“If it moves, we make a heat exchanger for it,” says Martin Bauer, head of development for engine-mounted components at MAHLE Behr USA Inc. in Troy, Michigan.
MAHLE is the world’s second-largest thermal management company, developing and manufacturing vehicle heat exchangers including radiators, evaporators, condensers and air conditioning. The majority of its heat exchangers go into the passenger cars of all major car companies, with commercial trucks, off-road vehicles and aircraft comprising 20 percent of the output.
While the fundamentals of cooling an engine or warming a passenger compartment haven’t changed much in the past 50 years, Bauer says, the technological advances have been stunning. “Now we’re doing the work much more efficiently, with lower weight and optimal designs,” he says. “For engineers it’s very exciting. I’ve never had a boring day.”
MAHLE’s spacious research and development facility in Troy bustles with state-of-the-art testing equipment and new product designs. Surveying the floor is Perry Paladino, head of product development for climate heat exchangers. He points to one major industry change: the material.
“Copper has been phased out,” he says. “Now it’s all aluminium.”
Introduced gradually over many years, starting in the mid-1970s, aluminium components now dominate the industry. Paladino ticks off aluminium’s advantages: “It has excellent thermal properties. There are weight-saving advantages with thinner walls, corrosion resistance, and flexibility in the manufacturing process that’s an improvement over copper.”
Brazing is an area where aluminium shines. In this process, the components of condensers, evaporators or heater cores are joined using an aluminium alloy whose melting point is appreciably lower than the components.
“Good corrosion resistance, formability and high thermal conductivity make aluminium an ideal mate,” Bauer says. “Extruding, stamping, drawing the parts – all of this is a lot easier with aluminium.”
MAHLE is also a leading developer of exhaust gas recirculation cooling for gas engines. The system first removes air from a vehicle’s exhaust, then cools and mixes the air back into the system, all with the goal of improving fuel economy and meeting new, stringent emission standards.
Text Dwight Cendrowski
Photo Mahle GMBH, Dwight Cendrowski