Using the tricks of bees for efficient heat flows

It is widely known how important bees are for a species-rich flora. Less well known, however, is the clever temperature management they use to operate their hives. For IAV, the ingenious methodology offers a lever to control heat flows in the vehicle even more efficiently in the future – an important step on the road to sustainable mobility.

The way bees regulate the temperature in their dwelling is an example of exceptional thermal management. It is based on sophisticated heating and cooling strategies that bees use to keep the hive at an optimal temperature of over 30 degrees Celsius.

In doing so, bees are enormously creative. In winter, for example, they use propolis to seal air gaps in the hive. They also form swarms to reduce the surface area of their bodies exposed to the cold air or perform muscular work to heat the hive endothermically.

At high temperatures, they use “forced air convection”, created by actively fanning their wings, and their ability to absorb heat and release it in well cooled areas of the hive. Another trick is so-called evaporative cooling, in which bees carry droplets of water into the hive and cause them to evaporate by flapping their wings.

»Nature is in many ways the best ›technical solution provider‹ and delivers the best solutions via the original evolutionary algorithms.«

Ralf Wascheck — Department Manager in the Powertrain Calibration & Technology department at IAV

“The bees’ ability to regulate the temperature in the hive in such a sophisticated way, relying on different heating and cooling strategies, is essential for their survival,” says Alexander Fandakov, Project Engineer Powertrain Research & Technology at IAV. “The bottom line is that they are doing exactly what we are aiming to do, too, even using the same tools and the same basic principles of heat transfer.”

bienen bees
Photo by Meggyn Pomerleau on Unsplash

Key factor for sustainable, climate-neutral mobility

In engineering, heat management in vehicle powertrains is of central importance for the durability of the components. Unfavourable temperature conditions can accelerate the ageing of batteries and fuel cells and noticeably shorten their service life. Optimizing heat flows can thus increase the efficiency of the powertrain and contribute to reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint.

»Intelligent thermal management in the powertrain is clearly a key factor on the road to a sustainable, climate-neutral future.«

Marc Sens — Head of Powertrain & Sustainability at IAV

At the International Vienna Motor Symposium (27-29 April 2022), thermal management as the basis for highly efficient drive systems and electrical storage systems will be IAV’s central presentation topic. In addition to an examination of components and processes from the mobility sector, IAV will be showing, among other things, an approach that envisages, for example, the introduction of new cooling technologies such as phase-change cooling.

“The hive ecosystem actually offers numerous interesting aspects with some input for what we can implement in the various vehicles,” sums up Sens.