expected temperature profile was obtained.
5. If there is an obvious error in any of the thermocouple readings (e.g., a thermocouple has
failed) eliminate that data from the data set.
6. If the temperature profile appears to be appropriate, perform the data reduction to obtain the
heat transfer coefficient. Remember to attach a grade sheet to your report
Questions and Items for Discussion
In the discussion of the results the following items should be considered (as a minimum):
1. Plot the fin temperature data in the form (qi/qb)exp along with the curvefit line (data
determined from eq. (11)) as functions of x in order to verify the "goodness" of the curvefit.
2. Was the fin in a steady state condition? Discuss the data used to verify this condition.
3. Discuss the assumption that the heat transfer coefficient is uniform over the entire fin.
4. Compare the calculated value of the heat transfer coefficient with the approximate range that
is typically listed in the literature. Discuss any differences that are noted.
5. The fin used in this experiment is relatively long. For the test conditions, could it be assumed
to be infinitely long? How long must the fin be in order to treat the fin as if it is infinitely
long? Compare the difference in qf for the test case and for the same conditions assuming the
fin length is that required for it to be considered infinitely long.
6. Compute the fin efficiency hf and fin effectiveness ef for the experimental conditions and use
these parameters to comment on fin performance.
7. Discuss the sources of error that may have caused your experimental data to deviate from the
theoretical predictions (refer to question 1).
1. Incropera, F.P. and Dewitt, D.P., Introduction to Heat Transfer, John Wiley & Sons, New
York, 1985.

Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

2. Look, D.C., "A 1-D Fin Laboratory Experiment," Mechanical Engineering News, Vol. 28,
No. 4, 1992.
3. Holman, J.P., Experimental Methods for Engineers, 4th Ed., McGraw-Hill Book Co., New
York, 1984.
4. Dowdy, S. and Weardon, S., Statistics for Research, 2nd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York,
5. Chappa, S.C. and Canale, R.P., Numerical Methods for Engineers, 2nd Ed., McGraw-Hill,
New York, 1988.

Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah

LAB 1 - Grade Sheet



Your Score

Purpose of the lab


Plot of Temperature vs. x (position)


Plot of (qi/qb)exp and curvefit line vs. x/L

Data sheets


Sample calculations

Matlab code


Question 2

Question 3

Question 4

Question 5

Question 6

Question 7


Conclusions based on results, recommendations

Single spaced, proper headings, attached grade sheet


Hand-written calculations are acceptable. Make sure all calculations are legible. Only one data set need be used.

Heat Transfer Lab


University of Utah