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Constructal Theory: From Engineering to Physics, and How Flow Systems Develop Shape and Structure

[+] Author and Article Information
A. Heitor Reis

Physics Department and Évora Geophysics Center, University of Évora, R. Romão Ramalho, 59, 7000-671 Évora, Portugal

Appl. Mech. Rev 59(5), 269-282 (Sep 01, 2006) (14 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2204075 History:

Constructal theory and its applications to various fields ranging from engineering to natural living and inanimate systems, and to social organization and economics, are reviewed in this paper. The constructal law states that if a system has freedom to morph it develops in time the flow architecture that provides easier access to the currents that flow through it. It is shown how constructal theory provides a unifying picture for the development of flow architectures in systems with internal flows (e.g., mass, heat, electricity, goods, and people). Early and recent works on constructal theory by various authors covering the fields of heat and mass transfer in engineered systems, inanimate flow structures (river basins, global circulations) living structures, social organization, and economics are reviewed. The relation between the constructal law and the thermodynamic optimization method of entropy generation minimization is outlined. The constructal law is a self-standing principle, which is distinct from the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The place of the constructal law among other fundamental principles, such as the Second Law, the principle of least action and the principles of symmetry and invariance is also presented. The review ends with the epistemological and philosophical implications of the constructal law.

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Copyright © 2006 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Elemental volume: the central high-permeability channel collects flow from low permeability material

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Figure 2

First construct made of elemental volumes. A new channel of higher permeability collects flow from the elemental volumes.

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Figure 3

The optimal spacing comes out of the trade-off between heat transfer surface and resistance to fluid flow. Board to board spacing is optimal when every fluid volume is used for the purpose of heat transfer.

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Figure 4

The intersection of the asymptotes corresponding to the competing trends indicates the optimum spacing for maximum thermal conductance of a stack of parallel boards

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Figure 5

Examples of point-to-volume flow architectures: tree and leaves

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Figure 6

(a) Global optimization of the duct tree, and (b) step by step locally optimized construct

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Figure 7

Constructal treelike structure of superficial flow from an area to a point

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Figure 8

Long-term meridional circulations on Earth represented by the Polar, Ferrel, and Hadley cells

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Figure 9

Human lung airway tree has 23 bifurcations and is an optimized structure for oxygen and carbon dioxide transport

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Figure 10

The constructal route for minimum travel time between points P and O, using two modes of locomotion of different speeds, v1 and v2

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Figure 11

Flow structure diagram for fixed external size (L) (reprinted from Ref. 8 with permission)

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Figure 12

Flow structure diagram for fixed internal size (duct volume V) (reprinted from Ref. 8 with permission)

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