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01 January 1970  |   Views  |  

Radiators are used for cooling internal combustion engines, chiefly in automobiles but also in piston-engined aircraft, railway locomotives, motorcycles, stationary generating plants or any similar use of such an engine.
To cool down the engine, a coolant is passed through the engine block where it is heated, is fed into the inlet tank of the radiator, which distributes the coolant across the radiator core, then cools down as it circulates through the radiator tubes to the opposite tank, the cold coolant is fed back to the engine, and the cycle repeats.
This coolant is usually water-based, with addition of glycols to prevent freezing and other additives to limit corrosion, erosion and cavitation, but may also be an oil. The first engines used Thermosyphon to circulate the coolant, however nowadays all engines but the smallest ones use a pump.
As it circulates through the tubes, the coolant transfers its heat to the tubes which, in turn, transfer the heat to the fins that are lodged between each row of tubes. The fins then release the heat to the ambient air. Fins are used to greatly increase the contact surface of the tubes to the air, thus increasing the exchange efficiency.
Up to the 1980s, radiator cores were often made of a copper (for fins) and brass (for tubes, headers, side-plates, while tanks could be made also of brass or of plastic, often a polyamide). Starting in the 1970s, use of aluminium has increased, to take over the vast majority of vehicular applications. The main driver for these application is reduced weight and cost, and the increased focus has led to equal heat-performance with copper/brass. For stationary applications, in particular MW-class installations, copper-brass constructions are still dominant.
Air having both a lower heat capacity and density than coolants, a fairly large volume flow rate (relative to the coolant's) must be blown through the radiator core to capture the heat from the coolant. For this purpose, radiators are often paired with a fan that blows cooling air through the radiator. Fans can consume a significant amount of power, so to minimize their use radiators are often behind the grille at the front end of a vehicle, so that ram air can give a portion or all of the necessary cooling air flow, and the fan remains disengaged.


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