A comprehensive analysis of heat distribution and thermal mixing in steady laminar natural convective flow in discretely heated square cavities has been carried out via Bejan’s heatlines. Heatlines are analogous to streamlines and heat energy flow may be visualized by heatlines similar to streamlines which display fluid flow. The trajectories of heatlines indicate direction and magnitude of heat flow and zones of high heat transfer. The heatline approach is implemented to study heat flow in the following three different square cavities which are filled with water (Pr = 7): (1) uniformly heated bottom wall (2) distributed heating with heat sources present on central portions of the walls and (3) multiple heat sources on the walls of the cavity. Top wall is maintained adiabatic in all the cases. Galerkin finite element method with penalty parameter has been used to solve non-linear coupled partial differential equations for flow and temperature fields over a range of Rayleigh numbers (Ra = 103–105). The Galerkin method is further employed to solve the Poisson equation for streamfunctions and heatfunctions. Finite discontinuity exists at the junction of hot and cold walls leading to mathematical singularity. Solution of heatfunction for such type of situation demands implementation of non-homogeneous Dirichlet conditions. Heatlines illustrate that in uniformly heated bottom wall case, the heat from the bottom wall is not adequately distributed to the lower portion of side walls which leads to low temperature in those regions (case 1). In order to improve the heat distribution, the uniform heat sources is divided into three parts and are applied along the central regimes of the walls (case 2). It is observed that, heat distribution and thermal mixing in the cavity is significantly enhanced. However, the lower corner portions are still retained cold. In case 3, multiple heat sources are placed along the walls of the cavity along with heat sources at lower corner regions of the cavity. Heatlines indicate that, the temperature at the core is reduced compared to case 2, but uniform heat distribution results in uniformity of temperature across large area of cavity.

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