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Chapter 4

Finite Elements for Thermal Analysis

4.1 Governing Equations for the Thermal Problem

Introducing the temperature field T(xi,t), the heat flux vector q(xi,t)→qn(xi,t) and the thermal
conductivity in the n direction λn, th following holds:
qn = −λn (4.1)
and in the (O,xi) space

q x = − λx
q y = −λ y (4.2)
q z = − λz
For an isotropic media

qi = −λT,i i = 1, 2,3.

The balance of thermal energy in an infinitesimal volume 𝑑𝑉 = 𝑑𝑥𝑑𝑦𝑑𝑧 of the body in the x
direction for an infinitesimal time increment dt reads

dQin = qx dydzdt
⎛ ∂q ⎞
dQout = ⎜ qx + x dx ⎟ dydzdt
⎝ ∂x ⎠ (4.4)
dQin − dQout = x dVdt
Taking into account the heat fluxes in the other directions the thermal balance is
𝜕𝑞0 (4.5)
𝑑𝑄() − 𝑑𝑄+,- = − 𝑑𝑉𝑑𝑡 = 0             ⟹         −𝑞(,( 𝑑𝑉𝑑𝑡 = 0
Considering the case of heat generation within the body
dQgen = qgen dVdt
the equation becomes
𝑑𝑄() − 𝑑𝑄+,- + 𝑑𝑄78) = − + 𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉𝑑𝑡 = 0 ⟹ −𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉𝑑𝑡 = 0 (4.7)

Introducing the body density ρ and its c specific heat for unit mass c, the Fourier Equation reads:
−𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) = 𝑐𝜌
𝑞<= = −𝑞( 𝑛(        on    𝑆B (4.8)

𝑇 = 𝑇        on    𝑆C
The previous equation can be recast (using the 4.3) in the form
− −𝜆( 𝑇,( + 𝑞78) = 𝑐𝜌 (4.9)
,( 𝜕𝑡
and, in the homogeneous an isotropic case
𝜕𝑇 𝜕𝑇 (4.10)
𝜆𝑇,(( + 𝑞78) = 𝑐𝜌          or       − 𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) = 0,      with      𝑞78) = 𝑞78) − 𝑐𝜌
𝜕𝑡 𝜕𝑡
𝜆∇K 𝑇 + 𝑞78) = 𝑐𝜌           (4.11)

4.2 Virtual Temperature Principle

It is possible to draw an analogy between the thermal problem and 3D solid mechanics

Displacement ui → T Temperature
Strains 𝜖 ij → T,i Temperature gradient
Stresses Ϭij → qi Heat Flux

Internal Loads (per unit volume) Xi → qgen Generated Heat (per unit volume per unit time)
Surface Loads (per unit area) fi → 𝑞i Thermal flux on Sq
Prescribed Displacement 𝑢i → 𝑇 Prescribed Temperatures on ST

Equilibrium 𝜎(O,O + 𝑋( = 0         →         −𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) = 0
Compatibility 𝜖(O,O = 𝑢(,O + 𝑢O,(         →        grad  𝑇 = 𝑇,(

Constitutive 𝜎(O = 𝐶(OWX         →         𝑞( = −𝜆𝑇,(

Virtual work (displacement) Principle (Theorem)

𝜎(O 𝜖(O 𝑑𝑉 = 𝑋( 𝑢( 𝑑𝑉 + 𝑓( 𝑢( 𝑑𝑆 (4.12)

Y Y <[

Virtual temperature Principle (Theorem)

− 𝑞( 𝑇,O 𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑇( 𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞<= 𝑇𝑑𝑆 (4.13)

Y Y <=

The latter equation can be obtained considering the thermal energy balance equation

− qi ,i + qgen = 0
and imposing the following expression to be zero

−𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 = 0 (4.15)


where 𝑇 is the virtual temperature field (null on ST). The following holds:

𝑞( 𝑇 = 𝑞(,( 𝑇 + 𝑞( 𝑇,(       ⟹         𝑞(,( 𝑇 = −𝑞( 𝑇,( + 𝑞( 𝑇

,( ,( (4.16)
and, considering the Gauss theorem

(𝑞( 𝑇),( 𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞( 𝑇𝑛( 𝑑𝑆 (4.17)

Y <

we have

−𝑞(,( + 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 = 0       ⟹         𝑞(,( 𝑇𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 (4.18)


end so using the 4.16

− 𝑞( 𝑇,(  𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞( 𝑇 ,(
𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 (4.19)

using the 4.17

− 𝑞( 𝑇,(  𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞( 𝑇𝑛( 𝑑𝑆 = 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 (4.20)
Y < Y

Considering that qs=-qini on Sq and that 𝑇 = 0   on St we can write

− 𝑞( 𝑇,(  𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞<= 𝑇 𝑑𝑆 (4.21)

Y Y <=

The matrix form of this equation is

− ∇𝑇 C 𝑞  𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑇𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞<= 𝑇 𝑑𝑆 (4.22)

