Project Description

What is Thermal Engineering

Photo credit – Siemens PLM, CC

Thermal Engineering is a specialised sub-discipline of Mechanical Engineering that deals exclusively with heat energy and its transfer between not only different mediums, but also into other usable forms of energy. A Thermal Engineer will be armed with the expertise to design systems and process to convert generated energy from various thermal sources into chemical, mechanical or electrical energy depending on the task at hand. Obviously, all Thermal Engineers are experts in all aspects of heat transfer.

Many process plants (basically somewhere where some raw material or resource is converted into something useful, e.g. power plants, oil refineries, plastic manufacturing plants, etc.) contain countless components and systems which have to be designed in terms of their heat transfer; it is particularly important to ensure that not too much heat is retained so the component or process is not disrupted. Conversely, some processes or systems are designed to use heat to their advantage and a Thermal Engineer must make sure enough heat is generated and used wisely (i.e. sustainably).

Thermal Engineers must also know about the economics of the components and processes they design to make sure they not only provide an improvement over the existing solutions, but also don’t lose the company money. Thermal Engineers are not limited in areas of specialisation and can work in numerous fields. Below is only a brief example of areas a Thermal Engineer can work in:

  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in small and large-scale residential, commercial or industrial buildings.
  • Renewable energy systems.
  • Military and defence equipment.
  • Electronics and electrical component and systems.
  • Aerospace components.
  • Boiler, heat exchanger, and pump design, amongst others.

Common industries that regularly employ Thermal Engineers includes power companies, the automotive industry and commercial construction. While Thermal Engineers will generally spend most of their time working in an office they are often required to travel to the site of their current project.