“I liked watching the simulations, you could see what actually happens—you can't see it like that in a book.” — from Arlington High School, Massachusetts, USA
Based on computational physics research (, ), Energy2D is an interactive, visual simulation program that models all three mechanisms of heat transfer—conduction, convection, and radiation. Students can use it as an inquiry tool to explore heat and mass flows in two-dimensional structures under different environmental conditions such as sunlight and wind. Physical science, Earth science, and engineering teachers from middle schools to colleges may find Energy2D a useful tool in their classes to teach complicated science and engineering concepts without resorting to complex mathematics.
Work is also underway to incorporate other types of energy transformations (e.g., phase changes and chemical reactions through the Stefan condition), multiple types of fluids (e.g., air and water), and multiple types of physics engines (e.g., discrete element dynamics) to generalize it and to provide sensor interfaces for creating mixed-reality applications.
How to run and use Energy2D?
Energy2D can be used as a standalone desktop app for creating energy simulations. Your simulations can be deployed as Java applets embedded in web pages. The Energy2D applet runs within any web browser on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, provided that Java is installed and enabled. However, due to recent Java security issues, Java applets do not run in browsers that disable the Java plugin. Until those security problems are resolved, you can always use Energy2D as a Java app safely outside the browser.
The capability of creating complex scientific simulations is one of the most important features of Energy2D. Providing an intuitive user interface to support that feature is the most important development goal of Energy2D. It is our hope that you and/or your students will be able to design new "computational experiments" to test a scientific hypothesis or solve an engineering problem using Energy2D.
|An IR image of a heated model house with a ceiling||An IR image of a heated model house without a ceiling|
|An Energy2D simulation of a heated house with a ceiling||An Energy2D simulation of a heated house without a ceiling|
How well does Energy2D simulate the real world?
The conduction part of Energy2D is highly accurate, but the convection and radiation parts are not 100% accurate. Hence, in cases that involve convection and radiation, Energy2D results should be considered qualitative. Qualitative results, however, may be good enough to convey the ideas in many educational settings. The pictures to the right show a comparison of the results of Energy2D simulations with images from infrared (IR) thermography for a simple model house. The thermal patterns predicted by Energy2D closely match those from an IR camera.
How to cite Energy2D?
Charles Xie, Interactive Heat Transfer Simulations for Everyone, The Physics Teacher, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp. 237-240, 2012.