Y Y <=


𝜕𝑇 𝜕𝑇 𝜕𝑇
𝑞C = 𝑞0  , 𝑞^   , 𝑞_      ,      ∇𝑇 C =  ,  , (4.23)
𝜕𝑥 𝜕𝑦 𝜕𝑧

4.3 Shape functions

In the finite element approach, the aim is to discretize, that is to condense the distributed
properties of each element on some boundary nodes that "communicate" with the rest of the body
and with external actions. The solution is determined in a weak form because the equilibrium is
only satisfied in a mediated sense on the domain of the element. In order to distribute properties
on nodes, we wish to approximate a function T(x,y,z) defined in an interval [a,b] by some set of
basis functions

𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝛼( 𝜑( 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 (4.24)

where i is the number of grid points (the edges of our elements) defined at locations xi , yi , zi .
The functions are usually polynomials, but in some case (e.g. in acoustic analysis) can be useful
to use trigonometric functions. These functions are called interpolating functions or shape
functions. Unless in particular cases, the linear combination of these functions will not provide
an exact but only approximate solution. The set of interpolating functions can in theory be chosen
ad libitum, but in order for the convergence of the result to be monotonic with the condensation,
four fundamental requirements must be respected:
1.   ability to have same variation of temperature of the element without the occurrence of
heat flux within (equivalent to rigid motions)
2.   allowing states of constant gradients of temperature throughout the element (patch test)
3.   compatibility along the contour lines or faces of contiguous elements, no breaks or
interpenetrations should occur
4.   continuity or absence of singular points in the description of the temperature field.
One time the interpolating functions 𝜑( 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 for each internal point of the element are
identified, it is possible to write
𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝛼R 𝜑R 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 + 𝛼K 𝜑K 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 + ⋯ + 𝛼) 𝜑) 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 (4.25)
or in matrix form
𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝜑R 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧          𝜑K 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧         …             𝜑) 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 𝛼K

𝛼) (4.26)
𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝜑 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧  𝛼

We apply the previous interpolation on particular points, the nodes, considering all the degree-
of-freedom defined for each node
… …
ΘO = 𝛼R 𝜑R 𝑥O , 𝑦O , 𝑧O + 𝛼K 𝜑K 𝑥O , 𝑦O , 𝑧O + ⋯ + 𝛼) 𝜑) 𝑥O , 𝑦O , 𝑧O
… …
Θ = 𝐴  𝛼

where j = 1,2,…,k with k degree-of-freedom of the element and

𝐴= 𝜑 𝑥 O 𝑦O , 𝑧O

Note that, given the positions of the nodes in the local reference, 𝐴 is a known matrix, composed
of defined numerical values.
If we make the number of coefficients of the series of 𝛼 coincident with in number of degree-of-
freedom of the element (n = k), the matrix 𝐴 is square, a necessary condition for its inversion.
This allows to solve for 𝛼

𝛼 = 𝐴gR Θ
that replaced in the expression of the internal temperature field (4.27) bring to
𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝜑 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧  𝐴gR Θ

𝑁 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝜑 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧  𝐴gR is the shape function matrix (in reality is a vector).

𝑇 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧 = 𝑁 𝑥, 𝑦, 𝑧  Θ
Θ is the vector of the nodal temperatures of the element.
4.4 Finite element formulation
𝜕 𝜕 𝜕
𝐷C =  ,  , (4.31)
𝜕𝑥 𝜕𝑦 𝜕𝑧
we can write
∇𝑇 = 𝐷𝑇                   ⟹                 ∇𝑇 C = 𝑇𝐷C (4.32)
Considering a finite element approximation

𝑇 𝑥 = 𝑁 𝑥  Θ where 𝑁 = 𝑁R , 𝑁K , … , 𝑁)      ,        ΘC = ΘR , ΘK , … , Θ)
where Θ is the nodal temperature vector and 𝑁 is the shape functions matrix:
∇𝑇 = 𝐷  𝑁  Θ             ⟹           ∇𝑇 C = 𝑁  Θ  𝐷C = ΘC 𝑁 C  𝐷C       (4.34)
The (4.22) become:

− ΘC  𝑁 C  𝐷C  𝑞𝑑𝑉 = 𝑞78) 𝑁  Θ𝑑𝑉 + 𝑞<=  𝑁  Θ𝑑𝑠 =

Y Y <=

= ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉 + ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞<=  𝑑𝑠
Y <=

Considering the expression 𝑞 = −Γ  ∇𝑇 and the constitutive equations qi = −λiT,i we can write

− ΘC  𝑁 C  𝐷C −Γ 𝐷  𝑁 C  Θ    𝑑𝑉 = ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉 + ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞<=  𝑑𝑠 (4.36)

Y Y <=

Denoting 𝐵 = 𝐷  𝑁        ,        𝐵C = 𝑁 C  𝐷C

ΘC 𝐵C  Γ  𝐵  Θ𝑑𝑉 = ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉 + ΘC  𝑁 C  𝑞<=  𝑑𝑠 (4.37)

Y Y <=

𝐵C Γ  𝐵  Θ𝑑𝑉 =    𝑁 C  𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉 +  𝑁 C  𝑞<=  𝑑𝑠 (4.38)

Y Y <=

and denoting
Kn = 𝐵C Γ  𝐵𝑑𝑉            and            𝑄 =  𝑁 C  𝑞78) 𝑑𝑉 +  𝑁 C  𝑞<=  𝑑𝑠 (4.39)
Y Y <=

we can write
K n  Θ =   𝑄
where K n is the thermal coefficient matrix.