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What Is Thermal Fluid?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Thermal fluid is a compound with specific heating and cooling properties that make it useful for a range of industrial processes involving heat transfer. These compounds can be made from a wide range of materials to create products with ratings for different applications, including extreme heat and cold. Chemical companies manufacture thermal fluids and accessories like cleaning solutions to use inside fluid systems to remove buildups of carbon and other materials. Custom products are also available for specialized applications.

Also known as heat transfer fluids or liquids, these products readily transfer heat. This can be useful in heating applications, as it is possible to warm a thermal fluid and pass it through a system to radiate heat. Conversely, the fluids can be run through a heated system to transfer heat from the system to the fluid for cooling applications. The best fluid for the job can depend on the tolerances of the system and considerations like viscosity at different temperatures.

One use for thermal fluid is in portable oil heaters used for spot heating in some regions of the world. These heaters operate by heating oil through submerged electric elements, and pushing it into circulation. As the oil moves through the heater, it transfers heat to the metal components, radiating it out into the room. The same heating phenomenon is used in numerous industrial processes where companies need heated molds, presses, and beds to make various products. The thermal fluid creates and maintains an appropriate temperature.

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Such fluids are also important for cooling applications. They can draw heat away, as seen with a car radiator, and they are also used in reactors and other energy generation applications. As the fluid circulates, heat transfer cools the system, and the fluid can dissipate the heat elsewhere. To prevent waste heat, the system may utilize the heat to produce energy or provide warmth in another area of a facility.

Some thermal fluid is entirely synthetic. Synthetic fluids can have a longer lifespan and are engineered for very precise tolerances. Engineers work on the development of new products in lab settings to meet the demand for high performance thermal fluid from various sectors. Fluids from natural sources may break down more readily over time and can be less reliable, depending on the fluid and the system. Thermal engineers work with these and related products to develop heating and cooling systems of all sizes for a variety of settings from nuclear reactors to operating rooms.

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