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Thermal Management Laboratory

A chiller in the Thermal Management Laboratory is used with test bench heat exchanges for evaluating breadboard components and systems. As additional electronic components are integrated into vehicle systems, keeping them cool is essential to allowing Soldiers to safely and effectively execute their missions. Click to enlarge

The GSPEL's Thermal Management Lab is designed for small-scale, component-level testing and validation, finding hidden advantages and bringing meaningful discoveries to the Army.

Currently, the laboratory is fitted with several test benches and equipment to focus on researching thermal management technologies and developing control system software. In the area of thermal management, waste heat recovery (thermoelectric modules) is being studied for component performance and efficiency validation. Controls development focuses on fire safety systems and electronic pedal control.

GVSET News masthead. This content was excerpted from the May 2012 issue of GVSET News, TARDEC's bimonthly online newsletter. To view the entire issue, please visit http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b1a0b938

In this laboratory, engineers are developing a system to recover vehicle exhaust energy that would otherwise be dispersed as waste into the air and produce usable electric power for the vehicle. About 30 percent of energy is wasted out of the vehicle's exhaust, and if the system can convert even a small percentage of that wasted heat, it could extend vehicle range, generate a quiet power source for electronic components, and improve overall vehicle energy efficiency.

We asked TARDEC engineers Chris Spangler, Orest Tarnavsky, Dan Pace and Joe Stempnik to explain more of their work in the Thermal Management Lab.

What dual-use benefit can this provide to industry and academic partners, and what collaborative opportunities will it provide?

We're working with other government research labs in testing different materials to improve efficiency, and with the Department of Energy and industry partners to have a better understanding of integration challenges and solutions.

What's an example of research in your lab that will benefit Soldiers?

We're working with an electronic throttle body with two analog sensors in it — if you push the throttle down, the sensors operate at 100 percent and the driver has full mobility.

If the Soldier has no contact with the throttle and cannot move the pedal, he can use something like a smart display and enable an override, similar to what you have in a commercial vehicle for cruise control, and command the vehicle to return to 100 percent mobility. An electronic throttle gives a coherent message to the engine and transmission, so they're always calibrated and acting on the same value.

What's the first project you're going to test in this new lab?

We're currently developing an application to control a military vehicle's cooling fan. Army vehicles have large diesel engines in a relatively small space and require a large cooling fan to provide the air flow that keeps the engine cool. Those fans are either always on, or you can turn them on or off; there's no in-between. We partnered with industry to develop control software that allows us to regulate control to a level more appropriate for the cooling required under the circumstances. The energy saved by running a partial load could power something else and prevent parasitic loss from the engine, thereby saving fuel.

We can also integrate software controls with the fire suppression system. If there is an engine fire, the system is currently designed to discharge fire retardant into the engine compartment. With the current fan system, the material gets dispersed and may not even put out the fire. Now that we can control the fan, we can send a message to the system saying "don't discharge yet," and ramp down the fan before extinguishing the fire.


This facility's unique capabilities are available for use by Government Agencies, Military installations, academic institutions or private business entities, upon approval and with proper security clearance. To make arrangements to use the Air Filtration Lab, contact the user liaison for this facility. You may also view our list of comprehensive laboratory capabilities to ensure that this facility best suits your needs.

User Liaison

TARDEC Ground Vehicle Gateway

Related Facilities

The Thermal Management Lab is part of TARDEC's Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory. Other labs and test facilities within this group include:

Additional Photos

TARDEC Engineer Orest Tarnavsky outlines the Thermal Management Laboratory's capabilities during the GSPEL's Industry Day. (U.S. Army TARDEC photos.) Click to enlarge