Importance and Modelling of Internal Combustion Engine Cooling Systems

In an internal combustion engine, combustion of air and fuel takes place inside the engine cylinder and hot gases are generated with temperature of gases around 2300-2500°C which may result in not only burning of oil film between the moving parts, but also in seizing or welding of the stationery and moving components. This temperature must be reduced such that the engine works at top efficienc,  promoting high volumetric efficiency and ensuring better combustion without compromising the thermal efficiency due to overcooling. Most importantly, the engine needs to function both in the sense of mechanical operation and reliability. In short, cooling is a matter of equalization of internal temperature to prevent local overheating as well as to remove sufficient heat energy to maintain a practical overall working temperature.

It is also important to note that about 20-25% of the total heat generated is used for producing brake power (useful work). The cooling system should be designed to remove 30-35% of total heat and the remaining heat is lost in friction and carried away by exhaust gases.

The design of cooling systems depends on whether the engine is air cooled or liquid cooled. Air cooling is generally used in small engines wherein fins or extended surfaces are provided on the cylinder walls, cylinder head, and so on. Heat generated due to combustion in the engine cylinder will be conducted to the fins and when the air flows over the fins, heat will be dissipated to air. The amount of heat dissipated to air depends upon: Amount of air flowing through the fins, fin surface area and the thermal conductivity of metal used for fins.

In water cooling methods, cooling water jackets are provided around the cylinder, cylinder head, valve seats and so on. When the water is circulated through the jackets, it absorbs heat of combustion. This hot water will then be cooling in the radiator partially by a fan and partially by the flow developed by the forward motion of the vehicle. The cooled water is again recirculated through the water jackets either through a pump or thermos-siphon which is based on the principle of density difference in working fluid.

Figure 1: Cooling water ports in an IC engine cylinder block

Figure 1. shows the cooling water jacket for an IC engine cylinder block. The engine cooling jacket is of complex shape and is influenced by many factors including the shape of the engine block and optimal temperature at which the engine runs. A large cooling jacket would be effective in transporting heat away from the cylinders, but makes the engine bulky and heavier. The cooling water jacket needs to be optimized considering both the cooling effectiveness and engine weight. Hence the flow through the cooling jacket needs to be optimized from the inlet to the outlet covering the lengthwise along the geometry as well as traversing from cylinder block to the head. The optimization is done with the objective of minimizing the fluid pressure loss between inlet and outlet and obtains even distribution of the flow to each cylinder in the engine block and uniform velocities along its flow.

The engine cooling jacket is of complex geometry and performing 3D simulation over this is quite a complex task involving generating the 3D geometry with all the intricate details and preparing the model for performing conjugate heat transfer analysis. As an initial step it is advisable to perform a simple 1D heat and flow network analysis to obtain the heat transfer distribution and data for creating the 3D model using commercial tools such as AxSTREAM NET™.

To know more about how AxSTREAM NET™ can simplify engine cooling system design and analysis, please write to

One thought on “Importance and Modelling of Internal Combustion Engine Cooling Systems

  1. An interesting article.
    Could you please forward me the details you have referred to in your last sentence, on additional info about how AXSTREAM NET simplify engine cooling system design and analysis.
    I am a electrical power engineer with interest in such topics.
    My details below
    Anwar Qureshi

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